WINTER IN ZIMBABWE          - 20/7/2010      <--Prev : Next-->

In the Northern Hemisphere the glorious poinsettias are hothouse grown and they stand proudly on coffee tables, wrapped in ruby tissue, heralding the onset of Christmas.

In Zimbabwe the humble poinsettia is a glorious mass of blooms twenty feet tall, twenty feet wide, usually beaming profusely over the garden wall.

This year they are especially brilliant due to late heavy rains, and unlike other years, are not scraggly, lank and pale, but the blooms are thick and abundant in a canopy of crimson, scarlet and vermillion. The double poinsettia with the curly leaves is particularly breathtaking this year. And then there is the peachy poinsettia, a splash of apricot with daffodil yellow centres, heads held proudly in the crisp winter air, bobbing and bouncing happily as they peer over the garden walls expectantly.

The yellow poinsettia are hard to find and secretive this year, I have yet to see one, maybe they have all regressed to the dominant red, but not so the snowy white miniature poinsettias. These flowers were tiny, incandescent, artfully bundled together in a mass of perfumed profusion. At one stage early in the winter, they almost cast a luminous glow over the city, giving the suburbs a bridal look as of thousands of veils in the bright winter sun.

Another tree that quite takes one's breath away is the white flowering Ipomea or "Morning Glory Tree" It also looks like a giant flowering bride's bouquet, with long arching branches, draping right to the ground, festooned with giant white perfumed blossoms.

Our winters here are glorious, we have long cold crisp nights, and short warm toasty sunlit days. The sky today is smogless, unlike other winter cities. perhaps because the rains were so late that the sky is a brilliant turquoise, or perhaps a peacock blue ? The sky right now is so crisp and clear that it looks as though it would shatter if pierced.

Only very occasionally will it turn grey and dismal, then everyone throws up their hands in horror and heads for home, but these days are few and far between. The majority of our winter days are without doubt, Diamond Days.

Strangely enough this year is different, with those late heavy tans, the jacarandas, in mid July, are still laden with a deep layer of leaves of gold and green. By now they should have discarded their leaves, and today the gardeners stand around expectantly, knowing they should be sweeping, there is little else to do, the lawns are not growing, but there is nothing to sweep yet .. but wait . soon they will be cursing the myriads of tiny fallen leaves and their stems. The awe inspiring spring gardens that we so look forward to are not yet flowering. The ranunculus the cinererias, the sweet peas, the dahlias are still teasing us with their spring promise, but we relish the winters and are quite happy to wait and see.

Summers can be mean in Zim, we are not into air conditioning, we love our windows thrown open wide seeking a summer breeze, and so our cold winters are a very special relief. Mind you I say cold, our Texas visitors, quite used to snow in winter and temperatures of over 105 degrees in summer, laughed at us and pointedly came dressed in their short shirt sleeves while we were snug in our winter woolies !

Jack Frost has been around here and there, his icy fingers have taken the choice plants, the coleus are brown and bedraggled, the begonias look tired and wan. But many plants including the lawn, love to be burnt and they make darn sure they come back twice as beautiful once winter is over. "I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show".

Andrew Wyeth