Glencairn labyrinth before the fire
by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa
In September last year, a kind time of year, full of green and flowers, we walked the Glencairn labyrinth on its second birthday.
That huge rock slab broke into three when it was moved on Mandela Day. For me the heartbeat of the labyrinth - three in one, together we stand, the differently shaped pieces of Tutu's 'rainbow people of God' snugly joined. Stepping stone paths and a slatted wooden bridge crosses the soggy bit.
I have planted Searsia in each of our three gardens, but never before seen a crop of berries like this waiting for the birds.
Koos Burger keeps a detailed record both of what he has planted, and what flowers month by month. When we walked in September we saw pink Erica, a buchu?, two delicate pelargoniums, soft yellow bursts of Struthiola, mustard yellow puffs of ??
Small lives find a place to call home here. Milkweed locust.
Eucalyptus and pine trees inherited from a different time, before we had learnt the value of our indigenous fynbos. Those trees blaze like torches when the mountain catches fire!
Koos Burger designed, built and nurtures the labyrinth.
A mathematical mind which spans a labyrinth, and an optical illusion tumbling block gate (intended to distract from ... the bottom edge slants)
If you live in California, around the Mediterranean or Australia you know how you live on edge in fire season. That haze over the sunshine, the light is wrong. I smell smoke. Cape Town is staggering from fire to fire.
First it was Somerset West (Bezweni lodge), then Grabouw. Ours started in Ocean View, along the valley behind our mountain and across to Simon's Town (which burnt in November 2015!) - along the way it sadly reduced the labyrinth to ash. So grateful to our firefighters who managed to protect all but one house in Simon's Town. Riversdale. I heard sirens and we had furious wind and a fire raging at Noordhoek. Another at Lakeside. And the next fire in Tulbagh in the Groot Winterhoek Mountains (fire flowers at my first Elephant's Eye). Deer Park on the city slopes of Table Mountain. Yesterday at Paarl (wine farm gutted) a fire raged out of control.
Given time, some gentle rain, these bulbs and orchids will return - greenish Satyrium, glowing yellow Wachendorfia, pastel Lachenalia, white yellow and purple Dietes. Seeds will germinate. Fire-adapted shrubs and trees will sprout from their roots. Plants will appear that haven't been seen for decades - as they have where the fynbos is returning as the burnt pine plantation at Tokai is cleared.
From Koos Burger - The main idea is to collect plants, look after them and start to plant late in April after the first rains.
From Thursday's Echo (our local newspaper)- 'Most of what can regenerate, will grow from seeds. Those seeds are under the ash. When the first rains come in April, they should settle and grow. People are walking on the field - right over the burned labyrinth, with their dogs. This will dislodge any surviving seeds, and add to soil erosion: and then we will have lost everything' - Koos is going to put up signs to discourage the walkers and their dogs. (If that fails, he will have to put up a fence)
Each time we drive across Ou Kaapse Weg we enjoy fresh flowers as the fynbos re-establishes itself after the March 2015 fire. Ujubee says fire asparagus blooms two weeks! after fire to feed the bees.
My first labyrinth walk was in March 2016 and I wait for the bleak moonscape, with its 28 turns, to return to green with the autumn rain! Only DAYS after the Helderberg fire there are fire lilies.
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