Friday, August 09, 2013


Winter in the Western Cape: at this time of year it seems like you blink and you’ve missed it. Having grown up with those long grey English winters which linger for endless months with depressingly short days, our South African winters are a joy.

There are rain storms and bunches of grey days for sure, but in between are those jewel-like days when the sun shines, you peel off your layers and bask outside in T-shirts. You’re almost sure of at least two days a week to get your laundry dry on the line, at least we are here, with a north-facing stoep sun-trap and a nice long line.

And yet you can be chillier here than ever I remember being in England. No central heating, and in these days of electricity price hikes, no electric heaters either. Just the one ceramic fireplace to warm the whole house. When the snow is on the mountains and the wind freezing cold despite the sunshine, we huddle in more layers than the Michelin man, with hats and gloves on inside, wrapped in blankets at the computer and on the sofa. But I don’t miss that central heating one bit.

And here we have flowers in winter.

Protea bush

September bush Polygala myrtifolia

First the tiny gems of oxalis poking their heads up from the sand. Then their cousins of the oxalis family, the longer stemmed citrus yellow sorrel, join in.

These are the ones that our kids used to pick in bunches outside their kindergarten, sucking the sour lemony stems after school, while their mothers chatted and lingered.

Glowing aloes are next, hot coal embers of orange and red. 

The golden shower isn't indigenous ( Pyrostegia ignea from South America)  but it adds a brilliant wall of orange ...

and the yellow daisy bush (Chrysanthemoides monilifera) adds the last dash of sunset to the palette.

The September bush (Polygala myrtifolia) seems to flower almost all year round but its hot pinks are just that bit of clashing colour needed to avoid getting all matchy matchy.

Finally the proteas bring some subtlety to the show with their sugary pinks and sculptural form.

And the bees have a ball all through winter, gathering nectar from aloes, protea and the golden shower, so that they make it through to spring in good shape.

I took all these pictures two weeks ago and already spring is snapping at the heels of winter, chasing it onwards with a snowfall of daisies, even while the snow on the far mountains keeps us from thinking winter is completely over.

I’ll have another cluster of flower pictures very soon, as all the early spring flowers are coming out in a rush now, even as the winter ones are still in mid song.


  1. Oh my GOD, Kit! Flowers in winter! Just gorgeous... great photos, thanks for posting these. I would give my eye teeth for a wall of hanging orange flowers like that, no matter where they came from.

    1. I never stop being amazed by our winter flowers. Here summer is the dry colourless season, when everything turns brown and there is hardly anything left in flower.
      The golden shower has grown from one plant. It gets everywhere even poking tendrils through the garage windows and flowering in there. If we'd planted more than one I expect it would've taken over the house too!

  2. And then it snowed! I love my winter garden that needs no attention and flowers in abundance :)

    1. Yes, Tandy, I was rather premature celebrating those sunny winter days. It's grey and windy here again today.

  3. Sigh... How homesick you make me now. I grew up with winters like this, knowing that even in the depths of winter, you might still have a warm sunny day where you could put on a T-shirt and sit outside. As you know (!) here in the UK from November to April you are highly unlikely to have any need of a T-shirt (except as an extra layer under something else!!). Thanks for reminding me what the September bush is called - I have a lovely photo of a Johannesburg's friend's but had no idea what it was called!

    1. Except that we are currently shivering with a whole week of torrential rain, after my wonderfully optimistic post (I think i must have tempted fate!) winters are usually my favourite season here. Much less wind than summer, no flies or miggies like spring, and so much greener than autumn. Except that now my toes are cold!


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