Tuesday, 6 June 2017

1902 Bluegum tree



Bluegum tree (Eucalyptus) planted in 1902 on the farm Seekoeihoek (Gauteng, South Africa). Possibly Sugar gum (Eucalyptus cladocalyx) or E. globulus

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Inside Butterflies for Africa in Pietermaritzburg


When travelling down to the coast, Butterflies for Africa in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, is one of my favourite stop-overs. It has been developed to combine the best elements of top butterfly houses from around the world with some unique features of its own. The complex currently houses a walk-through Butterfly House (housing both exotic and indigenous butterflies), a Butterfly Craft Shop, an Art Gallery, Coffee Bar, African Art & Craft Centre, Butterfly Nursery and a Butterfly Garden planted with a large range of butterfly-food plants.

It is an absolute delight wandering through the butterfly house amongst the tropical plants, with a guide pointing out hidden treasures! There are butterflies everywhere and in all stages of development.
They do not cater for butterfly releases at weddings. This is a controversial issue and Butterflies for Africa are opposed to this practice. If you are wanting a butterfly theme, they suggest you use artificial butterflies instead.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Having a space of your own

Nothing is of more importance than our mental and physical health - if you're not well, you are of no use to those around you. In fact, you might be a burden.


I have this special little corner set up in my dining room where I can disappear into my own little world, doing the things I love - journalling, sketching, making notes of new birds visiting my garden and where I keep some seeds ready for sowing. Here I often also plan my week, it seems to bring order to my life and reminds me to not fill my day with too many things and to leave some moments for just being quiet...

When you follow your bliss, it seems like the rest of the world orchestrates things so that your life is easy. It becomes effortless. 

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Orbweb Spiderling

The spider’s touch, how exquisitely fine!
Feels at each thread, and lives along the line.
~Alexander Pope

Camera: Canon EOS 550D – Location: My bathroom court-yard garden, Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa
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I was SO excited when I discovered an Orb-web spiderling, just 3cm from the tip of her front legs to the tips of the hind legs, in my garden this morning! – she had just anchored here lines between a Cape Reed Grass spike and the one pillar of the patio when I took the picture and when I returned half an hour later, she had started on her wheel, complete with the typical thick zig-zag lines in the centre.

During the process of making an orb web, the spider will use its own body for measurements.

Many webs span gaps between objects which the spider could not cross by crawling. This is done by letting out a first fine adhesive thread to drift on the faintest breeze across a gap. When it sticks to a suitable surface at the far end, the spider will carefully walk along it and strengthen it with a second thread. This process is repeated until the thread is strong enough to support the rest of the web.

After strengthening the first thread, the spider will continue to make a Y-shaped netting. The first three radials of the web are now constructed. (the “Y”-thread can be seen in the pic below by her hind legs). More radials are added, making sure that the distance between each radial is small enough to cross. This means that the number of radials in a web directly depends on the size of the spider plus the size of the web.


After the radials are complete, the spider will fortify the centre of the web with about five circular threads. Then a spiral of non-sticky, widely spaced threads is made for the spider to easily move around its own web during construction, working from the inside out. Then, beginning from the outside in, the spider will methodically replace this spiral with another, more closely spaced one of adhesive threads. It will utilize the initial radiating lines as well as the non-sticky spirals as guide lines. The spaces between each spiral will be directly proportional to the distance from the tip of its back legs to its spinners. This is one way the spider will use its own body as a measuring/spacing device. While the sticky spirals are formed, the non-adhesive spirals are removed as there is no need for them any more.

Many orb-weavers build a new web each day. I have often watched this process. Generally, towards evening, the spider will consume the old web, rest for approximately an hour, then spin a new web in the same general location. Thus, the webs of orb-weavers are generally free of the accumulation of detritus common to other species such as black widow spiders.

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Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)

Ink sketch and watercolour in small sketch-book. 

The Red Hot Pokers (Kniphofia moench, pronounced nip-HOFF-ee-uh) in my garden (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa) are just starting to flower, which means soon my garden will be flooded by Sunbirds. Can’t wait!

Family: Asphodelaceae
Common names: Red-hot poker or Torch lily (English), Vuurpyl (Afrikaans) – Endemic to Africa.

About 70 species of Kniphofia occur in Africa and 47 of these are found in the eastern areas of South Africa.The genus Kniphofia is very closely related to the genus Aloe. As a result, the first Kniphofia to be described, namely K. uvaria, was mistakenly thought to be an Aloe and was thus initially named Aloe uvaria.

