SPRING IN THE GARDEN 2022

My posts are filled with the doom and gloom of the prolonged drought so it is time to showcase some of the bright spots in my spring garden. Although the freesias are almost over now, they brought great joy for their blooms have been more prolific and have lasted for longer than in previous years. Most of them are white and then there are these:

The rosemary bush growing near our front door is covered with flowers – again more than we have been able to enjoy for ever so long. It must be thanks to some of the light rain that fell during the latter part of August:

Plumbago blossoms are always a delight: the first ones are coming out now and so before long there will be masses of these lovely blue flowers in the garden:

We inherited several golden shower creepers with the garden and these thrive with no help from me at all:

This iris is part of a clump given to me by my brother in Gauteng – I love how plants can provide connections between people!

Lastly, even though there are a few more splashes of colour, I must highlight the dianthus seedlings that are showing a new lease of life after the rain:

BLUE

Blue, blue, my world is blue
Blue is my world since I’m without you …

So sang Marty Robins, associating blue with the feeling of sadness, as in ‘I am feeling blue’. Among the symbolic meanings ascribed to the colour blue is a feeling of calm and serenity; a sense of social distancing (in the sense before the arrival of the pandemic); and cold in terms of emotions. Then too, we talk about something happening ‘once in a blue moon’, or describe the bad start of a week as experiencing a ‘blue Monday’. Whatever your interpretation of blue might be, it is a natural colour only clouds and the cover of night can hide from us. A blue sky is a part of our world – how fortunate we are that it is not bright red!

Blue flowers include a morning glory:

Plumbago:

The flowers of rosemary are also blue:

This flower arrangement has elements of blue:

I will leave you with this interesting image of a church tower that has been painted blue:

 

SPANISH BROOM

The first house we moved into on arrival in Mmabatho, Bophuthatswana, had been plonked onto the semi-desert sand. All the houses there were newly constructed from bricks and the garden areas had been surrounded by a wire fence. The winds howled, and dust storms regularly swept through the area, whipping up the sand loosened by the many construction projects that were involved in the process of starting a new town in the veld. We tried growing a patch of lawn, carefully watering it and marvelling as the kikuyu grass began to spread over the hot, dry sand. Then we watched in awe as the entire ‘lawn’ was carried away by harvester ants! A row of tall, sturdy marigolds was eaten by goats. Gardening there was obviously going to be a challenge.

A group of us decided to tackle our respective ‘gardens’ in earnest and drove to the nearest nursery in Lichtenburg. A neighbour strongly advocated purchasing rosemary on the grounds that “it is hardy and I have grown it everywhere we have settled.” She and her husband had indeed lived in India and various parts of Africa in the course of his work, and so rosemary made its way into my garden too – and I have always grown rosemary wherever we have moved to.

This is not about rosemary though, but the Spanish Broom (Spartium junceum) which – given the harsh conditions we were faced with – the helpful people at the nursery recommended to us. All four of us purchased more than one of these plants and duly planted them in our respective gardens. They proved to be tough and their fragrant bright yellow flowers delighted us from about August onwards. In the Eastern Cape they are still in full bloom during December.

The Spanish Broom, as its name implies, is a native of the Mediterranean region of Europe, was imported here both for ornamental purposes and, interestingly enough, for the control of erosion: fast-growing, tough and pretty – all qualities gardeners look for when starting a garden from scratch, particularly in an inhospitable environment. What we didn’t realise at the time is that this would become an unwelcome invasive species that has proved to be particularly problematic in the Eastern and Western Cape, Gauteng, and Mpumalanga.

As attractive as they are when in bloom, the Spanish Broom is now listed among the most problematic weeds in South Africa. Given that it is estimated they can produce up to 12 000 seeds per plant, it is not surprising to learn that they tend to block light and use up water required by the indigenous plant species. The plants are unpalatable to both domestic and wild animals and the large stands of them obviously reduces available forage. These are not thoughts that cross one’s mind when starting a garden and – at the time – were certainly not expressed by the enthusiastic sales people at the nursery!

The Spanish Broom has been declared a Category 1 plant, which means they may no longer be grown anywhere in South Africa. Gardeners are expected to remove them and nurseries may no longer sell them. So much for laws: unless they are vigorously implemented the march of the Spanish Broom will continue unabated – here is only a small patch of the swathes that have established themselves along the disused railway line cutting through the bottom end of our suburb.