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I have just finished potting up my Protect and Leucospermum seedlings. This must be done as soon as they have four leaves. They are difficult to handle, for the long tap root is fine as a hair, and if damaged the plant dies immediately. They are planted in 4 Ib. jam tins, and the best way to put them into their permanent quarters is to cut out the bottom of the tin and place in the soil with as little disturbance as possible. Like young turkeys, they will die if they can find the slightest excuse for doing so. They should be planted out on well- drained slopes in full sun, and Leucospermum reflexum definitely does better facing the morning sun. During their first summer, they must not be allowed to dry out, but watering must not be frequent. After their first year they usually go ahead and are no more trouble ; and when the blooms appear in their third year one is more than repaid for all the care bestowed. In my garden now I have great silver-grey bushes of Leuco- spermum reflexum crowned with one hundred to two hundred blooms of fiery red. Leucospermum nutans, the flame-orange pincushion flower, rivals it for sheer beauty of colour and form, its stiff branches making a compact bush covered with yellow- green leaves. Protea barbigera holds out great shining pink cups tipped with black fur, and rising majestic above all there is Protea cynaroides, the king protea, whose giant blooms have been on display for a month or more, and which has several months of blooming yet.

These are surely some of South Africa's best gifts to the world. Where frosts are severe they will not thrive, but I have seen them doing well in California, and before the war a collection was gradually being built up in the south of France.

The klapperbossie or Aitonia (Nymania capensis) is now on show, the brilliant pink lanterns shining out on the short stiff branches covered with tiny leaves. This is a grand drought- resister. When travelling through the Karoo I have admired it from afar, the intense pink of the lanterns being accentuated by the drabness of its surroundings where one longs for a spot of colour. However, it does not seem to mind our wet winters ; it does well here, and it even stands up to the dripping rains of the Cape Peninsula and blooms in Cape Town gardens. The trouble is to persuade the seeds to germinate. They should be soaked for 12 hours or more in very hot water ; but even so they will at best take many weeks and may not appear until the following spring. I have tried sowing in spring and autumn, and results are much the same.

Monsonia specks a, a near relative of the Pelargonium, is now coming into flower and is a real treasure. I grow it on the edge of my terraces, where it is very effective. The leaves, having very fine segments and compact growth, show well there, and when the large blooms appear with the first warm days they are always much admired. Here the flowers are a deep pink, but on poor or sandy soils they are white-veined pink. Collecting the seeds is a great game : each is equipped with a coiled spring, and as soon as it is ripe it is gone. One gets to know the approximate distance to which the springs project them, and fortunately the tip of each large seed is a bright yellow, so that is is possible to find them amongst leaves and weeds. Unfortunately, this plant will not stand even as much frost as they get in Johannesburg, and nothing can be done with cuttings, so it remains a treasure for the frost- free areas. It is a true perennial, though when summers are very hot and dry it almost disappears, to sprout again with the first rains. The seeds must be sown in early autumn, when the weather is cool. The seedlings should be planted out just as soon as they are big enough to handle : they make a long tap root and will not stand transplanting later. People who try to stock their gardens free of charge from veld and roadside find in them a strong inducement to bring out their trowels ; they dig and dig into the hard ground, the delicate lacey leaves are all champed up in the process, and eventually the long tap root emerges mostly cut and broken. But the plants are taken home and planted, and just so much more beauty dies at the hand of man.

A WEEK of stormy weather with two hot days. This is a bad spring : there is a wealth of blossom, but we can never enjoy it, and the flowers are quickly over. In an old pear orchard lower down the valley the tiny pale green leaves are breaking through the white foam of blossom, and in my garden are some thousands of white-flowered watsonias repeating the harmony in white and green. Standing out boldly against these a kaffir- boom (Erythrina) flashes forth its scarlet blossoms, and it too has a sprinkling of young leaves among them.

On the lower ground, which is never dry, the flowers are coming out and there are great golden spikes of Wachendorfia thyrsiflora showing up among its big clumps of yellow-green pleated leaves. This is an excellent plant for the waterside garden : it looks after itself and flourishes exceedingly, but does not become a pest.

The first crinums are out. These are the old Crinum longi- folium (C. capense] which seems to be grown almost throughout the world. Its big heads of pendulous lily-like blooms in white or pale pink, striped with deep pink, are very handsome, and it makes a fine plant for a big pot or tub in a conservatory. The big seeds must be sown as they are ready to leave the parent plant and it will be many years before they come to flowering size ; but they do not require much attention. This Crinum likes a good stiff soil rich in humus and should never dry out.

The gem of the genus Crinum is C. aquaticum (C. campanu- latutn}. This one chooses to grow in 1 to 2 feet of still water, and if the water dries up in winter it will do no harm. The hanging bells are a rich deep pink, and the leaves not much thicker than a rush, and as long as the water remains it will go on blooming most of the summer.

Another good water plant is Dipidaxtriqmtra. This lives in vleis which dry up in summer, and blooms very early. It belongs here at the Cape. I have heard it described as " peach blossoms on hay " which gives quite a good idea of it. The stems and leaves are thin and reed-like and the pink and white blooms are packed tightly together on the 3-foot stems. I have seen half an acre in bloom in a few inches of water a truly lovely sight. It would do well here in my garden, but every year the land crabs and the mice come and eat off the young shoots as soon as they appear. However, we shall go on trying.


 
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