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My Father’s Garden – An Oasis – Part 2

Updated on May 17, 2012

Dad's Roses Midsummer in Johannesburg

Dad's beautiful pink roses in midsummer's full bloom
Dad's beautiful pink roses in midsummer's full bloom | Source

My Dad's Garden is alive in my memory every day

Just to fill you in, dear Readers, my Dad is now 90 years old and is still living in South Africa in a lovely retirement cottage. Kim, his Occupational Therapist, visits him every week and chats with him, keeping him engaged and informed. Kim is sharing my writings with Dad and bless their hearts – it comforts me greatly. Thank you, Kim and I LOVE YOU, Dad.

My memories from my childhood are all vivid and intact. Dad, your passion for gardening taught me so much! Not only did you always tell me the names of the trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses, but you created an oasis for living things, including me. I felt peace in your garden. There was space to run around. I enjoyed the vibrant colors and wonderful fragrances which delighted me in every way possible. I could almost see fairies and sprites in the garden. Now, my Dad lives in a retirement village which has beautiful gardens too, but that will be in my next story.

With the help of our Gardener - Enoch

Enoch has been helping my Dad in the garden for about forty years!
Enoch has been helping my Dad in the garden for about forty years! | Source

Roses of many colors

Source

Flowers Galore!

Not only did my father’s garden contain wonderful trees and flowering shrubs, but my Dad made sure that it contained flowers, many varied and beautiful flowers. I must add here, that my Dad employed a wonderful gardener, a man who worked for my family since I was about 9 years old. Enoch was from Zimbabwe and was very glad to have a room to live in on my parents’ property. Enoch still goes to the retirement village today, to tend to the small garden outside my father’s cottage. He is a special man and shares a special bond with my Dad, who is now 90. I talk to Dad regularly on Skype, but it is so hard being far away from one’s loved ones. That is also a story for another day.

In my Dad’s garden, my favorite flowers were the roses. My Dad planted the most beautiful roses of different colors and heavenly scents. I absolutely LOVE roses. I always marvel at the structure of the petals, so tightly whorled, which blossom out, as they give us their offering when they bloom. I love the velvety texture of the rose petals and the rich dark greenness of the leaves, and I am always respectful of the thorns. It is interesting to observe that the delicate beauty of the rose is so fiercely protected by the thorns on the stems. Perhaps there is a huge lesson in that alone, as there are so many lessons we can learn about life simply by observing nature. My Dad would always prune the rose bushes back in the winter, allowing the bush to have space on the inside and encouraging the growth of the roses to the outside. Roses bloom in the widest range of colors and have the most interesting names. There is nothing more beautiful than cutting roses to put in a vase and allow the scent to permeate the room, but perhaps the more beautiful option is to leave them blooming on the bushes so that the garden enjoys the vibrant splashes of color, like paint on an artist’s palette.

Hydrangeas

Pink or Blue?
Pink or Blue? | Source

Irises - bearded or not?

Source

Bearded Iris

"Mary Todd"
"Mary Todd" | Source

Flowers of every shape and size

Leading up the path from the front gate to the front door, on either side of the path was a hydrangea bush. Like the closing scene in Disney’s animated “Sleeping Beauty,” where the fairies are dueling with their wands and changing the color of the Princess’ dress from pink to blue and back, the bush on one side of the path was pink, and that on the other was blue. My Dad told me it was due to the pH balance in the soil! They are remarkably showy plants and greatly admired by me. Today, Dad has Hydrangeas growing at the back of his cottage.

Along the side of the house, Dad planted Irises. There was a whole extended family of Irises raising their lovely faces, both bearded and not, taller than many of the other plants. Dad loved different colors and began planting variegated Irises too. Each winter, the rhizomes would be dug up and stored until replanting in spring, when these marvelous flowers would bloom again in all their lovely colors. As a matter of fact, the name Iris is taken from the Greek word for rainbow which perfectly describes the wide range of colors found amongst this species.

