OUR SECRET GARDEN

Part of our garden has always been known as the Secret Garden. It is the ‘wild’ section where, during a particularly rainy summer, one can barely walk through for the tangle of shrub, ground cover and creepers. The only ‘gardening’ I have ever done here is to prune a rough path through the thicket. Looking at it now, in the dead of winter and after a prolonged dry period, you wouldn’t think this would ever be necessary. Follow me on my walk through it this morning.

entrance to secret garden

The Secret Garden is on a terrace below the rest of the garden and is barely visible from the tree-lined lawn above.

terraced wall

You can tell from the bird droppings on the top step that the Secret Garden is overarched by trees that provide good perching spots.

steps

Some of the trees, like this Bush Willow, have fallen over during particularly wet periods, causing a shift in the direction of the original path.

fallen bush willow

Others, like this Fiddlewood, have long since succumbed to old age and the periods of drought. The desiccated trunk remains to house a variety of insects until it too crumbles into the earth.

dead fiddlewood

Clivias crowd around the base of the enormous Natal Fig.

clivias and fig tree

Alas, in our early ignorance, we planted what we hoped would become a magnificent specimen of an Aloe barberae (used to be bainesii) at what we considered then to be a good distance from the Natal Fig. To our surprise, the branches of the fig have increased their reach way beyond what we had imagined and they continually shear off the aloe leaves in the strong winds that whip the tree into a frenzy. The aloe has survived though, pushing towards the light and sporting only a tuft of leaves at its crown.

Aloe barberae

During this dry period the purple ground cover of Tradescantia zebrina, still commonly known as Wandering Jew, has almost disappeared. Fallen leaves and broken twigs crunch underfoot. I surprised two Olive Thrushes picking their way through the leaf litter.

leaf litter

It is in this largely undisturbed Secret Garden that Cape Robins, Olive Thrushes, Speckled Mouse-birds, Black-eyed Bulbuls and Hadeda Ibises have been known to nest every year. The Secret garden is a haven of tranquillity where one feels the mantle of peace whilst getting ‘lost’ in the coming and going of birds – and even the odd mongoose!

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