Tag Archives: Helichrysum

Windy Mountain

Spring is turning into summer on the mountain and the wind is howling at night and most of the day.  There is an afternoon lull but already, at 7 o’clock in the evening, I can hear it picking up outside the office and later it will whip around the house and rattle the roof.

I spent the weekend in George, along the famous Garden Route at a Horse Trials, the Western Province Championships.  We had fun, didn’t win any big prizes, but spent the weekend with our friends and got to gallop fast over solid fences which is the most fun you can have on a horse.

On Friday morning I went for a run in the suburbs of George and enjoyed sightings of fynbos flowers that have adapted to the urban environment.  Here on the farm I know only of one place where the Gladiolus maculatus blooms and that’s in July.  Looking at the book I see they are winter flowering but I saw them, or something very similar, in a spot of suburban wasteland as I ran past.  Perhaps I should have taken a closer look.

When I don’t take them running often enough the dogs get bored and take themselves off for their own runs.  Sometimes they are gone for hours and we get increasingly worried about them until they come home, panting and joyful, terribly pleased with themselves and usually soaking wet as they’ve stopped for a cooldown in the dam on the way back to the house.  Several dogs have disappeared on the mountain that we know of and we worry and worry when they are gone, we go looking for them and calling them for hours and never see a sign.  Last time I checked there was no tracker available that would work here in South Africa but recently I heard of one, so I searched again and found it in Germany.  It arrived today and has now been attached to Maebh.  She and Jemima Chew often go for a quick hunt in the evening, and sometimes Maebh and Seamus go off together, but for some reason, never the three together.  If Maebh has a tracker, we’ll know where to find them.

I know better than to think I will get any photos in this wild wind, but I’ll see what’s there and where to go when the wind drops.  They say in Cape Town that if you don’t like the weather today, don’t worry because it will be different tomorrow and the change in weather is heralded by the wind dropping to that incredible stillness on the mountain that I’ve so often written about.  When that happens we will pick a moment of good light to catch the latest spring flowers. In the meantime there is much to catch up on.  Last year I failed to name this blue flower so I posted it on ispot.  The experts suggest it might be Aspalathus cephalotes subspecies obscuriflora.

Another pretty thing I couldn’t identify is this white “flower” which is tiny and turns out to be the seedhead of Ursinia anthemoides which I photographed in August but hadn’t posted, much more interesting to post the two together now.

I love these fluffy heads that must be Stilbe, I think vestita.

The other fluffy flowers that I photographed some time ago and never posted are the wild buchu plants that grow on the farm.  Our crop is buchu, Agathomsa crenulata and hybrids thereof, and Agathomsa betulina.  These are used medicinally and in the food flavouring and perfume industries because of the powerful essential oils that have an intense note of blackcurrant.  I occassionally post photos of the buchu we farm which is indigenous to the area.  This is a genuinely wild buchu, probably either Agathomsa imbricata or capensis.

As I was running down one of the roads I noticed that it was bordered by shrubs of Salvia africana all in flower and would make a wonderful photo.  Being in a hurry I put it off only to find when I returned that a spring wind had blown the flowers to shreds.  They are tough and they flower all year but the best display is in a wet spring.  They are stalwart friends on the mountain with an exceptional colour and fortunately enough remained for me to capture some of the flowers.

Summer is Helichrysum season and it begins with this Helichrysum patulum.  We have several subspecies of this wonderful and resilient plant on the farm and they deserve a page of their own.

Helichrysum patulum

Helichrysum patulum

Along the drive the Crassula fascicularis has come into flower.

Crassula fascicularis

Crassula fascicularis

Finally, one of my top favourite flowers has emerged, the lovely spikes of Aristea capitata, unmistakable and one of the first flowers I identified when we bought the farm and I started running here.  These are prolific in damp areas and I hope they will be spectacular this year after the wet winter.  We’ll have more photos of them over the next month.

May Day, home, sunset and the warmth of the mountain

Peter and I both agree that although we both hate leaving the farm to travel, usually for work, the best part is coming home. I’ve been in Europe for a couple of days. One night and two days in London; two nights on planes. I arrived home this morning feeling pretty horrible.  This evening in anticipation of a gorgeous sunset, I took the dogs for a walk and the sky lit up with pink and orange out towards the Paaderberg as we walked on the most northern parts of the farm.

