Tag Archives: Irish Wolfhound

Could try harder

The blog has suffered because I’ve gone back to school.  I’m doing a Masters in Philosophy in Coaching (MPhil means you do a significant research piece, that’s for next year).  Weeks like this one, spent at the business school, are intensive and in between there’s lots of study and lots of writing.  Along with launching my new business there’s just about time to run but not much time to write about it.

One of the subjects I was thinking about tonight on the run was the challenge of confidence and humility in business leaders, and specifically in myself as a leader and a coach.  I’d say I don’t have enough of either.  Confidence isn’t too hard to think about.  I don’t want to waffle on so in a nutshell, in many ways confidence is everything, it allows you to be grounded and forget yourself so that you can immerse yourself in the flow of whatever it is you are doing.  Lacking an edge of confidence might not be a bad thing though.  In my case it’s the endless “could try harder” I got as a child instead of positive reinforcement in the form of praise.  Yet it gives me an edge, makes me work a bit harder.  I’m a bit of an Avis type: I may not be No 1 but I try do harder.

Humility as a notion is altogether more difficult.  I’m trying to uncouple the notion from the famous role models like Mandela, Ghandi and Mother Teresa.  They may be shining examples of humility but it’s a public and political humility.  The kind I’m trying to understand is a humility that a great business leader or star sportsman or woman can epitomise.  Utterly genuine, held in a context of great work or great sporting success.  How can you develop and encompass that humility?  Indeed what is it?

These are the questions the study leads me to consider…

The evening was mild with heat from the warm day beating up into the cooling air and as we ran along the path at the very top of the farm we came across one of my favourite flowering bulbs, the gold and brown Gladiolus maculata.  Elegant and queenly, the flower heads arched into the path in front of us.

The Eriocephalus africanus is early this year compared to last – as are many flowers – the warm wet autumn must have a lot to do with it.

As we ran down the mountain Maebh paused and the last rays from the west caught the ghostly tips of her coat, illuminating her in the evening light.


I have so many other flowers to post, but this magical evening run deserved a blog to itself.


Skipping up the mountain

After a week of howling wind that has distressed the garden and stripped the leaves and lots of baby olives off the trees, we finally had a quiet, damp, cloudy morning today.  This kind of weather is much more conducive to flower photos so we managed to capture a few we’d missed.

The Christmasberry, Chironia baccifera is in flower all over the place.  It has these pretty pink flowers now, and later in the year it will be covered in beautiful red berries.

As I’ve been running up the mountain in the past week I realised a sad truth.  We went to the bush for a few days at the end of November.  I love everything about the bush except for the fact that going running would make you a nice, easy, soft pink target for the predators.  So you can’t run.  A few years ago I realised the solution was to bring a skipping rope and this time I was quite good about skipping in the mornings.  It’s very boring, but it does work and to my amazement when I got home I ran quite effortlessly up the mountain.  Next time I’m struggling with fitness I’ll get that rope out.  Tiresome with amazing results.

Another tiresome thing is that I’ve missed some flowers.  I caught these comb flowers, Micranthus alopecuroides at the beginning of their flowering and this morning caught the end of the flowering, they are a little tatty but still very pretty.

Something happened while we were in the bush and it was funny enough to be worth the telling.  We came back from a game drive and I did my skipping, followed by a lovely brunch.  Tired from the early morning start, the exercise and the indulgent brunch, I decided to go for nap.  Off I went to our room, the last little cottage along the river, and lay on the bed.  It was hot; at this point I have to admit I was naked.  I duly fell asleep. A noise woke me.  I looked up.  Sitting on the balcony, lined up in rows as if in a cinema, the babies sitting on the shoulders of the adults, staring in at me through the huge windows, was an entire troop of baboons.  Just watching me sleep.  It was the most bizarre feeling.  I sat up.  They didn’t move, just stared.  It was rather unnerving.  Then quite quietly I said “go away” and equally calmly they all left.  I watched them go, en famille, off along the river bed.  We didn’t see them again for a couple of days.

Back to the flowers.  I have no idea what this pinky red pea is.  I’ll post it on ispot and see if we can find out.

Unidentified pinky red pea

Unidentified pinky red pea

These are an old friend, Selago corymbosa, quite common and very charming.

I went for a walk the yesterday evening.  I’d missed the morning run and when the wind dropped in the evening I thought the dogs would like a walk.  They certainly did and I took a couple of beautiful photos of Maebh.  The focus isn’t perfect her coat looks great in the evening light.

