Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Winter Blues

This winter has definitely convinced me - I am a summer girl! The last 4 weekends prior to this have been cold and rainy, forcing me to spend most of my time indoors. I say most of my time because when the rain backed off to a light drizzle I would dash outside to pull a few weeds and take quick garden tour. My children made me laugh “ Come inside Mom you will catch cold!” I thought it was Mothers that intoned that phrase. But I can't, I work 5½ days a week and the weekend is the only time to restore my soul.

I know we need the rain and I do enjoy it, I just wish it would confine itself to weekdays or night time, if it must rain on weekends. We have had over 100mm of rain this month and I am sure most of it fell on weekends. I may complain about the heat occasionally in summer as well as the lack of rain, but it definitely gives me more time to spend outdoors, I feel like a caged lion, pacing up and down in front our sliding door waiting for a gap in the clouds so that I can head outside.

Fortunately this past Sunday was lovely and sunny, so I went on the rampage. The ivy covering our back wall in our bedroom garden had grown top heavy and fallen away from the wall, so that was cut back severely, leaving a rather bare wall. It had damaged a few shrubs when it fell over, but since they were exotics I didn't mind. So out went the Nandina domestica and the Plumera rubra and in their place I have planted the following:
Metalasia muricata
Agathosma capensis
Acmadenia heterophylla
Pelargonium crispum
Very bare walls after removing the Ivy

I will post more about these later when they have settled in and look like they will survive – they were rather pot bound so I am not sure of their chances.

In our back garden my beautiful Coleonema had died, so out it came too. I also had a volunteer white stinkwood that had grown too close to the wall, these trees can get rather large so I had no choice but to remove it. Ripping out all these plants made the garden feel rather bare but at least I have some stalwarts that can always be relied on. Polygala myrtifolia also known as September bush is one of these.

The September bush, a large shrub or small tree widespread in South Africa and found in a variety of growing conditions. It does well in full sun or semi shade. It grows in the Western Cape where we have winter rainfall as well as in the eastern parts of the country where they have mostly summer rains. This highly adaptable plant thrives in forests, grasslands and can even be found on sand dunes. In my garden it flowers almost all year round, but puts on an especially dazzling display in spring. The flowers in varying shades of mauve, purple and pink and occasionally white are clustered at the tips of branches. They resemble pea flowers but have a distinct tufted keel.
Beautiful flower showing off the fuzzy keel

One of the reasons I fell in love with this house 6 years ago, was the large almost 4 metre high Polygala in the backyard. Sadly it had been planted too close to the wall, causing it to grow skew and eventually fall over. It is fortunately one of those pioneer plants that self seeds with ease and I now have about 6 specimens of varying size around the garden.
In it's prime - I do miss it.

Polygala myrtifolia is great for attracting wildlife. In my garden there are always carpenter bees buzzing around the flowers and before my large tree fell down it attracted many double collared sunbirds and a family of white eyes.


  1. GG - Judging from the level of the Steenbras Dam at the beginning of July when we made our move - the rain is VERY necessary. I'm loving the cold even though it's 10oC inside at nighttime LOL

  2. Hi Dani

    Just checked the dam levels. Steenbras Upper is now full, and Steenbras lower is at 91.7% Curiously both Voelvlei and Theewaters are lower than in previous years.

    1. Voelvlei is near us and we've had lots of rain this August, so hopefully the level is coming up.
      Would love you to write about your arums. I have one snuck in with the Strelitzia and blooming happily in the rose garden. 3 tiny ones toddling along in the creeks.

    2. Hi Diana

      Just checked again, Voelvlei is still only at 71%, lower than the past five years. You can check it out here http://www.capetown.gov.za/en/Water/Pages/WeeklyDamLevels.aspx
      They update figures weekly.

  3. I understand the feelings of frustration you feel when you can't get out in the garden. Unfortunately it's not just the Winter that keeps us indoors these days, but the Summer too. Here in the UK we have had some awful weather this year. Last weekend I witnessed some of the heaviest rain I have ever seen - and I have spent many years in the tropics.

  4. Oh my. Browsing through your blog made me so homesick for our old home that we built in the Cape. I knew very little about gardening, but since we built it ourselves, I researched indigenous plants, planned and planted the garden, turning a sandy plot into a beautiful indigenous haven. I fell in love with the indigenous plants. So many of which are featured here.

  5. Your side of the mountain is looking a lot sunnier than ours. Sun only first touches our garden at 10:30 am.

    Before long it will be the hectic schedule of keeping everything watered.

  6. Wow, your garden is amazing! I think an invite for a summer braai is on the cards so you can help me identify some mysterious plants in my garden :)

    1. Hi Tandy

      Sounds good, I can look at the garden and G can check the progress on the plumbing side.

  7. Our heavy rain falls in the summer here, and combined with the heat and high humidity levels, it makes summertime miserable. I think your feelings about winter match mine about our summer here. I can't get out into the garden and the weeks of rain leave me feeling very blue indeed.

    Love, love your Polygala. I have only one in my garden and it was a new addition just last year. It's just a very small shrub, nowhere near as enormous as the one in your photo. I definitely have to get more of it though. Mine has just been the most hardy thing and managed to get through a horrid wet season and now the dry. The flowers are just spectacular aren't they? Our common name for the Polygala here is Pea Flower. I've never heard them called September Bush.

  8. I am looking forward to some more sun too! I havent even felt like venturing into the garden yet.

  9. HI Caroline

    Thanks for following. The bulbs starting to bloom in my garden tell me Spring is on the way. Soon we will be complaining about the heat and the wind!

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