Thursday, September 24, 2009


Last year, I fulfilled a lifelong dream. Not only did I get to visit the Chelsea Flower Show in London, but I also spent two weeks as a volunteer worker on the spectacular display garden for the City of Durban, South Africa, done by the Durban Botanic Gardens. Although I now live in America, I flew in as a South African to help get my hands dirty.

Here are a few photographs I took showing an empty slate. Then a few of the actual teamwork involved in a project of this magnitude, the display coming together, the team, the Curator of the Durban Botanic Gardens, Chris Dalzell, being congratulated by Queen Elizabeth on the Silver Gilt award, and a few of the magnificent completed display garden. I got to meet the Queen, she is lovely.  Well done to all involved, and thanks for the memories.
And this year, Durban went on to win a Gold Medal, congratulations.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Late summer, early fall, brings a weird and wonderful display of fungi in my own garden, and I photographed a few growing in the garden of a friend who lives two doors down the road. The strange red lobster-claw-looking fungi are also known as "Stinking Squid", and believe me, they really do!!


Having been born and bred in South Africa, my heart still yearns for my trips back home. Mainly to see my family and very special friends, but then also the breathtaking scenery, the smell of the earth, the people. South Africa is rich in exquisite indigenous plants and flowers, some well known worldwide, others only treasured by those lucky enough to find them growing out in the wild. Some of my favourite orange flowers grow in the mountains of the Drakensberg, in the Kloof Gorge, the Durban Botanic Gardens, the Western Cape Coast and the Kirstenbosch Gardens. Here are just a few of the magnificent orange ones.

Friday, September 4, 2009


I love figs - fig preserve, fig jam, dried figs, fig rolls and best of all, sun ripened figs, freshly picked and eaten in the garden, whilst standing under the fig tree. My tree is almost large enough to stand under, this is it's first year of bearing fruit worth talking about. I was inspired by neighbors a few years ago to plant my own tree. They would leave a basket of figs at the end of their drive, with a sign that read "Fresh Figs - Help Yourself". And so I did, they were delicious, and I realized that I could grow my own.

My four year old fig tree - bearing enough fruit to pick and preserve.

Looking up into the tree, ripe, delicious figs waiting to be picked.

They are delicious, still warm from the sun.

Quartered fresh figs, fresh lemon zest added.

Bubbling away, about to become bottled "Drunken Figs"

The fruits of my labor. Bottles of figs, preserved, delicious, the shelves are stocked until next season.

I think it's time to let the neighbors know that they inspired me to plant my tree, with a bottle of preserves for them to try.

For those of you who are lucky enough to be able to pick your own figs, the recipe:-


9 cups quartered fresh figs
4 cups sugar
zest of 2 lemons - removed with veg peeler and then sliced into thin sticks
3/4 cup brandy

Add all the above ingredients to a heavy pot. Stand for 1 hour, stirring now and then.
Bring to a boil to melt sugar, reduce heat to medium and let it bubble away for about 45 minutes, stirring frequently. The juice of the figs, together with the sugar and the brandy, will make a delicious, sweet syrup, with a stunning flavor brought out by the lemon zest and brandy. Bottle and seal - if you're not sure how this process works, there are numerous websites that will give you step by step instructions. Each batch makes 8 small bottles, equal to 6 cups.

The Drunken Figs can be used as jam, on hot buttered toast or scones, my favorite way of serving them is with cheese - I display cheeses such as Brie, hard Goat cheese, or Blue, on a few freshly washed and dried fig leaves, together with a bowl of the preserved figs and it is delicious served on a cracker with a slice of cheese and a chunk of fig. Yum.