14 June, 2013

To the quiet hills

by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa



My life has been inspired by mountains. I was born in Camps Bay – that picture postcard view everyone recognises. The Atlantic Ocean stretched away with the Cape to Rio yachts sailing to South America, or the SA Agulhas heading South to Antarctica. As a child our family home was at the bottom of Lion’s Head, beneath the Atlantic end of Table Mountain with the cable station. The chain of mountains stretches away along the Twelve Apostles to a hidden Hout Bay. 

Aragon looking to Paradise and Roses


The Swiss interludes shocked me. Expecting again the picture postcard cliché of snowy Alps – instead I found rolling hills. The Hausberg of Zurich is the Uetliberg – but, but – that’s just a hill, like Signal Hill! 

We decided to return to Camps Bay, to build a house on that slope I had looked across at as a child. At a lonely A-frame house with a tall slate roof – which became our neighbour in the street below. We lived halfway up the Twelve Apostles, where grey winter days enfolded us in clouds and fog, and in the summer the Southeaster gleefully ripped off a roof or two. 

Aragon with the sun highlighting garlic buchu beyond her head

Life is what happens; we sold the Position Position Position. We turned to a large garden in the country looking up to the Elephant’s Eye. Now we look to the False Bay garden, where we will have glimpses of mountain. Enough for my soul to breathe. 


Inspire at Paradise and Roses

Federal Twist asked 'Where do gardens come from?' inspiring my June choice. Knoffel buchu, garlic buchu, Agathosma apiculata is all about the evocative smell. Returning me to school holidays. Once the air was filled with that distinctive smell, we knew Riversdale, with her Sleeping Beauty mountain, was just over the next rolling hill! 

Knoffel buchu in our garden

This is not a showy plant, but I hadn’t realised quite how tall it would grow. Tiny deep green leaves – this plant is about a delicious smell of garlic when you brush up against it. The flowers are a haze of tiny white feathers, supporting a layer of wildlife. 

It occurs naturally on coastal dunes and grows in clays, on granite as well as limestone soils from Riversdale to Bredasdorp. It belongs to the Rutaceae, commonly known as the citrus family. Prune once the bush becomes untidy - from PlantZAfrica  

Garlic buchu
macro in a Mason jar technique

Almost all the plants of the fynbos are fragrant. If you live, or holiday, in chaparral, maquis, matorral or fynbos  – you will have your own evocative smell that brings back memories. 

Agathosma apiculata, Plectranthus madagascariensis, Tecoma capensis
Bulbine frutescens, Grewia occidentalis 

(Searsia crenata  has TINY flowers = Six) for False Bay in Dozen for Diana)

Beth in Wisconsin of PlantPostings brings Viburnum - ‘inner florets were just breaking bud and sporting a soft peach tint’.
Denise in Holland has found the iris which has 'alles wat ik zocht', everything she was looking for. Including delicately veined petals Iris setosa nana.
From Donna in NY state we have Monarda, beebalm or bergamot 'The plant earned its common name ‘Bergamot’ because the lovely, spicy fragrance of the plant is similar to that of the bergamot orange which is the the source of bergamot oil used to flavor Earl Grey tea'

Agathosma apiculata, Searsia crenataGrewia occidentalis
Plectranthus madagascariensis, Bulbine frutescens, Tecoma capensis

Buchu and scented pelargoniums are cultivated to harvest the volatile oils for the food industry. Could I use it as a culinary herb? 

Chocolat and Elephant's Eye
by Jurg

It’s enough to make a cat laugh, my father used to say. Chocolat certainly mutters happily, and gives DEEP sighs of contentment in the evening by the fire’s glow. ‘Isn't it deluverly to be warm, and comfortable, and safe with me family! Sigh …’ 

Looking from Groot Winterhoek back to Table Mountain 2 hours drive away
by Jurg

Lush cottage garden waiting for us on False Bay
Taken when we visited for a photo op in March

Looking back to Table Mountain. We will look from Cape Town one day to the snowy mountains we now call home. To the quiet hills Psalm 121

Pictures by Jurg and Diana Studer
(If you mouse over teal blue text, it turns seaweed red.
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29 comments:

  1. such beautiful post, scents are such strong memory keepers aren't they, I enjoy coming here so much, to hear of your life, the land, its all so very exotic to me.

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  2. How I wish I had a mountain or sea view from my place. Even better, a mountain AND sea view.

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    1. We revel in our borrowed scenery, while still under the watchful Elephant's Eye.

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  3. Hi Diana. The sense of smell, such as you talk about here in relation to gardens, is probably the most overlooked of all the senses. Yet, being somewhat subconscious, it may be more important than we know. I can remember a particular smell from my childhood that was there in a chest of drawers my mother had had as a child, and in it still, this chest of drawers, were all the toys of her childhood. There was a smell, very sweet and good and kind, I will never forget. Even though I can't re-make it, I know it's part of all that I know of life.