One of the first things to flower at the end of summer is the Protea repens and I think this might be a second flowering, it’s unusual to see them at this time of year.

Protea Repens

Protea Repens

I think this one is a Crassula but I’m not sure which one so once again I will ask the iSpot experts to identify it for us.

Bulbs and a Couple of Peas and an Irish Wolfhound or two

What a busy week it has been. I must apologise to friends who prefer the chatty blog to the technical botanical blog.  At this time of year there is so much to share, so we have a botanical phase for now and more chat will inevitatably follow.

Although I have been wanting to post a collection of flowering bulbs for some time there was a small problem with identifying one or two.  The best way to get help is to post on ispot, where the South African flora and fauna geeks all post their sighting and help one another out with identification.  Sure enough, within a couple of days I’ve had some help and can now happily identify a paricularly pretty apricot flower as yet another Moraea, this time miniata.

The other one is our most common gladiolus, which the experts identify as the famous and common Painted Lady, Gladiolus carneus, known as the White Afrikaner.  This must be right yet it is also frustrating as the books insist on the red splash on the lower petals while mine splash yellow.  Everything else fits though and they are just coming into flower now so I’ll be on a determined hunt for red splashes and I’m sure over the next few weeks I’ll post a few more photos of this really stunning Gladiolus.

Running last week was great from a running point of view as the weather was dry and windy and I have learned that taking pictures of flowers is best left for days with little or no wind.  The dogs loved the faster pace and once again we had a photogenic moment when Seamus and Maebh stopped at Fox Pan for a drink as we ran up the dry side of our farm.


There is such an abundance of flowers this year and every step of the run means another group or another flower.  There are shrubs I haven’t stopped to photograph because I think, they’ll still be there in a couple of weeks.  Flowering bulbs are different, they have a short life and you only get a few days to capture them.  I know I don’t see them all, for example last year I completely missed this dramatic Moraea bellendenii and this lovely Aristea spiralis which both flower at the same time, when I was away.

Other bulbs that flower at this time of year include Geissorhiza aspera, which opens when the sun shines and covers the lands in blue stars.  And yet another Aristea, the pretty Aristea africana, which is often used in gardens.   The pink Wurmbea punctata is much less common and easy to miss, it’s snuggled up to several shrubs along a busy road and there are very few of them.  The Baeometra uniflora which is not very prettily known as the Beetle Lily, it is choosy about where it lives and grows prolifically in one specific spot.

There are a couple more I don’t have names for, I’ll see if the geeks can help.  This first one is tiny – the flowers are less than half the size of the nail on my little finger.  I really should be able to name the second one, but there are quite a few flowers that look like this, so I’m not sure.  And the third one is the most exquisite little thing – also tiny.

Finally, two distinctive peas.  One is simply known as the Blue Pea, Psoralea aphylla, found in marshy places and along streams, which is exactly where we saw it. image The other is prolific at the moment along the top road and very distinctive; I’m pretty sure it is Lotononis of which there are 40 odd fynbos varieties and only two are covered in my book.  It isn’t either of those but the tri-foliate leaves and solitary flowers on slender stems are a bit of a giveaway.

The Vulnerable – Leucospermum lineare

Delicate, tumbling down the slopes beside the drive, the Vulnerable as Lucospermum lineare is known, is one of the sights of winter and early spring.  It is rare and endangered and safe with us.

What a weekend!  Why do we think: let’s do a dinner party on Thursday, and then, yes, another one on Friday, leftovers on Saturday but oh my goodness a long long Sunday lunch at the gorgeous and delicious Overture Restaurant in the Hidden Valley where we plumbed the depths, the deepest depths, of their wine cellar?  And got home at 9pm.  From lunch.  Personally I blame the wonderful and very talented Niall who has been here coaching dressage and who likes the good life just as much as we all do and is thoroughly good company, so everybody wants to spend time with him when he’s here and we like to entertain him.

So I didn’t get out on the farm this morning, but I managed to stagger out with the dogs for a lovely time on Saturday afternoon which was much more about the flowers than the running.  The Babinia fragrans are all over the place now – one of the prettiest and commonest flowering bulbs on the farm.  Once they flower everything else seems to start bursting with life.

On the drive, growing now among the Morea tripelata is a delicate little flower which I have not identified.