Kniphofia form large clumps of arching leaves which are long, narrow and tapering. The leaves are non-succulent, unlike the leaves of aloes. This distinguishes them from a plant such as Aloe cooperi. The leaf surface is glabrous (smooth) in all but one species, namely, K. hirsuta.
The underground part of the plant consists of a thick rhizome and fibrous, fleshy roots. In some Kniphofia species the rhizome divides forming groups of stems, while in others the stems are more or less solitary. The vast majority of Kniphofia species do not produce an aerial stem, but exceptions do occur as is the case with old specimens of K. caulescens and K. northiae which can reach a height of 30 cm.

Kniphofia ensifoliaKniphofia are frequented by nectar-feeding birds such as sunbirds and sugarbirds. They are also visited by certain insects. The flowers of some species of Kniphofia are reportedly used as a minor food and apparently taste like honey. K. parviflora is reported to have been made into a traditional snake repellent. K. rooperii and K. laxiflora are used traditionally as a medicine. An infusion of the roots is used to relieve or treat the symptoms of certain chest disorders.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Agapathus Blue


Camera : Canon EOS 550D
Taken in my garden (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa)

My Agapanthus praecox are once again in full bloom and this year the colour is a stunning blue, unlike last year’s blooms, which were a very light blue due to them being in too much shade. And since I transplanted them to the sun last winter, the flowers are also larger this year.

This evergreen indigenous species comes from the winter rainfall Western Cape and all-year rainfall Eastern Cape and shed a few of their old outer leaves every year and replace them with new leaves from the apex of the growing shoot. The deciduous species comes from the summer rainfall Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland, Free State, Lesotho, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Mozambique, and grow rapidly in spring with the onset of the rains, and then lose their leaves completely and lie dormant during winter

Family: Agapanthaceae (Agapanthus family)
Common names: common agapanthus, blue lily (Eng.); bloulelie, agapant (Afr.); isicakathi (Xhosa); ubani (Zulu)

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Aloe ferox sketch

The original is watercolour in my Moleskine Nature Journal – 8″ × 8″

Here in South Africa, the Aloes start flowering in June/July, our coldest winter months, and for me the amazing thing is that, in the Northern Hemisphere, like France, they also flower in July, but during their summer. Some internal clock dictating the flowering time?

I did this sketch of this Aloe ferox (Bitter aloe) in my garden in August 2009, after I had noticed that the Blackbirds were all visiting this one, and the reason was soon apparent – it was fairly dripping with nectar! The flowers always seem to produce the most nectar just as they’re getting to the end of their life-span, which is early Spring. It’s their special gift to nature.

This hardy plant with its succulent leaves can survive the harshest conditions. When damaged by man or animal, the plant seals off any wound with a sticky, dark liquid that prevents infestation by virus, fungus or insect. This dark liquid has been successfully used by ancient inhabitants as a traditional remedy for many ailments.

The white inner gel of the leaf has the ability to hold and store moisture through hot, dry conditions and months of drought. Traditionally, the local inhabitants use it to soothe burn wounds, cuts and abrasions. Today those same qualities are still the being used in a wide range of moisturizers and rejuvenating creams and gels.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Cactus - Cereus jamacaru (Een-nag-blom)

Ink sketch and watercolour wash on Bockingford 300gsm – 8″ × 12″ 

Cereus jamacaru (Queen of the Night, Een-nag-blom)
Classification: Cactaceae
Incorrectly referred to as Cereus peruvianus in South Africa.

The Peruvian Apple Cactus, Cereus repandus, is a large, erect, thorny columnar cactus found in South America as well as the nearby ABC Islands of the Dutch Caribbean. It is also known as Giant Club Cactus, Hedge Cactus, cadushi and kayush. With an often tree-like appearance, the Peruvian Apple Cactus’ cylindrical grey-green to blue stems can reach 10 meters (33 ft) in height and 10-20 cm in diameter. The nocturnal flowers remain open for only one night. Unfortunately this plant has been declared an unwanted “invader” in South Africa due to it’s fast-spreading habit.
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Die Kaktus Cereus peruvianus (of Een-nag blom) is ’n boomagtige kaktus, partymaal tot 10m hoog, wat vir net een nag van die jaar asemrowende wit blomme voort bring. Ongelukkig is hierdie kaktus as ’n ongewensde indringerplant verklaar in Suid Afrika as gevolg van hul gewoonte om uiters vinnig te versprei. Daar is groot verwarring oor die eintlike naam van hierdie kaktus, aangesien Cereus vir heelwat kaktussoorte gebruik word. Die spesienaam, peruvianus, dui aan dat dit endemies is aan Peru, maar dit is ’n botaniese fout. Hierdie plant is eintlik endemies aan Brasilië, Uruguay en Argentinië.

