The western cape in South Africa had drenching rain this season, and that was for what all the millions of seeds and bulbs were waiting for in the dunesand on the African west coast – Mother Nature to wake them up and give us a show that will even make the Diamond Jubilee fireworks seem insipid.
About an hour north of Cape Town just past the town of Yzerfontein lies the West Coast National Park. Nestled on the dunes there are an assortment of plants that will make you go wild! From lachenalias to a range of pelargonuims, nemesias, lampranthus, euphorbia and gazanias – the list is endless!
The west coast has a mild but wet winter; the summer on the other hand is extremely dry and hot with temperatures reaching about 38 degrees celcius. The annual rainfall varies from 125 to 350 mm, all falling between April and September.
Most of the annuals and bulbs flower now between late August and the start of October, but we also have a few late bloomers that give us a stunning display during the very bleak summer months, and they are the limonuims , amaryllis and cotyledons. They all store the moisture either in their tap roots, bulbs or succulent leaves. The area of 470 square kilometers are home to an astonishing 2285 species of plants.
What amazes me more is that around every corner you will find something new, something weird, that you hadn’t seen before.
A lot of wildlife make hay while the sun shines, because for this very short period of time the desert provides an abundance of food, and they have to capitalise on that. And eat they do, from little tortoises to springbok, eland, sable antelope and ostrich – all feasting.
Another amazing occurance is that the flowers all turn their heads and follow the sun during the day, and if you walk into the direction of the sun you wont see any flowers, as the back of most of the flowers are a pale green colour. But if you happen to turn around and look back, you will see a sea of colour streching as far as the eye can see. Thus a lot of tourists might not even see most of the flower spectacle, and will go home feeling disappointed. Little did they know by just turning around, the show was in full swing behind them.
At the moment it is time for the Namaqualand daisies and the mesembs to flower, but soon the bulk of the bulbs will start to make their appearance, creating a whole new display on the dunes.
As a garden designer you get a bucket load of inspiration by just looking at the colour combinations and the different textures shown on display. You will be working overtime creating new ideas in your head for plant combinations, not to mention containing yourself not to pinch some cuttings for your own garden. And NO I didn’t!
If you are a plant lover, then Namaqualand must surely be on your bucket list, but when you make the decision to visit, make sure you have enough time, though. The weather is extremely unpredictable on the west
coast, and it could easily be overcast for a week straight and then no flower will be open during that time and you will go home feeling less than satisfied, to say the least.
The west coast is one of the natural gems on earth where my heart is buried deep in the dune sand; I can’t wait to visit it in a couple of weeks to see the bulbs in flower!