The run-out on the year


jack two
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The new improved Jack Holloway v.2

Welcome to 2009!

2 Jan '09 6:51 pm
And a hearty Happy Happy to all my Moosey friends. I hope that when you look back on 2008 you judge it a good year - and may 2009 be an even better one for you!

Before I end this thread, I need to bring you up to date with a few last activities, although once again there is little to report from the garden. 2009 MUST again be a year of positive developments in my own garden: New Year's Resolution Number One!

In mid-December I went hiking for 3 days in the local mountains with friends, the "A-team" of local hikers! We took on the Holy Grail of local hiking: the cycad forest in an isolated valley, where very few of them had ever been before, and where only a handful of people have ever been: no footpaths, barely any animal paths, a steep climb into a magic valley where an ancient race of plants has managed to survive for some reason not yet clear to science. I had to share this!

A two hour drive along a 4x4 track brought us to a stream where the road petered out. We took our backpacks, loaded for 2 1/2 days plus emergencies, and set off up the Wonderwoud valley, an isolated valley, heavily wooded, where some forest giants still hold sway in the 'Wonder Wood', or 'Magic Forest'. We camped at a marvellous spot, but the full moon was difficult to see, for the mountain sides were high and the trees dense. Next day we started the ascent, working across the valley and up a saddle to the top of the ridge, then all along it for several kilometres before dropping down into a steep narrow valley which seemed more like a fault in the top of the ridge than a valley in its own right. But first we looked across it. In the distance we could identify the giant trunks of a few ancient cycads. The valley was like a huge V behind the ridge, first dropping down, then rising up higher and over a longer distance on the opposite side. We made our way down the steep slope, at times a rock face you slithered down gingerly; one of the ladies had to change her hiking pants when we got down - they were no longer decent from the descent! The bottom of the valley, the first leg of the V, was dry… we were thirsty, our water all but depleted.

Then we reached the bottom of the V, and a sight beyond incredible greeted us, unphotographable in its majesty and scale. From the opposite side a stream flowed down, then turned 90 degrees around a huge cube of rock with a perfectly flat surface and plunged into a pool. The pool ended in a waterfall which fell at least 15m down into a narrow fissure between the cliffs, from there it ran for some 100 or more meters along a perfectly straight and almost level gorge no more than 8 meters wide, before plummeting out of sight into the wonderwoud below… What a bath we had in that bracing water, reached so unexpectedly, with its narrow view between the cliffs through to the opposite slopes!

We camped only a short distance further, and my tent stood above a pool from which rose the steep slope of the back of the ridge, and only a few meters away water trickled down a rock face from a side stream, and into a lovely pool. I felt there was a moat around my little blue and orange hiker’s tent…

The next day we climbed out onto the opposite slope, from where I photographed the amazing setting and the cycads; some in the party went on a two-hour walk to see the biggest cycads close-up. I shall keep that for a second visit, for I was very aware of the long difficult route back to the cars. I had climbed to this spot with the experts – I wanted to be certain that I could get down with them again!
Looking out over the Wonderwoud.jpg
This pic (from when we summited Serala, our highest mountain, with the 8th grades) looks across to where we were; the cycads are behind the high ridge on the left, the waterfall is above the redhead and the saddle we climbed up above the brunette.
1 Looking down on the Wonderwoud.jpg
After the first hour or two's climb - I think the previous photo was taken from the v top left.
2 Salmon gerbera -  most are tomato red.jpg
Gerbera jamesonii, chief parent from which commercial gerberas were bred, grows wild in our mountains.
3 Taking a break - those cliffs still lie ahead.jpg
Guess who...
4 Looking down on the saddle up which we've climbed to the ridge.jpg
In the background the Wonderwoud valley. The tall tree is a Forest Cabbage tree, Cussonia sphaerocephala or boskiepersol. I have written about these forest giants (to 25m) elsewhere.
5 A view across endless mountains and valleys, ever more remote.jpg
6 The V valley behind the ridge.jpg
Taken the next morning as we climbed higher. We slithered down 'the back of the ridge' along the edge of the grassy bits. The stream falls through this fissure, and as can be seen in the next pic, the right hand side of the v has an equally steep slope.
7 Looking up the other side of the V.jpg
The cycads appear mainly on the steep inhospitable slopes behind the ridge.
8 My tent by the stream.jpg
On the left the slope rises out of the water, all the way to the top, to the right the valley floor is only meters wide.
9 Desmodium repandum can be seen hanging over the water in the previous photo.jpg
A delicate and beautiful plant, the leaf contains an air bladder which gives it a silver sheen. It grows only in damp shade. My neighbours have some and I want to try to propagate it.
10 A detail from 7 showing cycads.jpg
Cycad species are often represented by a limited number of plants today and are often of the most vulnerable species imaginable. I am still trying to ascertain which species these are, and if they are the same as pic 12
11 Striga elegans - the reddest flower I know - a grass root parasite.jpg
I can not begin to describe to you how unexpectedly bright these flowers are in the relatively drab grasslands. Or how the yellow eye shows up the red. Being parasitic I have no idea how 'cultivatable' they are. I want to know more!
12 A young cycad in the forest, showing its palm-like growth.jpg
Cycads are an ancient family, 145 million years old. Their leaves tend to be much stiffer and harder than palms, the fruit a huge cone which sits on the top of the stem. Often much of the stem grows underground. Some are said to grow very old.

Mark
Home gardener & plant fetishist
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Berkeley, California, USA

Shangri la in Africa? Delightful!

3 Jan '09 4:36 am
What a special place. The photos were great. Between them and your account I was able to pretty much follow your entire route. Wonderful. Somehow I've had the idea that cycads were asian plants. How delightful to see them in the wild.

