Tag Archives: Mountain

Balmy days and foggy nights

We’ve been having exceptionally warm and sunny weather for the time of year.  Although we quite often get an early burst of spring in August, this is really warm – 28 degrees or even higher yesterday and we are still in t-shirts today.  The combination of warmth and damp in spring often means foggy patches and a favourite sight is the view from the farm on a foggy morning.  We had one breathtaking dawn moment as the full moon set behind Paarl mountain and the fog lapped at the foothills.  The moon is never as spectacular in a photo, this one was huge and round and dominated the morning sky.

Moon setting over Paarl

Moon setting over Paarl

The Lobostemon fruticosus has burst into flower.  The dull light brings out the best in it; it has a luminous glow.  And sometimes the very first rays of sun just catch the flowers so they are lit from within.   The colour ranges from pink to pale blue and the small shrubs are covered in a mass of flowers.  We have them everywhere.  I have tried to transplant them into the garden but even the small ones have a deep deep tap root that I haven’t succeeded in transplanting intact, so they shrivel and die.  Never mind, they clearly prefer the mountain.

It quite often happens that I notice something in a particular area and think of it as rare and special only to find out a few days later that it is all over the farm.  This pretty yellow shrub is one of those.  I initially didn’t recognise it, and then was quite excited to realise when I had a good look at the photos that it was probably another Hermannia, like the ones we saw last week.  Rushed to the book, looked up the Hermannias and sure enough it’s Hermannia althaeifolia, quite a common plant in the region and also used extensively in gardens.  Not surprising, it’s a lovely thing.  The photo in the reference book isn’t very good though, so I went to iSpot for some clarification and checking those images there can be no doubt.

iSpot is the place for geeks when it comes to fynbos.  They ask us to post what we see and I don’t do it enough, but if I can’t identify something, there is always a far more knowledgeable person on iSpot who will.  This little white flowering bulb for instance, which I posted a couple of blogs ago, has been identified as Ixia.  They were not sure which subspecies, and I can’t find it in any of my reference books, but reading into the more detailed description of the Ixia, I can see what they mean.

Ixia

Ixia

I don’t know what this absolutely charming white Erica is.  There are some serious Erica experts on iSpot though, so I shall post it and see what we come up with.

White Erica

White Erica

A couple of pelargoniums – the first one is not really spectacular as the photo isn’t very good – but it’s one I haven’t posted yet this year.  The other is another, pelargonium myrrhifolium varr myrrhifolium, a pelargonium I posted a couple of weeks ago, from a different plant on a different part of the farm.

 

 

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.

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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.

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

Wild windy summer sunsets

I never get tired of looking at the view from the balcony and because we look west we have wonderful sunsets. Tonight’s was special by any standard. I took this photo just as the sun had gone down – no filter, just the last light of the setting sun reflected from the clouds onto the dam.

Sunset over the dam

Sunset over the dam

We had Christopher, the brother-in-law, to stay and before he left I offered to take him up the mountain and show him the flowers. All spring we’ve had a wonderful time showing our guests the wonders of the mountain fynbos flowers. That time has passed.  He loved being up on the mountain but the flowers have become sparse and less interesting to the casual visitor. A really passionate gardner might still enjoy it – for the less passionate there is merely fading and die back and the fucundity of the land has passed into dryness survival mode.

It doesn’t mean that there is nothing of interest out there, I’ve often mentioned that yellow daisy-like flowers are among the hardest to identify. This one could be the rock daisy, Heterolopis, or perhaps Leysera. If I see it again which is quite likely we’ll take a closer look.

Heterolopis or Rock Daisy?

Heterolopis or Rock Daisy?

The wind continues to blow – it has been more than a week now, which is quite unusual and not a let up in the forecast. The dogs love it particularly the wolfhounds and here is Maebh standing in the wind, allowing it to stream through her coat.

Maebh poses in the evening light, letting the wind slip through her coat

Maebh poses in the evening light, letting the wind slip through her coat

Jemima Chew on the other hand finds her solace in water and the permanent streams. She loves to wallow and lie the flow and then stands up, looking about her, thoroughly pleased with herself.