Hierdie een groei langs Solly se kaia op ons plot (Tarlton, Gauteng, Suid Afrika) en hy was verskriklik ontsteld toe ek voorstel ons moet dit verwyder. Nou is hy die dood voor die oë gesweer as ek sou sien dat dit enigsins versprei!

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Saturday, 7 January 2017

Fiscal Shrike Fledgling - One of four


Camera : Canon EOS 550D
Taken in my garden (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa)

My Fiscal Shrike (Lanius collaris) is rearing four babies this season and this little one, one of the four, was contentedly relaxing after a nice fat grasshopper. I also put out little pieces of minced meat on my bird feeder, which Mommy dutifully takes and feeds them. As they got bigger, they realised where the “kitchen” was and soon joined her at the feeder.

These mini raptors have a hooked beak that enables them to catch small animals and insects. They often impale their meals on thorns which explains the derivation of their name from the Latin word for butcher. They sit upright on the tops of shrubs and other conspicuous perches to spot their prey and also to advertise their presence to competitors. Endemic to Southern Africa.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Aloe peglerae

Parker fountain pen, black ink and W&N watercolours on Bockingford 300gsm watercolour paper

All the Aloes are in full flower and the winter got all 3 of my Aloe ferox, burnt the flowers brown. This is Aloe peglerae, which I saw in the veld on the way to Magaliesburg, endemic to South Africa occurring only in Gauteng and one other province (North-West province). It is listed in the Red Data list of South Africa as an endangered species on the extinction queue if not protected or grown for ex-situ conservation.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Graptoveria "Fred Ives"

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm
A succulent given to me by a friend a couple of months ago growing in a pot in my garden (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa)

Category: Succulent
Family: Crassulaceae (Stonecrops)
Origin: Mexico (North America)

x Graptoveria ‘Fred Ives’ – A beautiful and durable succulent plant that produces large clumps of rosettes to 8 inches tall by nearly 1 foot wide with broad bronze and pink succulent leaves atop short stems with 1’-2’ long branched inflorescences bearing red-orange centered pale yellow flowers in summer. Plant in full to part sun in a well-drained soil. Little irrigation required.

The leaves are broad and stiff, overlapping each other, with concave upper surface, rubbery to the touch, waxy pearly-bronze to purplish yellow-orange to blue green (depending on time of year and growing conditons). Often shading from grey-blue at the centre out to orange-bronze-purple. The purple blush is fairly consistent throughout the seasons. Higher light and heat seem to increase the purple a bit, though.
This is a vigorous plant and is great as a container specimen or in the ground in well-drained soils or raised planters. It is reportedly a hybrid of Graptopetalum paraguayense crossed with a plant in the Echeveria gibbiflora complex.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Cactus Trichocereus

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm – 12″ × 8″

A cactus in a pot in my garden (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa) – Echinopsis hybrid. Columnar or Torch cactus. Native to the Andes Mountains, South America. It has withstood many a winter’s frost. The other cactus is wishful thinking on my part!

“The cactus thrives in the desert while the fern thrives in the wetland.
The fool will try to plant them in the same flower box.
The florist will sigh and add a wall divider and proper soil to both sides.
The grandparent will move the flower box halfway out of the sun.
The child will turn it around properly so that the fern is in the shade, and not the cactus.
The moral of the story?
Kids are smart.”

Friday, 4 March 2016

Aloe ferox in my garden

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm

Aloe ferox (also known as the Cape Aloe, Bitter Aloe, Red Aloe and Tap Aloe), is a species of arborescent aloe indigenous to Southern Africa. It is one of several Aloe species used to make bitter aloes, a purgative medication and also yields a non-bitter gel that can be used in cosmetics.

