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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

About Aloes on the West Coast

Here on the rocky parts of the beach the aloes are in full bloom during January and February. Aloes just love growing against rocky slopes anywhere in the Cape, which makes it one of South Africa's most valuable plants to keep steep mountain glades in place. This morning I noticed that the little protea bush known as "skollie" with its grey-green leaves grows tightly in between these aloes. In this precious Cape floral kingdom there is always some amazing display!

The aloe family has a lot of uses as enterprising folks prepare health drinks and creams and lotions and ointments, which are then beautifully packaged and sold in markets. Of course we also know the South American aloe called "agave" from which tequila is made. Our farmers cut the thick leaves in times of drought, remove the thorns and feed it to their cattle.

My painting is of the aloe mitriformis. They grow wild but I have some in the garden as well as six or so others. The photo shows some of my own aloes. Starting in the top, left to right:
  1. I call the first one Old Lonely. It has no sideshoots yet. I know in a few seasons there will be yellow florets which are loved by birds.

  2. Next is Bonny, a stripey one who has eleven babies all around her. This will make a formidable fence one day.

  3. I call the next one Buster, very strong, but no sight of little ones yet.

  4. The last photo shows a row of colourful aloes which add a lot of definition to my garden. They look very smug and undamaged after I toppled into them last week when I wanted to investigate a plant behind them. My husband had to help me out and wash my 30 or so scratches and little wounds. I think it is because of this episode that I am nowadays greeted goodbye in the morning with the words: "Now don't do anything funny in the garden today!"


  1. You are so fortunate to have such exotic and beautiful plants so close to your home. We only see these in flower shops around here. This is a wonderful way to memorialize your unique scenic views for generations to come.

  2. Your painting is absolutely stunning Marie!! I love aloe plants. I use the creams and drink pure aloe juice. I've also been known to drink tequila once in awhile!!

  3. Marie, I have been enjoying your work. They are beautiful, everyone of them, not to mention the great info, thank you for sharing.

  4. What a beautiful seaside painting! I love the rocks interspersed with beautiful indigenous plants and the view of the ocean beyond. Marie, there is always something so edifying in your blog, always lifting me up and teaching me something new about this big world. I got a kick out of your aloe babies and their names. I am not pleased with them for not releasing their healing balm when you so abruptly entered their little world last week! And I didn't know tequila was made from the aloe plant! Interesting! (And immediate image of drunken cows came into my head on reading that they were fed aloe when drought seasons were upon you!)

  5. Beautiful painting. I love the variety of greens and blue greens that you have used. I enjoy the aloe plant, but I didn't know that there were so many different kinds. The detail in you painting is amazing!

  6. Great work...
    love how you've made the blooms pop over the horizon.

  7. Ouch! We had aloe around one of our houses, and I seem to remember their leaves end in a sharp needle. Nevertheless, another informative and lovely post and painting. You must spend all your time researching and painting.

  8. Hi Sheila,yes, I am fortunate to live close to Kabeljoubank. It was quite a favourite spot for tourists even in the horse-and-cart days between the wars.

    Manon,my favourite aloe product is my sun-block!

    Thank you, Joan.

    Sherry,I gave these lot my own names, though we have the proper books in the bookshelf to look up the botanical names! Maybe there was something healing in the thorns of the little red devils, because after 5 days all the scratches have healed.The cattle feed was made by removing thorns, then slicing the leaves in an aloe cutter together with spineless cactus leaves. Mealies were added for protein and the whole concoction was called "fruit salad"!

    Thank you Linda,Jill and Carol. One thing I do regret is that the spray caused by waves breaking against the rocks, is not very visible in this small version of the painting as everyone who sees the painting here in the studio remarks on it!

  9. Oh wonderful Marie and an indigenous garden gives so much pleasure! This is a terrific painting and as always, you bring so many reminders of our wonderful country to life.

  10. Beautiful painting, Marie. I like the energy created by the diagonal line of the land against the sea, the strength of the rock wall, and the rugged, determined aloes in all their glory against the clear blue sky. Thanks for information about aloe's. May you not tumble again into the prickly pretties.

  11. This is a lovely painting, but sooo tiny. You might want to consider the option of having it larger when selected.

  12. What a wonderful painting and I love that little spray from the ocean in the distance. Its these little touches that help us feel the atmosphere of a place. Great plants..I love Aloe plants, even though those growing inside can get large and monster like :)


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