Jemima Chew - life is good

Jemima Chew – life is good

As Christopher and I chatted and walked I kept my eyes open for anything new and exciting, expectations low. And here we are, hidden beneath some fynbos scrub, this exquisite pelargonium. There are nearly 300 subspecies, 150 in the fynbos region of which only 20 or so are in the book. This one is so lovely, the colours, the delicate shape of the petals. I would be tempted to move it to the garden but my fingers are not the greenest and what if it’s the only one? I only ever transplant the very common flowers, anything that might be rare, special or precious belongs on the mountain.

A Pelargonium we have not seen before

A Pelargonium we have not seen before

Lilies and peacocks: prolific flowering on the mountain

When you wake up morning after morning and the first thing you hear is the thudding of rain on the zinc roof it is not really conducive to getting out on the farm to run and photograph flowers. Even the dogs stand at the doorway and barely want to get their feet wet.

The weather finally improved on Sunday and late in the day we finally got out onto the mountain. There is so much out there, the rain has made flowering prolific and the frustration is that we must have missed so many flowers that have had their brief moment of glory and disappeared.

There is something about this mountain at the end of the day, as the light fades to the east and the last glow of sunlight flares in a spectacular display of light and colour. There is one huge tree, a bluegum or Eucalyptus that stands in splendid isolation high on the mountain. An alien, it doesn’t belong here and I cannot imagine how it came to survive so high; it must have found a spot where it is slightly sheltered from the howling winds. This evening it made a frame for the setting sun.

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As we descended I caught this shot of the mountains behind us caught in spectacular orange.

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Before us the sun was just about to go down behind Paarl mountain and you can see the mist gathering over the Berg River at the bottom of the valley.

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The light was perfect as we ran up the mountain and captured flowers. There are many that flower like this, at the top of a spike of needle or threadlike leaves and this is a lovely one that we found right at the top of the farm. I couldn’t find it in the book and generally these are hard to identify.

Unidentified spike

Unidentified spike

Another beautiful spikey thing is this white one. Again I haven’t identified it yet – it’s gone into the unidentified folder for when I have some more books and helps.

White spikes unidentified

White spikes unidentified

While on the theme of unidentified shrubs, here’s another one. In one damp and quite shady place there are lots of these, little shrubs covered in white flowers, pretty enough to be cultivated in any garden. And indeed they probably are – so if any reader knows what they are please do let me know.

White flowering shrub

White flowering shrub

The waterfall is pounding away and my theory that at some point it will be flooded with evening sunshine seems likely to come true as the sun needs to be just a little higher and a little further to the south and the whole fall will be lit up for a few weeks.

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I had a lot more luck identifying the flowering bulbs and there are lots of them. Just behind the house the bank is full of these brilliant blue flowers, Geissorhiza aspera.

Geissorhiza aspera

Geissorhiza aspera

And just above it the bank and many roads on the farm are littered with these white stars. I think it might be Strumaria spiralis but I do need to check as the identification is not 100 % confirmed.

Identity uncertain

Identity uncertain

I am completely sure of this one however. It is Baeometra uniflora, known as the Beetle Lily and there are plenty of them in damp areas at the top of the farm.

Baeometra uniflora - the Beetle LIly

Baeometra uniflora – the Beetle LIly

This was a busy run, a lot of flowers needing recording and worrying about more weather to come, and a lot more flowers, I wanted to be sure we’d capture them. One I saw during a quick morning run in the week, in between the showers, is this lovely little pink spike and I was worried that it might have disappeared by the time I got back to that part of the farm again with good light and time to do a long run. But no, here it is and it is known as a Spike Lily, Wurmbea punctata. I love it when we get a really clear identification of something new and there is no doubt about this one.

Wurmbea punctata - the Spike Lily

Wurmbea punctata – the Spike Lily

Another absolutely unmistakable flower and always a treat when they appear, as if out of nowhere, is the lovely Spiloxene Capensis, one of the Cape stars and known as the Peacock flower. We were rewarded by this sight at the very top of yesterday’s climb and before the light abandoned us.

Spiloxene capensis - the Peacock flower

Spiloxene capensis – the Peacock flower

This was much harder to identify and I think it must be the Grass Lily, Chlorophytum rigidum perhaps? It has a very localised habitat and this is exactly the right area. But the picture in the book isn’t great so I would be happy to be corrected.

Chlorophytum rigidum?

Chlorophytum rigidum?