Strelitzia

Bird of Paradise Flower / Crane Flower
Bird of Paradise Flower / Crane Flower | Source

South African Sunbird

Malachite Sunbird (Nectarinia famosa)
Malachite Sunbird (Nectarinia famosa) | Source

Indigenous Species

Next to the window of the master bedroom grew huge Strelitzia bushes. Many of you probably know this plant better as the Bird of Paradise flower. This plant is native to South Africa (at last)… and grows larger there than the specimens I have seen growing in California or in Texas. In South Africa, it is commonly called the Crane flower. It is a large, showy plant with long and broad green leaves and the petals are bright orange and royal blue sitting atop what resembles a bird’s head. The color and arrangement of the petals makes me think of flames newly ignited from a match, the flame closest to the match, burning bright blue. I have sat and watched the sunbirds alight on the Strelitzia and suck nectar from deep between the petals. I was surprised to discover that these little birds are distantly related to America’s hummingbirds and Australia’s honeyeaters.

Beside the verandah wall, you would find the Aloes; Red hot pokers and Aloe Arborescens, which always makes me think of Southern Africa. This is a succulent plant with thick, spiky greenish-blue leaves, containing a gel that has medicinal properties. The flowers are vibrantly red-orange and look like splashes of fire against a winter backdrop of dry vegetation. These plants grow from six to nine feet in height and are imposing indeed, welcoming birds to find food during winter. I would always gaze at these flowers with much fascination, but always paid heed to the spiky leaves which do such a great job of protecting these scarlet flowers. July is the time for aloes. It is midwinter in South Africa and this is when the flowering aloes are at their best throughout the country. This is therefore the best time for sugarbirds and sunbirds which are nectivorous, their long curved beaks and extendable tubular tongues specially designed to probe the aloe florets and be rewarded with the prize of nectar that these plants so abundantly supply. There are aloe plants here in the garden across from my living room, and when bored children don’t destroy the flowers, I have seen hummingbirds flitting happily about probing the florets for their nectar. As I sit here and write, a ruby red-throated male hummingbird has been visiting the feeder I set up this week when I saw the hummers in the area, his little red gorget flashing as it caught the sun’s rays.

Aloes splash the countryside like flames in the middle of winter.

Aloe arborescens
Aloe arborescens | Source

Camellia flower buds

Flower buds of a Camellia
Flower buds of a Camellia | Source

Camellia Japonica

Semi-double Camelia cultivar
Semi-double Camelia cultivar | Source

Camellias and Lilies

Near the path, when I was still a small child, Dad had planted a Camellia bush. I was enthralled by the tight buds of the flowers and even more so when the flowers bloomed in their pretty pinkness which often reminded me of the tutu of the plum fairy in The Nutcracker Suite ballet. Interestingly, this plant originated in Japan and made its way to England courtesy of the British East India Company. It has become a prominently cultivated species, “with over 2,000 named cultivars.” (Wikipedia)

Also to be found in this part of the garden were the waxy, white arum lilies. Upon researching this plant, I have discovered much interesting information. The genus is deliciously called Zantedeschia aethiopica and is native to Southern Africa. It is known in America as the Cala Lily and has often been used in paintings by Mexican artist, Diego Rivera. I did not know that this plant is also toxic. It grows continuously with available water and food and is able to survive minor frosts. Johannesburg temperatures in winter occasionally drop to below freezing, bringing with it, frost. Wikipedia describes the flower thus: “The inflorescences are large, produced in spring, summer and autumn, with a pure white spathe up to 10 “ and a yellow spadix up to 3½ “ long.” I was always fascinated by the protruding yellow “finger” in the middle of all that white brightness! That flower always made me think of my Aunt whose name was Lily.

Beautiful video of artwork by Diego Rivera - watch for paintings of Lillies

Daisies to die for

Smiling Daisy Faces
Smiling Daisy Faces | Source
Source

Marigolds - the name even sounds happy

Marigolds in Midsummer Johannesburg
Marigolds in Midsummer Johannesburg | Source

Dahlias are such cheerful flowers which raise their heads up to greet you

Dahlias come in many colors
Dahlias come in many colors | Source

Fireworks!