And talking of Morea, as we ran down the path to the waterfall I saw this, which made me stop and look twice.  It looks very like an oxalis, but the colour is darker than most, the leaf not the same and it lacks the common yellow throat.  Also, the Oxalis petals grow in an Escher-like (would that be Escherian?) spiral, where this has three top petals and three bottom petals.  As I flicked though the Encyclopedia of bulbs I suddenly recognised it – Morea veriscolor.  Lovely to find something new and learn a new flower as well.

We stopped for a drink of course and Seamus took his usual spot in the stream, peeking at us through the ferns.

Seamus peeking through the leaves

Seamus peeking through the ferns

All over the farm and probably all over the country the tickberry is in flower.  This is one of those plants that has been renamed – it used to be known as Chrysanthemoides monilifera but now has been reclassified as Osteospermum moniliferum.  It grows wild all over South Africa and is found in lots of gardens as well.

Another very common shrub is known as the climber’s friend, cliffortia ruscifolia.  Quite a stocky and strong rooted shrub, which must be why it is known as the climber’s friend, it certainly can’t be much fun to have to grab these brutal prickles.

We’ve cleared lots of lands over the winter and although I always worry about how much fynbos we take off it creates room for new growth.  The iPhone does a brilliant job of photographing flowers but not the delicate massed scattering of daisies and Babinia fragens in a field of buchu.  At the top of the field are masses of little yellow daisies.  I couldn’t find them in the book until I realised that the buttonwood daisy can have yellow petals as well as white.  This is not a great photo of this tiny flower as the light was hot and yellow.

Cotula turbinata

Cotula turbinata

Just at the top of the waterfall a single Red Hot Poker, Knophofia uvaria has emerged.



And along the road I saw this flower that I didn’t recognise at all but it was on the first page that I opened in one of my books.  It is Metalasia divergens.

Metalasia divergens

Metalasia divergens

And one last flower seen on this run.  I’ve spotted some new Pelargoniums that I don’t think I’ve documented before and we’ll be off in the morning if the light is good to see if we can get some shots of them.

Meanwhile this pretty Erica is different from all the others I’ve documented so far this year.  Pretty soft grey leaves distinguish it from others, as does the slightly different shape of the pink bells.  It’s gorgeous.

Erica with soft grey leaves

Erica with soft grey leaves



A spring morning

On Friday evening the neighbours came to dinner and arrived early for a flower safari. Wonderful to have neighbours who love the mountain as much as we do and who appreciate how special it is. I took them on the old doctors road to see the waterfall which is pounding in its winter splendor. There are hundreds of flowers at this time of year, the wildflower spring commences long before flowers come to the garden. We discovered the old doctor’s road when Peter cleared a veritable forest of wattles along the river; they had overgrown this road and below it, a small but spectacular waterfall. Now this place is a haven for the fynbos which grew back the instant the trees were cleared.

From there we walked up to the weir, a favourite spot and much photographed for this blog because of the magic of the magnificent, ancient, white trunked Ilex Mitis trees, and then on up, above the weir and close to the top of the farm. The sun was setting behind the Paarderberg mountain; a soft mist gathered in the valley below, the evening was completely still, silent, breathless.   The gentle warmth of a mild sunny winter’s day coming from the earth beneath our feet. As it grew darker the full dams in the valley gleamed the reflection of the evening sky into the stillness of the coming night. “It’s like a holy place” said Francois, “there’s something spiritual about it.”

Dinner was companionable, cheerful and as we are in wine tasting mode for Christopher’s wedding in January, a little too much drink was taken. Our guests left us late, very happy, as were we.

Perhaps a little less so the following morning when the full consequences of overindulgence emerged, but not enough to prevent me from donning the running clothes and setting off with the wolfhounds and Jemima Chew into the gloomy grey morning on a serious mission to photograph flowers for the blog. The first Babinia fragrens has appeared which is for me the harbinger of spring, and with it shrubs, little trees and tiny plants have burst into flower. I won’t post the Babinia, as there will be thousands more, I didn’t get a great photo and there is so much else to post. It rained heavily during the night, those very still evenings often indicate a change in weather and flowers were covered in raindrops. To my delight I’ve identified two new flowers that I don’t remember seeing last year and which turn out to be related.  The first is Hermannia saccifera and the second is Hermannia hyssopifolia, a pretty and sizeable shrub with an unusual flower that has a pin-hole throat and this urn shaped body, called a calyx.  Absolutely recognisable when I read the description, there is nothing quite like it.

