The Wearing of the Green

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

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” is a visually striking outdoor installation at the Tower of London by artist Paul Cummins of 888,246 ceramic poppies built to commemorate Britain’s involvement in World War I. The red poppies each represent a British or British Colonial military fatality from the war — over the course of the installation, the poppies will be gradually added until the final day, when the last poppy will be ceremonially placed. The installation opens on August 5th, 2014, the 100th anniversary of Britain’s first full day of involvement in World War I. It ends on November 11th, the day that the Armistice was signed in 1918, marking the end of the war. 

For bloggers who share my Irish roots - Carrie, Foxglove Lane, Stone Art who writes about The Tree That Ate The Church and 

 My maternal Anglo-Irish grandfather
 'Pat' Frederick George Yeates 
7th Oct 1878 to 2nd Sept 1918
 Air Mechanic, 35th Kite Balloon Section of the Royal Air Force,
 in Northern France, at the Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Ficheux 

My cousin asked the Commonwealth War Graves Commission where our grandfather’s grave was. When the Ungardener and I were crossing Europe in the old Land Rover, we went to visit his grave at the Bucquoy road cemetery. I read the entry in the register stored at the gate. His entire life, in a few lines. Nearby is Delville Wood where we walked quiet avenues of tall trees, and no birds sang. 

We have a studio portrait of my grandmother, with two small girls. My mother was only four there. "With love from all of us." Which would have been returned to his widow. I claimed my mother's shamrock brooch years ago. 

My mother's shamrock brooch
My mother's shamrock brooch

 O Paddy dear, and did ye hear the news that's going round? 
The shamrock is by law forbid to grow on Irish ground! 
No more Saint Patrick's Day we'll keep, his colour can't be seen 
For there's a cruel law against the Wearing of the Green. 

(lyrics to a traditional Irish ballad)

My mostly indigenous garden has leaves in many shapes and sizes. I heart interesting foliage. Fragrant, velvety or mirrored, heart-shaped, huge sheets or tiny needles, feathers or swords. Burgundy or orange, cream, clear silver. Sommer green as leaves should be, extremes ranging from golden to purplish. With scalloped edges, curves or points. Stripes and patterns for the lunatic fringe. 

Silver leaves on camphor bush, peppermint pelargonium Dusty Miller, camphor bush and cotton lavender
Silver leaves on camphor bush, peppermint pelargonium
Dusty Miller, camphor bush and cotton lavender

It looks black and white but the Dusty Miller from the Mediterranean is true to life. Velvety leaves on shade-loving peppermint scented Pelargonium tometosum. The camphor bush Tarchonanthus camphoratus arching over a border of Mediterranean cotton lavender Santolina

Dark leaves on Diospyros whyteana, wildeals bietou, wild olive
Dark leaves on Diospyros whyteana, wildeals
wild olive

Dark mirrored leaves on Diospyros whyteana, furry young spikes on bietou, Chrysanthemoides monilifera gifted us by the birds and its berries. Wild olive with tiny berries. Grey blue feathers of Artemisia afra, wildeals

Prunus nigra
Prunus nigra

Having seen a copper beech or a maple? in one of the stately gardens at Elgin I came home and planted a Canadian Prunus nigra. The dark presence grounding Paradise and Roses. 

Succulent leaves Strelitzia nicolai, Sansevieria Aeonium
Succulent leaves Strelitzia nicolai, Sansevieria

Huge leaf of Strelitzia nicolai. Striped leaf of Sansevieria trifasciata from tropical West Africa. Moroccan rose Aeonium which I pick in summer to watch the tight burgundy leaf buds open out to green blades with dark tips. 

March leaves Dombeya heart, nameless Crassula, citrus pelargonium
March leaves
Dombeya heart, nameless
Crassula, citrus pelargonium

This is a Dombeya heart. A nameless tiny green leafed succulent, an orange Crassula. Citrus-scented Pelargonium citronellum with chiselled leaves. 