A painted sunset, 1 May 2014

A painted sunset, 1 May 2014

 

I took a different path from our running routes and the slower pace of a walk meant that I saw much more than I do on the morning run.  I must do these leisurely walk more often. Three separate daisy-like yellow flowers; always the most frustrating to identify, and a tiny little pelargonium, one of my favourite plants. The mountain was amazing tonight – the days are still warm, but the evenings cool and at dusk you can feel the mountain giving out the warmth it has absorbed during the day into the cool evening air, sending out blasts of heat that I walked through as I returned to the house. The dogs were joyous and Maebh’s pale coat glows in the evening light.

 

Seamus and Maebh in the fynbos

Seamus and Maebh in the fynbos

The Pelargoniums flower here all year round; different plants in different months. Identifying the subspecies is hopeless, but each one gives me great joy.

 

Autumn Pelargonium

Autumn Pelargonium

As for the yellow daisy-like flowers. There are three, all on the same road, within 100 metres of one another. The first is an Osteospermum spinosum I think.

Osteospermum spinosum?

Osteospermum spinosum?

The needle-like leaves could be telltale

The needle-like leaves could be telltale

 

The second has these splendid clustered flowerheads with gorgeous curly stamens on the tips, with a soft grey-green hairy leaf. You would think that would suffice to identify – but no.

 

Clustered yellow flowers

Clustered yellow flowers

 

Something about the flower makes me think Helichrysum but the leaf says not

Something about the flower makes me think Helichrysum but this thick hairy leaf says not

And the last is a perfect yellow daisy, with clustered spiny leaves. I love the way that these three plants tell me how far I’ve come on my fynbos journey. A year ago they would have looked the same to me; the way your friends’ two dogs both look the same to you, but are completely different to them. Now the differences jump out at me, yet I still can’t identify them. I love that too – that the fynbos journey is without end.  I’ll probably never be able to identify every single plant on the farm, a mere pinprick within the Cape Floral Kingdom. But I won’t stop trying.

 

A perfect daisy, but which perfect daisy?

A perfect daisy, but which perfect daisy?

It's a small shrub with little needly clustered leaves

It’s a small plant with little needly clustered leaves

Wolfhounds slipstreaming in the wind and glorious early autumn sunsets

Two lovely runs this week.  One on a cool damp morning with the new growth of Leudadendron salignum glowing green in the grey light once again and bounding dogs enjoying the autumnal weather.  The house is full of guests and it’s lovely to get up early, go for a run and enjoy my own company and that of the dogs, returning to a social breakfast full of chat and laughter before we get on with the day.  Our guests are terrific, they know their way around the house and on Monday’s run I returned home to a delicious breakfast of poaches eggs with english muffins, avocado and olive oil, all prepared by Niall before he took himself off for a morning of work.

This morning was the perfect opposite in terms of weather, a typical hot dry windy morning with the heart monitor showing the heavy weather I was making of pushing up the mountain against the howling wind.  The wolfhounds love the wind and stand face on, enjoying the feel of it slipping through their shaggy coats.  As ever on a hot day, they enjoy a quick water break at Fox Pan as we run up the mountain and you can clearly see the wind ruffling their coats.

Seamus and Maebh enjoying water and wind

Seamus and Maebh enjoying water and wind

Although flowers are not prolific I can see the Cape cycle starting once again.  Having grown up in the Irish climate where winter is winter and spring gets off to a slow start, this Cape climate is always a little strange to me.  The slowest period is during the hot summer months of January and February.  As the weather cools and the rains arrive, the whole mountain bursts into life, the flowering season starts again, lasts all winter and reaches it’s apotheosis in the spring months of September, October and November.  Having been through the cycle once I am alert to the signs that the new flowering year is getting ready to launch.  Murlatia hysteria is a real stalwart, along with the Salvia africana it really does flower all year long without a break, but now in anticipation of the rains it seems to be showing more blooms than ever.  Here it is in the morning sunlight.

Muraltia heisteria

Muraltia heisteria

I cannot resist taking photos of the gorgeous Leucadendron salignum, particularly when it’s been raining which seems to set off the glowing green.  There will be many more photos of this gorgeous plant during the course of the winter.  It has begun its flowering season already.

Leucadendron salignum

Leucadendron salignum

One could do a whole blog just on grasses but as the are hard to photograph really well I tend to ignore most of them.  It’s a technical subject and I have a couple of books, but not the time to identify this one which has just come into flower all over the mountain, especially in high, rather damp places.