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  4. Today I have a blog visitor from Jamestown, St Helena, South Atlantic Ocean! We once spent a wonderful holiday there and a few precious ST H rocks are in my garden.

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  5. Enchanting post - the mountains have given you a wonderful view on life. Scents are the most evocative of the recurring past and right now we've jasmine in June

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  6. Diana, My similar influence has been the sea. Although I haven't usually lived in sight of the ocean, I've lived within easy driving distance. When I am in Gettysburg, which is further inland, I miss that sense of being near the sea. One day this spring, strong southeast winds brought the salt scent of the sea inland, and it made me feel dreamy.

    I love the photo of M. Chocolat; position is everything in life! -Jean

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    1. We won't SEE the sea, but the Ungardener is looking forward to walking on Long Beach at Noordhoek, and, and and ...

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  7. South African scenery looks very special, and must be very influential on young minds. I love mountains but probably my main influence like Jean has been the ocean.

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  8. I have read that you can lay scented pelargonium leaves on cakes while they are baking to flavor them -- but I've never tried it.

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    1. you can also scatter pelargonium petals on your salad.

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  9. Oh Diana the views and the glimpse of the garden are beautiful. I have a post coming in 2 weeks and then another 2 weeks after so you will have 2 hopefully for your next post!

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    1. I'll tuck the first here for June, and keep the second ready for July.

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  10. Wonderful post, sounds very exciting! The photos are great too. It always amazes me how far away we are geographically, I am used to Africa to my south, Europe to my North and the 'small' Mediterranean sea all around me with North Westerly winds our biggest nuisance.

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    1. Today we have a hot berg (from the mountain) wind. Will bring us our regular winter rain later.

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  11. A lovely post, Diana! So much packed into it. Thank you. Jack

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  12. My perfect dream would be a house surrounded by gardens, nestled between mountains and the sea. It seems you live in a one of those idyllic places. LOVE the photo of Chocolat!

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    1. I'm torn between our mountains in Porterville and the Atlantic Ocean at False Bay.

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  13. Lovely post Diana! Sounds like everywhere you have lived, and will live, has and will be idyllic. I adore the cat photos too!

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  14. Your life has been inspired by mountains, my life has been inspired by flat pastures with beautiful black and white cows. What a difference! I liked reading your story of moving around South Africa. I understand you are torned between the mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. It is not a far drive to the sea from our place so we often go to have a walk on the beach to inhale the silt scent of our North Sea. As far as I can see and understand you live on a lovely idyllic place and leaving for another idyllic place. Outside our garden we have a view of endless glasshouses of commercial nurseries of roses, tomatoes, paprikas, cucumbers, orchids and so on, I have created my own paradise garden. Your cat photos are all so adorable, especially of Chocolat. I am always interested in your wildlife photos, thanking for sharing.

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  15. Diana, life is what happens, I just had to check, so good, you named it thrice. I am sure you are going to be very happy in them thar hills. Aragon is looking so content whilst chocolat is pulling out all the stops to impersonate a sea lion. The June flower I am highlighting at the moment is Meconopsis Lingholm.

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  16. My life has been formed by the constancy of change, of learning to adapt by moving 17 times in 34 years. I've lived in my current house 10 years, longer than I've ever lived anywhere. My husband likes to talk about moving to a smaller house but to leave my garden would be unbearable. My June flower is the pink coneflower, echinacea. Chocolate does look like a seal in Jurg's photo. :o)

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    1. My family moved a lot. But settled in Camps Bay just before I was born. My sisters had to change schools often.

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  17. Sweet thoughts as you reminisce, Diana. Isn't it lovely how memories take us back in time and provide comfort to the soul?

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  18. Mountains always inspire me, too, Diana. Even though I live far from any, I'm always overwhelmed when I visit them. Many trips to the Rockies in my past, and a few to other U.S. mountain ranges. I long to visit the Alps--where many of my ancestors spent their days. (By the way, your feed isn't showing up on my Blotanical list, even though your new blog is a fave. Not all that surprising the way it's going, but I'm going to have to visit through a separate feed --which is happening for other bloggers, too -- maybe even me?)

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    1. Blotanical is in the throes of migrating to Blotanical 2 which is in beta. Just a little longer ...
      Meantime I am reading my chosen blogs via Feedly.

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  19. Diana, Our Pocono mountains are just rolling hills compared to yours. But I would hate to live on a flat terrain. P. x

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  20. Diana, such a beautifully poetic post...

    I too grew up, and on the shadows of the mountains, with the ocean lapping at my feet. Now I am far from my heart of the ocean, but do live on the side of the mountain.

    Jen

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  21. I laughed at Alistair's comment, at first thought I thought that was a photo of a sea lion too! chocolat did a good job making me laugh. Moving is tough isn't it? so many memories, sights and sounds pulling you in different directions. I will miss elephant's eye but look forward to your new view.

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