Children enjoying the magic of sparklers
Children enjoying the magic of sparklers | Source

Flowers and Fireworks

Punctuating the greenness of the garden, Dad always planted varieties of bright, colorful, sunny flowers. You could find Dahlias, Daisies, Daffodils and Marigolds to name but a few, and their beautiful faces always smiled at me and made me feel better at various times of the year. There is a wide variety of South African daisies with several common names: African Daisy, South African Daisy, Cape Daisy and Blue-eyed Daisy. Southern Africa boasts about 35 species – name of genus: Osteospermum.

I clearly remember the parties thrown for my brothers when they came of age. A marquee was erected in the back garden and I had to watch my step so as not to trip over pegs hammered into the ground and the ropes that tethered them to the tent. It was an exciting time and the fragrances of various plants permeated the night air. Also crisp and clear in my memory was running around the garden at night, like a fairy with a wand, sparkler in hand, fascinated at the magical sparks shooting from the end and lighting my way. Every November 5th, we celebrated Guy Fawkes Day by having spectacular fireworks displays at night. As part of the British Commonwealth, this celebration was held to applaud the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605, when a number of conspirators, including Guy Fawkes, attempted to blow up England’s Houses of Parliament in London. I remember with clarity the excitement of various fireworks being lit (by Dad and my brothers) and watching the rockets shoot into the sky and explode in a variety of wonderful displays and colors. Some that I recall are the flares and fountains, the Roman Candle and the Catherine Wheel, not to mention those annoying firecrackers. Did you know that fireworks originated in China and date back to the 10th Century? Of course, there was always the risk of injury and the fear that fireworks could start a fire. Fireworks displays are now restricted to certain areas and for use by professionals more often than not. Another really important aspect is the safety of animals, both wild and domestic, who are often terrified and some may injure themselves by running away or into a fence for example, in order to escape. Here is a link for some excellent advice on keeping your pets safe during celebrations: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/pet-care-tips/july-4th.aspx

Pick a favorite

Which is your favorite flower?

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    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Unknown Spy: Thank you so much for reading, enjoying and commenting! My Dad's garden was a very special place for me. If you ever read "The Secret Garden," by Frances Hodgson Burnett, then you will know that it is felt as deeply by me. You made my day! :)))

    • unknown spy profile image

      IAmForbidden 5 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      Oh my!! What a beautiful garden! I adore your hub, very beautiful Sue!

    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Jackie Lynnley, thank you so much for saying! :) Your comments are greatly appreciated.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 5 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I love those dahlias and camillias, close race. Beautiful photography and hub.

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Thank you so much for saying, Deborah Neyens. Your kindness goes a long way to help lift me up.

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 5 years ago from Iowa

      This is a beautiful tribute to your father and his garden. I am so sorry for your loss.

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Chatkath,thank you so much for your wonderful comments. I knew when I read your hub about cats that our hearts beat to the same rhythm. My Dad died suddenly on Friday and I flew to South Africa on Saturday arriving Sunday and we buried him on Monday. I will write about it soon. He will live on in my heart and memory until my dying day and I will see him again and give him the warmest hug ever. Thank you so much for your votes! I appreciate more than I can say!

    • Chatkath profile image

      Kathy 5 years ago from California

      A hub after my own heart! Flowers grow as we do, with love and care to develop into the most memorable creations on earth-true miracles and so rewarding.

      What a lovely piece about your Dad - rated Up and most beautiful!!!!!

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Dear Teaches12345, your Mom was so lucky! It is a hard thing to deal with - living so far apart from loved ones. Thank you so much for enjoying this hub - it has taken on very special significance because my Dad passed on Friday night and his funeral was today (Monday). I hope he sees this from a higher perspective and will be there to enjoy part 3. My nephew flew in from London and we were reminiscing about my Dad's garden. My brother drove past our old house and the lemon tree is still there. They brought back two lemons. :) I so appreciate your vote!

      Dear Tillsontitan,

      I am so glad we share that love! I am sorry that you lost your Dad all those years ago, but so glad that it is memories such as this that keep us still so stronly connected. There are certain flowers that make me think of Dad every time I see them. Being back home now, to mourn the loss of my Dad with my family, makes it that much more poignant. Thank you so much for your votes. xx

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      It is hard to put feelings into words after reading this beautiful hub then finding out about your father's passing. We share a love of flowers and gardening (that I too got from my father) and I know his loss will always be a loss. My father passed away 26 years ago and I still miss him and think of him every time a see a rose! Safe journey. Voted up, beautiful and interesting.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I had to hold back my tears on this hub. My father loved roses so much. He was always giving my mom these flowers on special days and sometimes just because.