Grasses with yellow flower

Grasses with yellow flower

I’ve identified this as a member of the Helichrysum family.  I’m still not sure that’s right but I can’t find anything else that it resembles.  The flowers don’t seem very helichrysum-like to me, but I can’t find anything else that it resembles.  As I was taking this photo just above Fox Pan, I realised that the dogs were very interested in the plant and really getting in to have a good sniff around.  So I stopped and looked and you could clearly see that something had been lying up on top of it.  Makes perfect sense, this plant is growing in front of a large protea, so it’s protected from the back, sheltered overhead and looks over Fox Pan and the whole mountain so whatever lay up there obviously felt completely safe and its lucky I didn’t run past at the wrong moment with the dogs.  I presume it was a buck of some kind, we see lots of them and the dogs often put them up and give chase, but they are far far slower than any buck and don’t even try that hard.  It’s lovely to see evidence of the animals who share this farm with us, whether it’s picking up a porcupine quill on a road that I’d only run the day before and imagine him shuffling up there in the dark, or seeing a plant flattened by a buck contented after her drink at Fox Pan and enjoying a rest on the mountain.

Is it Helichrysum?

Is it Helichrysum?

We get the best sunsets at this time of year and I always try to capture and share the good ones.  This was over the weekend as we sat on the balcony enjoying the house cocktail, gin and tonic with Campari.

Another perfect sunset

Another perfect sunset

Helichrysum Days

I try to write this blog at least once a week, sometimes more, with the aim of staying  current with  the flowering cycle on the mountain.  For some reason the past 10 days have been particularly busy.  We had a series of guests, family and friends, which is wonderful although it puts paid to quiet nights when we can watch TV and write blogs.  Then horses and dogs have needed trips to the vet.  The magnificent Seamus has had a bad time.  He got a tummy bug, received treatment and then had a frightening adverse reaction to the treatment.  It is a well documented allergy, but so rare that our vet had never seen it.  Two days of worry later he is much better although his back legs are not working perfectly and we don’t know if he hurt himself, or if it’s a consequence of the neurological reaction he suffered from.  He’s not in pain; he would tell us if he was, but it will be at least a few more days before he’s allowed running on the mountain again.

The horses were just getting all their routine annual innoculations, check-ups, dentistry and so on. All of which needs doing but is rather time consuming along with work and the guests.  I must remember next year how busy this time of year can be and plan a little bit better.

Peter’s business has picked up and while we wouldn’t say orders are flooding in, the painful trickle has certainly become a steady trickle.  Which should be wonderful except that labour protests are growing in South Africa and he had a sit in strike at the factory today.  Fortunately it was resolved quite quickly.  How frustrating finally to have some business, so that we can potentially pay more and afford bigger bonuses and instead be dealing with strikes and knowing our overseas customers are watching this and wondering whether SA is the right place to do business.  That’s not to be negative, just realistic.  Peter is brilliant at managing these situations and he will sort it out.

To my delight there are all sorts of happenings on the mountain which make running a pleasure.  In particular several different Helicrysums are in flower.  Plants that flower at this time of year tend to have dry looking or tiny flowers that can cope with the potential heatwave as you can see from these pictures.

Helichrysum Flowers

Helichrysum Flowers

Helichrysum flowers - a different sub-species

Helichrysum flowers – a different sub-species

 

Yet another variety to be found here on the mountain: Helichrysum flowers

Yet another variety to be found here on the mountain: Helichrysum flowers

A cloud of Helichrysum in the morning light, this one situated in the heart of the olive groves; they grow all over the farm

A cloud of Helichrysum in the morning light, this one situated in the heart of the olive groves; they grow all over the farm

I started this blog last year in March when the first of the proteas came into bloom.  So it is exciting to witness the burgeoning of protea life as the shrubs of Protea repens are covered in buds and will flower in the next few weeks.  That, for me, is the start of our flowering year and I cannot wait.

The Protea repens is budding, a harbinger of summer's end.  The first flowers will emerge well before the autumn rains

The Protea repens is budding and heralds the end of summer. The first flowers will emerge well before the autumn rains

 

We have exceptional sunsets at this time of year.  Almost every night and it is a lovely time to walk around the farm.  With Seamus on the sick list we haven’t gone far and last night I took this picture of the farmhouse with the pink mountains behind us.

 

Pink sunset on the mountains

Pink sunset on the mountains

Sometimes we can get strange effects of the light as the sun goes down, like this photo of the sun just dropping behind Paarl mountain.  Taken a moment later than the one above there is a circular glow around the setting sun that was  distinctive and I was surprised it was captured so easily by the iPhone camera.   

Sunset over Paarl rock

Sunset over Paarl rock