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Natural Capabilities

I don’t know if you are keen on walking but I am. I love the gentle rhythm of a measured plod and the slow passage through a landscape. I particularly delight in the all the things I can see or touch, and the smells: funny bumbling beetles, fluid sjongololos with over-countable, tickly legs like the ones we had in our garden when I was a child, damp earth, curious pebbles and jewel drops of water trapped in the hairs of long grasses. Continue reading Natural Capabilities

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Muscari, from edible delicacy to river of dreams

Every year over 800 000 visitors descend upon Keukenhof Park, just outside the city of Lisse in the Netherlands, during its two-month opening during the spring season. The garden is a rainbow reverie of multi-coloured delight, with around four-and-a-half-million tulips and some three-million other bulbs covering its 32 hectares. Walking along the 15km of pathways of this spectacular petal-bursting showcase is enough to leave you speechless. Continue reading Muscari, from edible delicacy to river of dreams

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Leucojum – making winter white

Dreaming of a powdery white winter? Well, there’s an answer to South Africa’s lack of snow, and it comes in the form of blooming snowflakes – lots of them if you’re lucky. The common name for Leucojum, these living snowflakes may not be conducive to tossing around in snowball fights, but they sure do cover the ground in a magical carpet of glimmering white when grown in the right conditions. Continue reading Leucojum – making winter white

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Lachenalia, the flowering harmony

Have you ever wondered what inspired Mike Oldfield to record his iconic 1973 tune ‘Tubular Bells’? Musos will say it was his percussion instrument of tubular-bell chimes, but we horticulturists are convinced he was paying tribute to the tubular-bell-shaped Lachenalia, also known as Cape cowslip or wild hyacinth. After all, it’s difficult not to be drawn to dedicate music to our fascinating, cutely shaped indigenous plant. Often bi- or tri-coloured, there are over 120 species of Lachenalia from South Africa and Namibia. Just imagine all of these colours dancing in the wind as if swaying to the sound of Oldfield’s verses, spreading their sweet scent as they rock to and fro. Yes, we’re sure this was his motivation. Continue reading Lachenalia, the flowering harmony

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I simply adore daffodils.

By the time I arrive at the end of August, I’m tired of the cold, drab world. I’ve had enough of thick socks and boots. I want to fling all the windows open and sit at my desk without a heater, scarf, beanie, blanket and leaden fingers. I want a world that is dust free and washed clean. I long for the rain (Highveld dwellers are parched by the end of winter) and I yearn for fresh new greens and bright colours. Continue reading I simply adore daffodils.

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Hyacinth – fit for a queen

There’s never been any doubt that Marie Antoinette, Queen of France from 1774 to 1792, had a great penchant for beautiful things. This love of beauty extended to flowers. The Palace of Versailles was always filled to its golden extremes with an abundance of sweet-smelling blooms, she decorated her outlandish hairstyles with petals and her clothing and accessories were all scented with floral notes. It’s no wonder that the hyacinth, with its strong, sweet, heady aroma and long-lasting flowers, was often incorporated in her perfumes and placed in her vases, thanks to a daily delivery of hundreds of hyacinths to the palace from the Netherlands, as ordered by her husband, King Louis XVI. Continue reading Hyacinth – fit for a queen

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Dutch iris – more than just a master painting

When the Flemish botanist Clusius travelled through Spain in 1564, he was so fixated by the blue Iris xiphium that he sent bulbs back to Belgium, introducing what is known as the Spanish iris to the country. Fast forward to the end of the 19th century when this Spanish variety had spread to the Netherlands and was crossed with Iris tingitana from north-west Africa… The resulting plant, because of its hybridisation taking place in the Netherlands, was immediately known as the Dutch iris, its flower presenting as larger and broader than its two parent plants. Continue reading Dutch iris – more than just a master painting