      I also know the feeling of being so far from loved ones. It is wonderful that technology keeps us closer, but I still miss the ability to talk and hug in person. Thanks for sharing a special part of your life. Voted up.

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Dear Onlooker, Joolsand Suhail,

      Thank you for your wonderful comments, I will treasure them. It is so timely that this part was completed, but my darling Dad can only see it now from a higher vantage point. I hope it is a fitting tribute to him and I will still write part 3. I booked flights last night and drove through to Houston this morning to get a flight to Atlanta connecting to Johannesburg and arrive Sunday night. My Dad's funeral is on Monday. Thank you for holding my hands, friends, I feel you with me. I will resume when I return to the States. xxx

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 5 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Hi Sue,

      I really had to muster up some courage to come to the part 2 of your dad's garden. Its because part 1 had brought such a huge feeling of nostalgia that I just didn't want to return to my good old days. But then the piece was enticing me from a distance.

      Tristan Gooley's whole premise in his new book 'The natural explorer' is that the days of exploration are over. There can be no more discoveries of new lands. All the 'firsts' have been achieved. The fun then is to start a fresh, from looking at what is available in the neighbourhood and in the vicinity that one misses to explore.

      I think your dad's garden was that perfect place to explore near and missed natural phenomenon.

      This was very nicely written and supplemented with great photography.

      Voted up!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      Sue, so sorry for your loss - your dad's garden and his creation of it seems to have inspired you in many ways. His flowers are beautiful and the garden looks so verdant and pretty. This is a lovely hub, I am so pleased to have read it.

    • profile image

      onlooker 5 years ago

      Thank you, Susan for this beautiful journey into your Dad's much cherished flowers and garden. I can see how dearly you both must hold those memories. His memories will be held beautifully indeed. We are with you. Beautiful hub and pictures.

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Dear Sunshine, Nell, Golfgal, ExoticHippieQueen and KDuBarry: Thank you so much. I have just booked flights and leave tomorrow. I am happy that Dad got to hear the first part and that I spoke to him on Skype this morning and I always ended with lots of love and God bless. Thank you for holding my hand. xx

    • profile image

      KDuBarry03 5 years ago

      I am sorry for your love, Suelynn. I am sure he is at peace, knowing you have such great memories of him and his work in the garden :)

    • profile image

      ExoticHippieQueen 5 years ago

      Stunning photography, and as for the story, even more beautiful than the flowers that your dad grew.............

    • Golfgal profile image

      Golfgal 5 years ago from McKinney, Texas

      Suelynn, What a wonderful tribute you have mad e to honor your father's passion of gardening. I hope you take solice in that his garden will live forever online while he enters the magnificent gardens of the Lord.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

      Such a wonderful hub, and I am so sorry for your loss, take care, nell

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      This hub is now more special then ever. I'm sorry for your loss Susan. Be safe with your travels back home.

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Golfgal: Your post has very special significance and I am answering it in memory of my Dad who passed away today. I just found out and need to get on a plane.

      Bless your heart and thank you for your comment. ?

    • Golfgal profile image

      Golfgal 5 years ago from McKinney, Texas

      I totally enjoyed your father's garden. I am also a gardener and love to see what others plant. The hydrangea are gorgeous. Pick for high PHor alkaline soil and blue for low PH or acidic soil. i put my coffee grounds around my acid loving plants and yes on my hydrangea.

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Hi Lesley,

      I love seeing your face pop up - makes me smile! :)

      You should have seen my face when I saw all your dandelion pictures and information... what a treat! Thank you so much for your kind comments and I sure do appreciate the votes. :)

      Look forward to seeing you again soon...

      Best wishes and have a lovely weekend,

      Sue

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Sue, I love gardening and I love flowers, this was such a delight!

      You have a wonderful style of writing - I look forward to part 3!