The Hermannia hyssopifolio grows in an area that Peter cleared last year, cutting through old fynbos and finding a large flat area where we least expected it, evidence of terracing by a farmer long ago.  A stream runs through this area and shrubs and there is prolific growth along it’s banks, including this sprawling shrub with its sticky leaves and tar-like smell.  It’s known as the tar pea, Bolusafra biuminosa, and grows, appropriately enough, along mountain streams.

Bolusafra bitumenosa, the tar pea

Bolusafra bitumenosa, the tar pea

Another new identification also grows in this area, Phylica oleaefolia, with these pretty ranks of pale green, cupped flowers.  This is quite a tall elegant shrub.

Philyca oleaefolia

Philyca oleaefolia

We went down to an area where I haven’t been for a while and some of the yellow daisies are still flowering, the Athanasia trifurcata and the Osteospermum spinosum that I mentioned on a blog a couple of months ago.  I love when the flower matches the book’s comments perfectly, particularly as the photos don’t always.  The Athanasia trifucatum, says the book, has wedge shaped grey leaves, 3-5 toothed at the tips.  If you look closely at the leaves in this photo you can clearly see the three teeth.

In the same place grows a tiny pelargonium, one of my favourite flowers which grows all year round in different parts of the farm.  I think it’s Pelargonium myrrhifolium, var. myrrhifolium.


Along the road we walked on Friday night, which I call Erica Alley for the many varieties of Erica that make their home there, are several stunning varieties in flower.  Two beautiful examples of the common Erica plukenetii, showing the range of colour, from white with very pale pink, to coral.  And some with pretty pink bells in many shades, as well as this lovely white Erica where the bells grow in ranked series but which I have never identified.

Another pretty shrub which I have not managed to identify.  The flowers are green and tiny; so tiny that a single raindrop captures several of them.

And a small tree-like shrub flowering in several places on the farm with prolific drooping flower heads, but I can’t find it in the book.


More familiar friends include Stachys aethiopica, also known as woundwort with it’s mint shaped leaves and pretty little pinky-white flowers.

Stachys aethiopica

Stachys aethiopica

All over the farm the buchu is in flower.  Agthomsa, mostly crenulata, or a crenulata hybrid, though we also grow lots of Agthomsa betulina.  Buchu, the common name, loves the sandy mountain soil and especially the north facing slopes on the farm.  The flowers are mostly white but sometimes pretty shades of pink and lilac.


I couldn’t resist capturing Protea burchellii looking stunning in the grey morning light as well as the Leucadendron tinctum.  These yellow flower heads will soon turn the most wonderful shade of coral – they are prolific on the mountain and grow in massed groups in certain areas.

All in all we had a wonderful time, the dogs and I.  As a run it wasn’t up to much but as a morning spent together on the mountain, it was the best of times.  Maebh has boundless energy and was particularly happy to find a mongoose to chase.  He is much much cleverer than she, there was never a chance of her catching him, but she was very pleased with her morning.

Maebh hunting in the olive groves, her coat dark from running in the soaking wet fynbos

Maebh hunting in the olive groves, her coat dark from running in the soaking wet fynbos


Roaring waters

We had some turbulent weather last week and I lay in bed morning after morning listening to the rain battering the roof and feeling no desire whatsoever to leave my warm, wolfhound laden bed to go running in the wet coldness outside. Thus is the road to perdition paved with good intentions. Night after night I go to bed and promise myself a morning run. Morning after morning I lie in the snug warmth and don’t go anywhere. Paths go untrodden, flowers unphotographed, dogs unexercised

On Saturday the rain stopped and in the evening we finally ran up the soaking wet mountain in poor light with little to see and charming only to us. We ran via the waterfall, roaring white in the dull evening light.

Today dawned grey once more, but no rain. We were taking the young horse to a show, so there was no chance of a morning run, but after a happy day of showjumping at Noordhoek, I came home to glorious sunshine and enthusiastic dogs. The only possible answer was to go out on the mountain. I’m not sure it could entirely be described as a run. I walked most of the uphill and we made several detours into wilder bits of fynbos to examine and inspect. The dogs were delirious with happiness, noses a-quiver and constantly dashing off into the bush after wild things, real or imaginary.

There was a lot to see: first the pounding waterfall, white with pounding roaring water.


