Sunday, January 30, 2011

Country Gardens on the West Coast

The traditional style of a country garden is always bountiful, colourful and planted informally!

This was originally written by Christopher Lloyd in his book "The Cottage Garden" and further promoted by Gillian Rattray in a lovely South African book "In a Country Garden" which is illustrated in watercolours.

I painted two West Coast homes of neighbours last year, both homes which showed a profusion of foliage that is in harmony with the fynbos that surrounds the plots. Many indigenous plants are available at nurseries, so one can easily incorporate them. This is a wise decision as such plants are waterwise and can withstand periods of drought. Examples of such plants are the bright red Watsonia coccinea, white Zantedescia aethiopica (calla or arum lily) and lovely orange Salvia lanceolata.

Gardeners of course, also use artistic licence, so we love to incorporate lavender and daisies into our gardens and other natural looking plants that will blend in and not spread into the fynbos, as you will notice in my paintings!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In Defence of Fynbos

Through more posts on this blog than I can remember, I have sung the praises of fynbos (fine and small-leaved shrub-lands which grow in poor soils). Yet not everyone is of the same sentiment. In our national Sunday newspaper (16 January 2011), a popular journalist listed fynbos (hopefully tongue-in-cheek) as "overrated ": "...heath and heather are found all over the world, but considered a religion in South Africa", she wrote. Many botanists will be able to counter-act this very unfortunate view of fynbos which may sadly be taken to heart by lots of the paper's readers. I can only react with the knowledge I have.

Here on the West Coast, fynbos act as a stabiliser for loose rocks and also restrain the encrouchment of sand from the beach. It is the natural habitat of ground-nesting birds and harbours a complete eco-system where a stunning variety of birds, snakes, meerkat, voles, field mice and small buck are part of the endless cycle of survival. The fynbos forms part of the great and world-famous Cape Floral Kingdom. To bring in a commercial viewpoint, the spring flower show contributes greatly to the economy of the region.

In my painting of fynbos, I show a piece of rocky outcrop where people can hike along to explore the long walk from Kabeljoubank in the direction of Yzerfontein.

To end my defence of fynbos, I quote from " The Illustrated History of the Countryside" a book about Britain by Oliver Rackham (2003):

"In the darkest days of ericophobia, the voices of Gilbert White, John Clare, George Borrow and Thomas Hardy were public reminders of the glory and mystery and freedom of the heath. But few listened: people do not value heathland until they have lost nine-tenths of it."

I do love that word 'ericophobia' to indicate a "disease" of carelessness. All along our rural roads, extensive ploughing, developments and forestation are taking the place of fynbos........

Monday, January 17, 2011

It is good to be back!

Every year our beloved West Coast seems to get more and more popular. The R27 can become so congested that it is hard to get onto that road when we need to. Locals just burrow in and stay put, but we decided to go away this year. So 5000km by car, many sights in this lovely country, and many visits and adventures later, I am back! I enjoyed the Waterberg area tremendously and that is where I got bitten by a tick! (News travel fast and I sincerely thank everybody who wished me a speedy recovery from the tick-bite fever!) We also visited Johannesburg, Pretoria, Bloemfontein, Durban and Plettenberg Bay.

Today I am surely cured and feeling well! I made two paintings this morning under which I could sign the new date 2011. Both paintings have the elements that make up the West Coast: sky and sea, rocks and sand and fynbos. We have magical summer days at the moment! It is good to be back!