SINCE MY last entry we have had alternations of devastating
heat and south-easters. The south-easter is just the essence of
dryness. Sometimes it blows for two or three days : then our
skin feels parched, our nerves on edge and our heads splitting.
The trees and plants look as if they were feeling the same way ;
they are treated to every kind of indignity, and before they
have recovered from one onslaught they are bowled over
again. Leaves, twigs and branches go flying, acorns rattle
down, and dust is carried for miles. Suddenly it ceases, and
utter exhaustion prevails. Then we get a day or two of intense
heat with never a breath of wind until we long for the south-
easter back again.
Yet through it all we realize that we are nearly at the end
of our troubles. The first belladonna lilies push through on
the cool side of the kloof, and here and there a Haemanthus
coctimus glows red among the dried-up bushes. Every year
they give me to wonder. The ground is so dry and hard that
it would need a pick to break the surface, and yet these delicate
blooms find a way to emerge. There has been no rain to tell
them that autumn is on the way, and yet they come about
the same day by the calendar every year. There is a tiny delicate
Gladiolus (G. brevifolms] which also comes through just at this
time. About nine inches high, it too grows in the hardest and
driest ground : how it manages to push its way through
remains a mystery.
All of these plants have no leaves until the rains come in
April ; these do their work in winter, storing up food to allow
the bloom to get ahead of all the hundreds of winter and spring
flowering plants that we shall welcome later.
ANOTHER WEEK of heat and drought ; we are almost at
the end of our resources. We had two cool days, and I always
an optimist rushed forth and sowed seeds in the open. Now
we have two more plots to keep watered. But what can a
poor nurseryman do ? As soon as the rains begin, people
want plants ; so the plants must be hurried along somehow
and by the skilful use of shades, water and compost the seeds
must be persuaded to germinate before their natural season ;
but, as an old hand once said to me : " Anyone can grow plants
in season ".
Through these hot days I long for my white flowers. For
weeks and weeks in December and January I had a hundred
or more big clumps of white Agapanthus blooming below the
terrace on which stands my cottage. Behind them was a tree
of white-flowered Bauhinia, and for some weeks with them
bloomed my much-loved Catalpa trees. Their white blooms
are almost like orchids when looked at closely, and in the dis-
tance like glorified horse-chestnuts. We saw them as street
trees in America ; what welcome shade they give, and how
delicious the scent of the blooms ! In winter I love them just
as much when their bare twigs trace the perfect outline of the
tree and the delicate curve of every branch.
Now all these white flowers are gone ; yet in a month or
two we shall have white flowers in plenty. My garden is a
saucer in the hills, for on every side but one steep banks slope
up to my neighbour's vineyards. As soon as the winter rains
are well under way, these banks will be gleaming with tall
white arums. They come up in every neglected corner of my
garden (and there are many), so that on moonlight nights
one may walk straight into fairyland.
A still night at full moon in this clear air is unbelievably
beautiful. I once had a fine row of pink hollyhocks which I
admired, but when I saw them by moonlight they were no
longer " blowsy maids of hollyhocks " but etherealized. Their
pink, all silvered over, seemed not to belong to this world at all.
So many people say : "I don't like white flowers ". Well,
I don't agree ; but I know they have not seen what I have seen.
We all love our masses of intense colour in spring the daisies
each more brilliant than the last, the vygies gleaming in the mid-
day heat, and all the array of bulb flowers ; but when all this
is past the white flowers seem to me like " the still small voice ",
the ultimate core of things, something perhaps we never quite
grasp or only for a moment in passing.