      Voting up, best wishes Lesley

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Hi Emale: I couldn’t agree more and I love your choice of flowers. Fragrance and color are both sure winners! Thank you so much for reading and commenting. :)

      Hi Debbiepinkston: Gardening is a truly rewarding activity. Your pebble pathway sounds delightful and the fountain sounds lovely – both for birds and for the relaxation of humans! I look forward to seeing your hub and photos. Thanks so much for your comments. :)

      Helen Wilk: It is so good to see you here and I greatly appreciate your feedback. I am so glad we share things on so many levels and so happy that you are enjoying what I feel the need to write. Your wonderful comments are greatly appreciated. :)

      Dear Eida: I saw the comments you left on my “Creatures at the Door” and did, indeed respond to you there. Thank you so much for returning to read about my Dad’s garden… I will make sure to send an email soon. I so appreciate you popping in again. :)

    • profile image

      Eida Schneiderman 5 years ago

      My friend - I am not sure you are receiving my comments so please rsvp. I have always found you an outstanding descriptive writer. Enjoyed the trip in your garden.

      Love to you as always.

    • profile image

      Helen Wilk 5 years ago

      What a beautiful tribute to your Dad...I love all your descriptions of the flowers and your memories of that special garden. My Dad was also a dedicated and talented gardener and I realize this is another connection between us...how lovely! Please keep writing and sharing your thoughts and memories. I could see that garden through your eyes, you have a gift for making that happen!

    • debbiepinkston profile image

      Debbie Pinkston 5 years ago from Pereira, Colombia and NW Arkansas

      SueLynn, I loved this hub because I love gardening and flowers. I'm working on a pebble pathway and fountain in my side yard...will post a hub and photos soon.

      Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image

      EMale 5 years ago

      I loved this article. I love all of God's creations, especially the flowers. I am an amateur gardener and love getting my hands dirty. I also like lilacs, peonies, and roses as well as irises. They smell so wonderful.

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Denise, thank you so much for reading! Your comments just brought tears to my eyes - because what you said is so true! I'm so glad you enjoy the plants and gardens as much as I do - nature is a powerful connecter of souls. What beautiful comments! Please come again soon.

      xoxox

    • profile image

      Denise 5 years ago

      Sue, you write so beautifully and express yourself so well. Your descriptions are excellent. I am a garden and nature lover, so was very interested in reading your perspective and I'm so glad I did. Not only did I enjoy reading about the different flowers and plants in your dad's garden, but I was delighted to discover how your love for your dad and family radiates out of your writing and made me smile!

      Thanks very much for sharing.

      xoxo

      Denise

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Shirlee, thank you so much for visiting and I am touched that you could see the images in your mind's eye. I was SO pleased to find that youtube video of Diego Rivera's work - this was all new to me and I love the way the video is put together. I am so glad you will come again. You just brightened my day too! :)

    • profile image

      Shirlee 5 years ago

      Suelynn, what a wonderful tribute to your Dad. Your description of the garden was so vivid, that I could see the fairy with the wand dancing among those beautiful flowers, in my minds eye. By the way, I adore the vibrant colors in Diego Rivera's art work.

      I look forward to reading your posts.

      Thank you for brightening my day!

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Dear Poppy,

      Thank you so much for your wonderful post! You are right, my Dad instilled so much love for nature and so deeply too. I am so grateful for your comments. I would LOVE to see the Iris you describe, it sounds absolutely marvelous!

      Love you, too. :)

    • profile image

      Dale Smith 5 years ago

      Wow! I enjoyed that so much, Sue-Lynn--both the flowers and the tribute to your dad. He certainly planted more than flowers! He planted a lot of love and instilled in you an eye for beauty and the ability to soak it up and enjoy it. What a wonderful legacy! We have the Mary Todd iris--but my favorite is one that is black at the "lipstick" state just before opening and then in a deep, deep purple with dark blue glimmering in the sun's rays.

      Thanks for this marvelous blog!

      Love you!

      Poppy

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Aviannovice, thanks so much for saying and I appreciate your vote so much. I have been dying to get back to your hubs but I'm chasing my tail at the moment.... so much clamoring in my head to get some hubs posted... soon.... soon.... :)

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Voted up and awesome. This is a wonderful recollection of how you grew up. Thanks so much for sharing it.