Wearing green Bergkaree, Cyperus spekboom, bergbamboes and dwarf Papyrus
Wearing green
Bergkaree, Cyperus
spekboom, bergbamboes
and dwarf Papyrus 

Bergkaree, Searsia leptodictya arching over the bench. Cyperus once collected by my father at the little beach beyond Bakoven. Lush shiny green spekboom. Bergbamboes, dwarf Papyrus and sedge, in and near Ungardening Pond. 

Tecoma capensis at Elephant's Eye
Tecoma capensis at Elephant's Eye

Groot Winterhoek foothills in the distance, with karee in the middle, and Big Red Tecoma capensis up front.

Green in my vases
Green in my vases

Our garden is mostly foliage, in style. I don't do displays of annuals for colour. I prefer a more Japanese interpretation of seasonal interest. We have the first March lilies

I'm not a bunch of florist's flowers sort of woman. I bring the garden in. Great bunches of dramatic texture and colour. Branches of Mexican rose Echevieria form a trellis to support the rest. Three silver fountains of Dusty Miller. Nandina from East Asia, Cyperus or Papyrus for height. Succulent Mexican and Moroccan 'roses' last for weeks, strike roots then return to the garden.

Joining Pam at Digging for her Foliage Follow-up.

Pictures by Diana Studer  
of  Elephant's Eye on False Bay 

(If you mouse over teal blue text, it turns seaweed red.
Those are my links.
To read or leave comments,
either click the word Comments below,
or click this post's title)


  1. I enjoyed reading this post, Diana. Especially your Irish connection. I too have Irish ancestors. One of my favorite is John Patrick Reid, born in Drumbo, Down County, Ireland in 1825. He was a gardener (reportedly for an Earl) and at age 26, he became a “French Polisher,” working with fine furniture. I'm quite sure I inherited his love for gardening. Have you been to Ireland? It's on my Bucket List. Maybe someday. Love your greens... we are only slightly greening here. We need more sunshine!

  2. I have Irish roots too - my grandparents emigrated to the US from Ireland. Living in the Boston, MA USA area, I am often reminded of my Irish roots, especially today, although it is unusually cold for St Patrick's Day

  3. your Grandmother's brooch is beautiful and I prefer your style of gardening, your home will sell quickly!

  4. You have a way with words, Diana. I heart interesting foliage too and always enjoy seeing your favorites. I'm no doubt behind the times, but I didn't know you'd moved and left your garden. I look forward to seeing your new one take shape!

    1. still waiting in limbo, Pam! We had another viewing today.

  5. I was coming back from the Getaway Show in Somerset West yesterday enjoying the green Garden Route on St Patrick's Day

  6. More and more I prefer plants for their foliage rather than their flowers. I have no Irish roots that I know of, but my husband does, and he tells me, "I love you even though you're not Irish." P. x

  7. No, no Irish roots. But I love green. My calendar says that you should prune the roses and plant a potato on Saint-Patrick's Day. Probably not when you live in South Africa?

    1. now we hope to enjoy the autumn flush with the roses. I'll prune late July early August depending.

  8. You do, indeed, have some incredible foliage there, Diana! The vase of greenery by the wicker car is exquisite. It must be a bittersweet time for you with house showings and transitions to your new place. Happy autumn!

  9. Hey petal! Thanks for the wee mention at the top of the post. Yay! I'm Northern Irish and so is all my family right back to the Plantation (apart from a French great grandmother?)

    1. my mother thought her grandmother might have been French Huguenot, but we don't know.

  10. Diana, I love the collage you built around your mother's brooch! I also am very much a foliage gardener, and I think your Prunus nigra is fantastic and fits well into its new home. I am not planning to move to South Africa, but if I were and after seeing your ad, I would take a serious look at your place!

  11. such gorgeous green foliage! amazing how it looks so good all the time...

  12. Belated happy St Patricks day :) Alan

  13. Diana what a wonderful green tribute. My father's mother was Irish so we celebrate that part of our family tree. I love the clover growing in my garden as it reminds me of shamrocks.

    1. and we will soon have our sea of green 'shamrocks' from the Oxalis pes-capreae