We stopped at the weir for a drink (for the dogs, not me) and I took a series of strangely beautiful photos of Seamus. The sun was shining through the trees and catching his coat, confusing the camera. He lay in front of the magnificent Ilex Mitus, the Cape Holly with its gleaming silvery green trunk.


Higher up the mountain we ran into fynbos as the light became ever more golden. The pink Protea burchellii and the first Protea nitida of the year. We had to bash through some bush to get to Protea nitida. This colony scatters an area of the mountain on top of the farm and they tend to flower quite late. This is the first of these graceful silver trees to flower.


We took a little detour to the stream that leads off our land to the forest and came across some Microloma tenufolia. Never easy to capture, it somehow works well against the lime green leaves of the Lucadendron salignum and you can see the tenuous climber’s twisted stem quite clearly. The colour is amazing, always pinker in a photo than its more coral reality.


The Buchu that we grow commercially on the farm is in full flower and on the way down the mountain we stopped and in the perfect light just after sunset caught this flower-spangled shrub by the road.


Agthomsa crenulata

Agthomsa crenulata

We had wonderful weather before the rains this week and there is a backlog of blog photos to post, along with splendid tales of the morning light as it hits the Simonsberg, the Paarderberg and Paarl Mountain and of the evening sun as it catches the water in the dams below us and they gleam golden, pink or red and orange. But those are tales for another day.

Running in between the flying

When I got home from Nairobi last week little Jemima Chew was not looking her usual self. She’s what the South African’s call a ‘pavement special’, an SPCA rescue dog who arrived in our lives shortly after Seamus. Although quieter than the attention seeking wolfhounds, she’s a lovely dog and often ends up a favourite with guests. She also gets bullied by Maebh as a result of which she now sleeps on our bed at night while the hounds sleep in the kitchen.  A perfect outcome from her point of view.

Jemima Chew (named for the Jimmy Choo boots she very nearly destroyed as a puppy) is always alert, always ready for action and always hungry. So when she was down in the dumps, refusing food and clearly off colour we were quite worried. Especially when Peter told me she’d been that way for a couple of days. She didn’t have a temperature, but in our part of the world you worry about biliary and I found a couple of ticks on her. We rushed her to the vet and although she didn’t have biliary she did end up on a drip for 24 hours. Poor girl, she’s so tough that in six years its’s the first time she’s ever had to go to the vet. By Sunday she was home, feeling much better, wagging her tail and demanding dinner.

Here she is in the misty afternoon light a week later. It poured with rain all last weekend but stopped early enough on Sunday afternoon for us to go for a quick run before I had to leave for the airport. This blog is being written on a plane between London and Frankfurt.

Jemima Chew, fully recovered

Jemima Chew, fully recovered

The light was fantastic and made the grove of Ilex Mitis by the weir look like a scene from The Hobbit. Seamus and Maebh put on their best performances for this photo.

Scene from The Hobbit, starring Seamus and Maebh

Scene from The Hobbit, starring Seamus and Maebh

The waterfall, which I posted only a few days ago, is now white with pounding water – we must have had 30mm of rain at least and the farm is soaking wet.



One lovely result of a few days of rain is all the bird activity when it stops, especially as this is the mating season for most of our birds. We took a different route through the fynbos today and saw lots of Cape Sugarbirds having battles over the girls. The iphone which I used for all my flower photos is much less good at caputuring fauna but I did manage to get one image of the sugarbird inspecting his territory from the top of a Protea repens.

If you look closely you can see the Cape Sugarbird with his long tail

If you look closely you can see the Cape Sugarbird with his long tail

Not so many flowers on this run – the rain, followed by some sun, means there should be some new things to see next weekend when I get home. This is a new protea gleaming in the soft winter light.  I have promised myself I will be stricter on identity this year, but I’m not sure what this subspecies is.

Unidentified pink Protea

Unidentified pink Protea

No problem identifying Chasmanthe aethiopica which we have posted before.  This group grows higher on the mountain on a different part of the farm – a damp shady area just below the weir. Such a lovely flowering bulb and reliably reminds me of the damp sweet smelling Irish spring where it grows wild on the verges and in the hedgerows.

Chasmathe Aethiopica

Chasmathe aethiopica

Another shot of the graceful and beautifully coloured Chasmanthe Aetheopica

Another shot of the graceful and beautifully coloured Chasmanthe aetheopica

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