THE COLOUR PURPLE

This not about the novel of the same name by Alice Walker … just in case you thought it might be.

Purple tends to be a colour that people either take to or dislike intensely. I am reminded of this whenever a discussion turns to beetroot – that is a vegetable that people seem to love or hate. I have reacted negatively to purple furnishings and clothes before and yet there are numerous purple flowers I enjoy. One of them is bougainvillea:

These flowers come in a variety of shades and, as purple is a gradation of blue and red, the hues labelled ‘purple’ vary enormously. Anyhow, this colour bougainvillea – or perhaps a little darker and more vibrant, was the first to greet one when turning into the driveway of our farmhouse in the De Kaap Valley in the then Eastern Transvaal – now Mpumalanga. I still associate the purple varieties of bougainvillea with my mother standing outside her kitchen ready to greet us with open arms when we had travelled from afar to visit her for a while.

Of course lavender is a favourite plant in many gardens. It being fairly hardy, I am able to grow several different varieties here in spite of the vagaries of the weather. The plants are attractive in their own right and the flowers are a boon for bees – pretty to me, yet nothing like the splashes of colour that come from some commercially grown lavenders such as this one bundled up for sale!

Purple dye used to be expensive – I read that the first dyes came from shellfish – and so the colour has long been associated with wealth and royalty. The apparent rarity of it in nature has lent purple the qualities of luxury, power, and ambition along with grandeur, peace, devotion and even magic. Purple has held a supernatural aura for centuries. And yet, we seem to be blessed with a wide variety of purple flowers in this country. I recently featured the beautiful hues of purple in the blossoms of the puzzle bush/deurmekaarbos. We also have vygies and jacarandas.

The sea lavender blossoms are welcome and last for ages.

I also think of the wild impatiens, the butterfly bush, salvias, plectranthus, African violets and a number of others I have yet to identify – such as these lovely flowers blooming in the Karoo.

Purple is an eye-catching colour that combines the calm stability of blue and the fierce energy of red. This was brought home to me when I came across this back copy of what used to be a favourite magazine while I was in a ‘sorting’ mood:

How sad it is that this, along with several other magazine titles, is no longer published!

Of course I cannot leave without reminding you of this delightful poem:

Warning – Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
 
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
 
But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

SPRING EQUINOX 2021

Apparently the exact timing of the Spring Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere was at 21:20 on 22nd September. Not willing to experience the changeover in the hours of darkness, we drove inland yesterday to experience some of the signs of spring in the Eastern Cape. What better way to start than with the bright new leaves and scarlet spikes of the indigenous Erythrina lysistemon as seen from the garage where we had our tyres checked.

At Baddaford Farm Stall, not far from Fort Beaufort, where we stopped to check on directions, the bougainvilleas were coming into bloom.

As we passed through the Mpofu (Eland) Nature Reserve in the Amatole district, we couldn’t help admiring the spring leaves of the various Vachellia (Acacia) trees that brighten the otherwise drab-looking grassland.

Near the exit gate of this reserve several peach trees are blooming – a wonderful sight to see in spring.

Despite the dry and dusty conditions, there were bright patches of yellow – as well as individual flowers peeking through the grass – Common Gazania (Gazania krebsiana) growing along the road verges.

I couldn’t resist the delightful aroma from the clusters of violet blooms covering the many wisteria plants in the garden of Waylands Country House in the Katberg.

There are also beautiful stands of lavender.

The white arum lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) look beautiful in still moist patches everywhere we travelled.

Lastly, here is another bright red flower – which looks like the Indigofera heterophylla in my flower guide – growing in the otherwise barren carpark outside the St John the Evangelist Church in the Winterberg. This church dates back to 1858 and is still used occasionally.

NEW GROWTH

We missed out on the joys of spring this year, thanks to the long drought which seemed to suck the marrow out of the earth. Now, in the autumn, there are pleasing signs of new growth to celebrate the renewal of life. First up is one of many lavender buds that hold the promise of colour and food for bees:

Around the bird feeder are some self-sown tomato plants – I have already picked one small ripe one – a bonus:

In the thick leaf litter in the back garden came an interesting surprise in the form of these two mushrooms:

In the same leaf litter – dry leaves falling off the Erythrina caffra – is the start of a new tree:

Soon the garden is going to be ablaze with the beautifully vibrant aloes, still tightly wrapped:

Then there is a single self-sown Californian Poppy in a pot:

Where there is new growth there is hope.

MY AUTUMN GARDEN

The heat combined with a prolonged drought has meant a paucity of flowers blooming during the summer. A light autumnal rain encouraged a few hardy ones to brighten the space – mostly singly and so each has required a much closer look than usual, which I share with you. First is the Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata). These are generally enjoyed en masse and we pay scant attention to the delicate texture and pattern of the petals.

This is the only lavender flower in the garden. Buds have appeared on other plants since the rain and so I have more flowers to look forward to.

The spreading perennial, Commelina benghalensis is starting to blossom. The flowers are so small that one does not usually bend down to appreciate them. At this stage though anything with colour is worth a closer look!

We are approaching the best time of the year to appreciate the trumpet-shaped orange flowers of the Cape Honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis), another flower one tends to admire from afar instead of appreciating the delicate darker orange stripes on the petals and the dark stamens.

Then there is a scruffy looking geranium that has survived, bravely showing a flower or two that is also worth a closer look in order to appreciate its beauty.

These pictures were all taken with my cell phone.