Today has been darkly overcast and dull with a very light shower clearing the air a short while ago. Having already looked at various hues of green on St. Patrick’s Day (interestingly the dead snake elicited the most responses!), as I walked around my garden this afternoon I was reminded of the various shapes of leaves we get in nature. First up is the Spekboom (Portulacaria afra) which grows outside the side door leading to our swimming pool. The colour of the stalkless, succulent leaves tend to vary from bright green to pale grey. I planted this small tree as a broken off twig several years ago and it has already reached a height of nearly 4m. I prune it periodically and plant the cuttings elsewhere in the garden.

This Aloe ferox growing near our front door is well over thirty years old – well suited to this dry part of the Eastern Cape. Its beautiful flowers will appear sometime in May and continue through to the end of August. These broad leaves are showings signs of age yet still look attractive to me.

This Ziziphus mucronata, commonly known as buffalo thorn or blinkblaar-wag-‘n-bietjie, seeded itself outside our lounge window. I enjoy the glossy green leaves, although remain wary of the thorns – one hooked and the other straight – that are difficult to extract oneself from. Despite the thorns, trees growing in the wild are browsed by both game and stock animals.

Gardens are all the sadder, I think, without nasturtiums growing somewhere. Not only do they produce blooms in a variety of colours, but their blossoms, leaves and immature green seed pods are edible.

According to the Agricultural Research Council “Sword fern is a category 1b declared invader in Limpopo, Mupumalanga, Kwazulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Western Cape, and a category 3 invader in Gauteng, Free State, North-West, and Northern Cape. It must be controlled or eradicated where possible, and may not be sold or distributed through commercial outlets.” Try as I might, I simply cannot get rid of these plants which grow faster than I can attack them!

Another exotic is the Cape gooseberry (Physalis edulis) which originates in South America. All the plants (the number of them wax or wane according to the weather) growing in my garden have seeded themselves – probably courtesy of the birds which adore the golden berries as much as I do. I generally leave them to grow wherever they please, unless they are really in the way.



I feel the need to brighten up this blog a little for this tends to be a drab time of the year. As today is the fourth of the month, I decided to take the fourth picture from four different years that show aspects of my garden – bar one:

Look at the shape of these feet.

Five minutes away from home.

These Cape gooseberries were turned into jam.


Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone … W.H. Auden

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volleyed and thundered …Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death … Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Then as if a mirage at sea a village of ramshackle homes
Single story on a sandbank all with gardens of the strangest design
A flea farm, gooseberry bushes and butterflies in net cages … Michael Wolf

The Mushroom is the Elf of Plants … Emily Dickinson



Over the past few years our garden has yielded an abundance of deliciously golden Cape Gooseberry fruit – all for ‘free’ as the plants have seeded themselves and simply got on with their cycle of reproduction. There is usually so much fruit that our grandchildren could pick mugfuls and there would still be enough to both satisfy the birds and allow me to make jam or to make a sauce for ice-cream. These gooseberries were a late autumnal / early winter treat that meant one could pick a few after hanging out the laundry or simply when passing by one of the many bushes weighed down with fruit.

Then came the relentless drought. Many gooseberry bushes sprung up as usual, but hardly any survived – and those have scarcely enough fruit to make picking worthwhile. Besides, the birds need that sustenance more than I do! Hopefully, like the Canary creeper, the gooseberries will bounce back again next year – if we get some decent rain between now and next autumn.


Fewer Cape Gooseberry bushes than usual have appeared in our garden this year – probably as a result of the long drought – and they seem to be producing fewer berries. Nonetheless, I have been eyeing the ripening fruits with anticipation, realising that I would need to take a share before the birds make off with the rest. My harvest was a modest cup and a half picked in the fading light of day.

Hulled, the bounty looked so beautiful that I had to resist eating them raw.

I had other plans for them though – made on the spur of the moment or I may have picked more and waited to add to my collection over a couple of days. I added sugar and water.

They bubbled away on the stove … and bubbled … while I stirred and wondered whether or not I had added too much water.

Eventually they all reduced to this:

Even though the resulting jam doesn’t even fill a jar, it is very tasty – and all the more so for it comes from the garden. A lovely autumnal treat.