We cannot get far in conversation : her English is limited
and my Afrikaans does not amount to much. I once enquired
how old she was, and she replied, " Thirty-seven ". I knew
that her son was about forty so had to conclude that confusion
was caused by her lack of education in elementary mathematics.
THIS SHOULD be high summer, but we are still getting cool days and rain at intervals. We have now had over sixty inches this year, which is considerably above the average.
On the bulb plot Ornithogalum aureum (miniatum Jacq.) (orange chinkerinchee) is very fine. I think I have a very good strain of it, the stems are over 1 foot and the large golden blooms, six or seven out at a time, are nicely spaced out. The flowers last a long time in water and go on opening out, but not to the same extent as the famous white ones so welcome in England at Christmas time.
Ixia Bloew Erf (I. viridiflora var.) is now coming out. In bud it is a lovely blue, and a good pink on opening. Over 2 feet high, it makes a dainty cut flower. With it comes /. monadelpha, of which the individual blossoms are a most attractive blue with dusky brown centres and very large, but the stems are short, about six inches, very showy for a pocket in the rock- garden or as a pot plant. It does best in sandy soil. So we have Ixias for four months, from Ixia scariosa in August to Ixia monadelpha in November, and I am always sorry to see the last of them.
My special bush of Leucospermum nutans continues in a state of perfection. Every bloom is correctly spaced, and shows never a sign of fading. There is not even a shabby leaf on the whole bush. It might be the conventional pyramid tree beloved of cross-stitch artists, though the pyramid is rounded and the colour of the flowers could never be matched by any embroidery silks.
I have seen the first of the fireflies ; they evidently come by the calendar and not by the thermometer, for the evenings are still cold.
MY COTYLEDON terrace is now thoroughly satisfying in fact, extremely pleasing to the eye. In this country, coty- ledons are little thought of: people have a way of making horrible dog's grave rockeries with a dried-up Cotyledon on the top enough to put anyone against them. It was not until I saw, years ago, an exhibit of cotyledons at the Chelsea Show, put up by Mr. Theobald, that I realized what could be done with them. Every plant was perfect not a damaged leaf; all looked the picture of health. Many of them were covered with white " bloom " and what a job he had to keep the crowd from stroking them (" Just feel how soft they are, dear ! "), leaving the marks of their fingers as green patches on the beautiful white leaves. Mine are not so good as that ; they grow outside and stand up to all sorts of weathers but they are very attractive.
Our over- worked botanists give them scant attention. I have half a dozen or more which, to the gardener's eye, are quite distinct, but they are all called Cotyledon orbiculata. The foliage of all is usually grey, whitish or pale green. I planted them at intervals in clumps the length of the terrace where they show to advantage against the red soil. Between them I planted Drosanthemum speciosum, whose attractive yellow-green foliage is good all the year and just now its bushes are covered with flame-coloured flowers. Then here and there on the edge of the terrace are plants of a particularly good Pelargonium which has no name. The botanists insist that it is hybrid and I must own that it very much resembles one I knew in England as Pelargonium Moorei. It has the divided leaf of the scented geraniums so beloved by the cottage gardeners of England, but the flower heads are showy with their blood-red flowers tightly packed in good-sized heads. The habit of the plant is semi-prostrate, and it looks well growing over the edge of a wall. I have never known it to make a seed. I found it originally on some flat ground near the mountains, where there had once been a cottage and a garden on a farm in the Tulbagh district ; but I saw it again years later at a Tulbagh wild flower show, and the collector told me that she had found it far up on the mountains.
To return to my terrace. The background is a wall of old red-brown sandstone ; and right up against it for the whole length I sowed Heliophila, sometimes called blue flax (which it is not). It came up very thickly, and even after drastic thinning of seedlings it formed a blue mist as a background to the soft greens, greys and white of the foliage of the cotyledons. Just one of my garden schemes that came off : I must own that they seldom do.