The Dragon Rider

A garden is very inspiration; especially ours but that’s because we know it upside-down and the other way around. Well…. that’s what we prefer to think. The truth however is a bit different and I am glad to get my daily surprises. Today’s big surprise is, with a bit of imagination, the dragon with its rider. Do you see them? They are coming your way.

Sometimes a few good wines can help. While strolling through the garden and imagining pictures one of these imaginary pictures went vertical and than reflected itself. Today’s wine was a  Chenin Blanc (from our village) and if you zip this wine late Summer afternoon in rural slow pace …….. Wow!!!

Pity; the bottle is empty…. Need a refill.

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From profession to hobby

Between April 2000 and July 2011 me and Yvonne owned Soekershof in Robertson. We restored and extended this historical botanical garden (with the oldest cactus -Anno 1910- of South Africa) and ended up with one of the world’s largest outdoor collections (>2600 species/subspecies/varieties/etc) of succulent plants including cacti. The garden was globally recognized in botanical/horticultural circles (except seemingly in South Africa). We were very honored when all the VIPs of de Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix (USA) spend a day with us on their tour along all known South African botanical gardens and even more honored when they published about their South Africa tour and unanimously declared Soekershof as “Best Garden Experience” in South Africa. It was hard work; 7 days per week from 6AM to 10PM and all together we had in those 11 years 2 weeks holiday. We even succeeded in maintaining the first blog in South Africa with guidelines about water wise gardening with succulent plants. The blog is still online and still foresees in a need although we stopped submitting new items since the sale of the farm. The new owners (German/Italian couple) are not really gardeners. The garden, still beautiful though, serves now as ‘decoration’ for their guest house and restaurant but the number of different plants has strongly declined. Plants need care; especially water wise plants. Anyway with our removal we took our private collection of (merely) rare plants with us to Stanford. We still love gardening but also a more quiet “Quality of Life”.

Here a visualised update of flowers in our garden (most of our ‘secrets’ are small and hidden….):

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Again in the garden

Both, my wife and I, like flowers. Maybe it’s our Dutch background (“Dutch say it with flowers”) but more likely it has to do with the restoration and extension of a historical botanical garden in South Africa that has kept us busy between April 2000 and July 2011. Anyway you find me every day in our garden with my camera and virtually every day there is something new. We live in an area with a subtropical climate (climate zone 10); ideal for succulent plants including cacti. Here are some pictures I shot during the last week or so.

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From the sea

Evolution is a weird subject if you come to succulent plants like cacti. Did you know that all succulent plants are originating from underwater plants. Hence that divers walking around in our garden are amazed by the view of many plants they link with plants they meet once they’re exploring the sea bottom. Southern Africa, where many succulent plants originate from, was once largely covered with lakes and during a period of thousands, maybe millions, of years these plants had to adept to a complet opposite environment; from surviving under water to surviving in a desert. So these plants evolved into waterstoring plants; storing water in roots, leafs and/or stems. Reason for us to collect some shells and rocks at the nearby beach and cover a small part of our garden with it.

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Associations and an anecdote

It’s a bit of a tricky image but the reality is on display in our garden. Especially visiting women notice this combination of two cactus species and they are not shy about it; some are even measuring the columnar one…. (47.8 cm I heard).

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But there is more to it. If you look to plants or in details of plants (like stamens) you undoubtfully have associations; especially using some imagination. That makes plants such fascinating objects to picture.

Between April 2000 and July 2011 we restored and extended the historical gardens (with oldest cactus, anno 1910, of South Africa) of Soekershof in Robertson. We ended up with an outdoor collection of over 2500 different species of succulent plants including cacti; by far the largest collection of its kind in Africa. And we had to market this place against the known heavily state financed and subsidized botanical gardens like Kirstenbosch in Cape Town.

One of the slogans to attract people was “Everything you always wanted to know about ……S – E – X ….. between plants but never dared to ask

Visitors from abroad could not find the way and asked to local tourism bureau. Says the representative of this bureau: “Don’t go there. It’s all p – o – r  – n – o – g – r – a – p – h – y in that garden”.

We never complained about it; it was the best mouth-to-mouth advertisement.

P.S. I’ve used spaces and lines between 2 words in an attempt to avoid search machines to pick these and to avoid unwanted visitors of this blog and the obvious spam.

P.S. 2 I used Photoshop to move the two barrel shaped cacti 10-15 cm just for a better composition.

Some more plants and flowers in our garden

Just snap shooting with Sony 16-50mm lens mounted on the A77 camera. Few pics have been cropped but no other editing in Photoshop. Me and my wife Yvonne live in Stanford, Western Cape that was recently awarded with “Best Village Destination in South Africa”. Yes we are privileged! And yes; we do have a very unusual garden with some plants and plant combinations that stimulate one’s imagination. But we’ll come back on this subject in the next posting.

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All those little faces

What you see is an ‘Euphorbia gymnocalycioides’; a very rare succulent plant that originates from Ethiopia. It’s very seldom that one sees this plant in cultivation but this beauty is one of the gems in our garden.

And look closely …. all those little faces.

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