Tag Archives: wildflower blog

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.


Writer’s block

For several weeks now I’ve been wondering why I haven’t written a blog.  After all I’ve been running on the mountain, in fact my fitness is pretty good. The dogs and I have had several splendid morning and evening runs.  The weather is fabulous for us – this has been the coolest summer we’ve spent on the farm and dogs and humans have relished it.  We love the sun, but extremes, often as high as 40 degrees, can be harsh.  I did go to Europe for work a couple of weeks ago – to a freezing cold and rather depressing Paris, a city I dearly love but which was in mourning not only for Charlie Hebdo but for the loss of freedom that accompanies terrorism.  The weather was as bleak as the mood although a cancelled meeting meant some rewarding shopping and one or two excellent dinners helped cheer me up.

So why no blog?  The question resolved itself yesterday when I was running on the top road.  At this time of year the flowers die back – the middle of summer here is like the winter elsewhere, with little new growth.  The point of this blog is to share the amazing beauty and variety of flowers that grow here on the farm.  And the flowers hide from the heat and the harsh sunlight.

Then yesterday I saw a splendid flash of pink at my feet.  An Erica had burst into flower.  Of course there are 660 fynbos subspecies of Erica, so they are not always easy to identify, and lots of them have pretty pink bells like this one.  Given the season and the dark pink flowers this could be Erica pulchella.  Tiny and absolutely lovely.

The other flower that is in full bloom is this yellow pea called Aspalathus divaricata Subs divaricata (Franschhoek form).  A long name to describe a pretty rambling Cape Gorse that flowers in the driest period of the year.

Although there are few flowers, there is plenty of life stirring and getting going.  The Leucadendron salignum which lights up the mountain on dark winter days with it’s lime green colour is putting out new reddish pink growth at the moment.  And the Protea repens, the most common Protea on the farm, are covered in sticky buds, just about to flower – indeed the very first flowers have just emerged.  Could it be a sign of early rains to come?  They always flower before the first rains.  We had a cloudy morning the other day – it’s rare and pleasant at this time of year, and the new growth coloured the mountain.

Then there are the shining grasses.  As we drive down the road in the evening the light floods the new vines planted just below our neighbours house and the grasses literally dazzle the eye in pink and white.  I sent this photo to our neighbour and she commented that “they shouldn’t be there” so I daresay that next year the grass will be cleared and this extraordinary display of light will disapear.  For the next few months these shining grasses line the roads and catch the light in a display of pink and white luminosity;  I absolutely love them.

Other excitement included the dogs putting up a tiny duiker who shot up the mountain and then ducked behind a buchu plant.  The girls were giving chase and didn’t even glance at its hiding place and I pretended to see nothing and continued up the mountain.  Not long afterwards the girls were still gamboling in the lands and a glossy chestnut coloured rhebok jumped out in front of us.  Seamus was just ahead of me, but supervising the girls and although she was only a couple of feet from him, she looked at us in astonishment and leapt for cover so quickly that he didn’t even see her.  Or pretended not to.  So much for being a sighthound.

Maebh on the hunt

Maebh on the hunt

The sunsets are often incredible.  On that cloudy day the dying rays caught the cloud above the dam and turned it perfectly pink, which was then reflected in the water, a perfect end to another wonderful day at home in Africa.


The colour of home


What a welcome home.  We arrived back from a 10 day trip from Europe and for once it was a holiday and not work, so instead of feeling shattered and grumpy we arrived to a perfectly glorious spring day, full of joy and looking forward to getting home to the farm and the dogs.  This evening, at sunset, I put on the running shoes and went out onto the mountain with the dogs.  Since we left it has poured with rain; it must have been one of the wettest August’s ever which might be a bit miserable but produces perfect conditions for the fynbos to flower.  The mountain has exploded into life since we left and we are in for a bonanza season.  Any reader of The Fynbos Blog who would like to visit the farm and do a ‘flower safari’ is welcome to contact us and we will welcome you.  We are in Paarl, the best time of day is sunset in good weather, though mornings are also good if we have time.   You must like dogs.

Tonight the sky was glorious with colour and for once I’ve posted a sunset shot as the headline picture.  All the photos on this blog are taken with my iPhone 5 and I’m so impressed with what it can do.  This shot is a view of the lights of Paarl, with Table Mountain 60 kilometres away dominating the skyline in the orange light.

Peter had been up to the weir earlier today and he took the new road by the waterfall.  As we set off he told me it was covered with tiny white flowers and we ran up that way to find the road, and indeed much of the farm covered with Hespertha and Geissorhiza ovate, they can look quite similar in a photo but are quite different in real life.  Another common flowering bulb in the lands at the moment is the Grass lily, Chlorophytum – I’m not quite sure which subspecies this one is.  When the plants are strong it looks like a tiny tree growing from the lily-like leaves.  

There are so many flowers at this time of year that it can be a struggle to comment on each of them.  Being on the mountain is amazing; it is covered in flowers; I post only the new things I see, or if I get a particularly lovely shot of an old friend.  I’ll group all the flowering bulbs together, they are always particularly lovely, and shrubs, daisies and so on separately.  

This is today’s collection – not all of which I have identified yet.


And some shrubs and daisies



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.



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.



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


Aliens and Ericas

This storm was promised; the weather forecasting in this part of the world is so good that they predicted the first drops of rain almost to the minute.  And here it is, cold, wet, miserable weather so that when I look out of the window I can’t even see the dam, never mind the lights of Paarl in the valley below.  We are holed up in the study, watching 24 with Jemima Chew curled up before the fire snuffling and squeaking and hunting in her dreams.

I am getting carried away again and the point of tonight’s blog is to catch up with some flowers that I haven’t posted yet.  First of all two different Ericas.  I’m not sure which ones they are – both have tiny tiny flowers, several would fit on my little fingernail.


The next is the gorgeous Moraea tripetala.  These little Iris-like flowers grow on the driveway and are a joy to see when they emerge each year.  Typical bulbs, one day there is nothing and the next, stunning flowers emerge in their full glory.

Moraea tripetala

Moraea tripetala

After the floods of rain last week we went out on a dark damp evening for fresh air and an evening run.  After so much rain a lot of flowers were ravaged and new ones hadn’t yet emerged but this rain-soaked Protea nerifolia glowed a rich red-pink in the gloom.

Protea nerifolia

Protea nerifolia

The driveway is one of the most prolific areas on the farm, or at least the one that I see the most.  Another shrub in flower at the moment is this Felicia filifolia.


We spend a lot of time and money taking out aliens.  Some are pines from the forest next door and here is one in flower – they might be aliens but these are pretty flowers all the same.

Another is this elegant tree.  It is a type of wattle I think – but far prettier than most.  The leaves are silvery grey and in summer I use them in flower arrangements and to decorate the house at Christmas.  At the moment it is in full flower and makes an elegant flowering tree.

Finally I can’t resist posting this particularly splendid sunset from last week.




« Older Entries