I've got to say though when I first read that you camped out on this trip my first thought was concern for preditors. Leopards, hyenas and -in your swimming holes- crocs! Here we have mountain lions and elsewhere in North America grizlies are impressive but compared with bands of hyena or a stealthy leopard I think I feel safer here. I can imagine feeling safe from hippo in your waterhole but how can you be sure of the crocs? Maybe rapids and rapid elevation changes keep them out? Well good for you but I am relieved to know you made it back okay.

What a pleasant surprise to find a picture of the great adventurer himself. Truly a rare sighting around here if indeed that was you in photo #3. Such a young looking guy and so fit. I suppose swimming away from crocs and outrunning packs of hyena would tend to keep one in good shape. Very motivational no doubt, especially when you're out hiking with the A team. Around here we have a saying that you don't have to be faster than a grizzly, you just have to be faster than your companion.

The water hole sounds fantastic. There is nothing more fulfilling that plunging into beautiful, rock rimmed waterhole at the end of a long hike, especially at the end of one on which you ran short of water. Jack you are really sellling me on 'retirement'. You make it look very good.
Mark in California

Q: "Do you ever sit down?"
A: "All the time until the urge to 'play' some more becomes too strong."

MacFlax
member
Canberra, Australia

5 Jan '09 10:40 pm
Wonderful adventure. :)

Faith S
Perpetually learning gardener
User avatar
Alabama, USA

African adventures

8 Jan '09 4:49 am
Wow Jack, what a beautiful place for a hike! The cycads indeed look very prehistoric. I expected to see a dinosaur grazing somewhere on the slopes (never mind hyenas, lions and tigers, Oh My!) You do look wonderfully fit and obviously are if you can keep up with the A Team hikers. My husband and I have reservations for a mountain lodge in Tennessee next June. The only access is by hiking in and then out again. We are going with a couple of friends and I hope I won't be embarrassed by my poor conditioning. We have plans for a walking and hiking fitness program between now and then. Wish me luck.
Faith at Bide-a-Wee Farm, Alabama, USA

Come abide with me a wee while.

jack two
member
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The new improved Jack Holloway v.2

Closure is closure

20 Jan '09 9:50 am
It is 2/3 of the way through January - and I'm still running out on 2008. Mainly because I've done little running in on 2009.

Getting my new job up and organised, whilst dealing with technical frustrations at home (internet, lawn-mowers, water pumps... :x ) and packing up 9 years into neat boxes for other teachers to take over, has dominated my days. Oh and of course visitors and the holiday season - don't think it was all work :wink:

But as I type this, I am working on four gardens - one huge project, one intensive redesign and rebuild of a small, difficult entrance garden, one new garden I'm advising on and drawing up a plant-list for and one ongoing consultation on a garden rather similar to mine in setting, only about 10 years old, but with some ravishing qualities. I'll keep you up to speed on those still. Oh, and I'm busy building, upgrading our staff accommodation.

But as for gardening in 2009... so far, nothing to report. Other than the need for a huge amount of tidying and fine-tuning. Haven't a clue what I will call me next diary thread...

Mark
Home gardener & plant fetishist
User avatar
Berkeley, California, USA

Clueless in Africa?

20 Jan '09 11:08 am
.. only in regards to a new thread title. With so many opportunities for creative expression you may have to resort to something utilitarian so as not to over do it. Good for you Jack. Things will slow up eventually so I won't wish that on you any sooner than necessary. Then there will be time enough for show and tell, internet willing. I am looking forward to it but I'll be patient.

I've had a rather busy weekend in the garden in beautiful weather. I'm reclaiming some of the creek bed as garden and have plans for a new arbor and small lattice covered fenced area to get our garbage bins out of sight. They are currently the first thing you see. The side yard has never really represented any deliberate design ideas by me but that is changing. The side 'lawn' shall become a Great Dixter-inspired wild flower meadow. I want to route visitors through the wildflower meadow to the place where I've reclaimed some creek bank so that they will know at once that it is there. From there the path will snake back through the meadow to the deck, gazebo and what had been a vegetable garden but will eventually be a sparcely planted, modern and somewhat formal area. That will give access to the Begonia wall and the window that looks out on the creek and on through to the corner deck from which the creek is best seen and heard. Well, just plans mostly so far but I am chipping away at it.

Enjoy your gardens!
Mark in California

Q: "Do you ever sit down?"
A: "All the time until the urge to 'play' some more becomes too strong."

gordonf
Happy Collector
User avatar
Lillooet, BC, Canada

Blogspot

11 Aug '09 5:50 pm
Hi, Jack!

I just finished checking out your new blog and I think it's wonderful!! I really liked the still life picture on the first page - I think I may "borrow" it and try to make it part of my screensaver.

I was so pleased to see again some of your wonderful autumn pictures and I'm looking forward to reading the nursery pages when they are ready.

Will it be possible eventually for readers to provide feedback to you? Or is that not part of the purpose of a blog? (Obviously, I don't know much about the principle of 'blogging'!)

Anyway, best of luck to you!

By the way, it rained heavily most of today and I'm so grateful for the moisture, even though the bamboos and tree hydrangeas are bent nearly to the ground now!

Cheers!

gordonf

jack two
member
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The new improved Jack Holloway v.2

Posting replies

12 Aug '09 8:28 am
Thank you Gord!

At the top of each blog entry (or whatever they are called - I'm pretty clueless myself) there is the opportunity to comment. Try to respond there! (How did you end up on this page???)

gordonf
Happy Collector
User avatar
Lillooet, BC, Canada

12 Aug '09 6:13 pm
I ended up on Moosey's because I couldn't locate any other way to comment!! But now i know where to look! Thanks!

-gordonf

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