::

Die Bitteraalwyn (Aloe ferox), inheems aan Suid-Afrika, is ’n struik wat deel is van die aalwynfamilie. Die plant blom vanaf Mei tot September. Die struik is ’n stadige groeier met ’n enkelstam en dik, doringrige, vlesige blare en buisvormige, oranje-rooi blomme. Dit is ’n uitstekende struik vir die rotstuin en verkies vol son en matige water. Die sap van die blare word vir medisyne en skoonheidsprodukte gebruik.

::

Monday, 29 February 2016

Sunshine in the rain


W&N watercolour on Arches 300gsm

We’ve been having lots of cold and rainy days and yesterday I felt I just HAD to brighten up the day with something smiling! Not that I don’t smile during rainy weather, I love it!, but  I thought a bit of sunflower sunshine would be nice.

Flowers have an expression of countenance as much as men and animals. Some seem to smile; some have a sad expression; some are pensive and diffident; others again are plain, honest and upright, like the broad-faced sunflower and the hollyhock.
- Henry Ward Beecher

Saturday, 27 February 2016

My Geranium would like to see you...


Watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm
 
“Won’t you come into the garden? I would like my Geranium to see you.”

A few months ago, a friend gave me a Geranium cutting, just a little piece of stalk with one leaf, which I planted in an egg shell filled with potting soil and kept on the kitchen counter. As soon as there were enough roots, I planted her into this Terracotta pot, egg shell and all. Within 2 weeks I had about 8 leaves and another stalk appearing next to the original cutting. She now lives on the patio near my Natal Fig bonsai, and I’m sure I’ve heard them whispering to one another a couple of times! And now every spring she blesses me with a great show of her gorgeous flowers.

It is well known that the whole Geranium genus is highly redolent of volatile oils – lemon-scented, musk-scented, and peppermint-scented. In South Africa folk-lore has it that, if you plant Geraniums in your garden, you will never have any snakes!

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Thursday, 25 February 2016

Young Aloe ferox

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm
 
In my garden (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa)

My experience is that this aloe (A. ferox) spreads easily from seed – from my original three plants, I now have over ten. They have sprung up all over the garden, obviously from seeds dispersed by the wind and birds. The only problem is that some of them are in unwanted locations and now I have the job of moving them to more suitable spots. But a chore I’m going to enjoy!

Aloe ferox (also known as the Cape Aloe, Bitter Aloe, Red Aloe and Tap Aloe), is a species of arborescent aloe indigenous to Southern Africa.


Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Enthroned in his earthenware pot ...


Watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm – Dried Hydrangeas from my garden standing in my potting shed.

::

From the bottom of the garden, enthroned in his earthenware pot,
the hydrangea god surveys his minions—
lavender agapanthuses bowing starburst heads,
red begonia calyxes trumpeting his fame,
oleander leaves whispering of his misdeeds.
The central path leads straight to him. Behind,
a stained mirror and mossy wall back up his power.
Thousands of crinkled, tiny, white ideas occur to him
with frilled and overlapping edges. No one else
deploys such Byzantine metaphysics. No one
can read his mind. Only he remembers
the children’s secret fort by the cypress tree
among fraught weeds, rusted buckets, and dumped ash,
and how lost the grown-ups sounded, calling, as night came.
- Hydrangea By Rosanna Warren

 
 

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Bulbine frutescens (Balsemkopiva)

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm
 
Bulbine in a container on my patio (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa)

Commonly called Bulbinella, which is incorrect as Bulbinella is a completely different species, bulbine is effective in preventing skin infection, healing and soothing cuts, rashes, insect bites, burns, cold sores, pimples and other skin problems. Its clear and soothing gel forms an invisible ‘seal’ over the wound, protecting against bacteria and providing ongoing relief and healing throughout the day.

It is a very attractive succulent indigenous to South Africa which needs little attention, and thrives in most soil types and in most weather conditions. The juice from the leaves is used in creams, and can also be applied to eczema, burns, rashes, fever blisters and stings etc. I often use it on cuts and scrapes I might pick up while working in the garden.

This native of South Africa occurs naturally in the Orange Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and parts of all the Cape Provinces.

Afrikaans: balsemkopieva, copaiba, geelkatstert, katstert

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Autumn roses


Watercolour in Moleskine 200gsm Watercolour sketch-book
 
You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses!
- Ziggy

I have a couple of those very realistic-looking silk roses which I bring out of storage from time-to-time, especially if flowers are in short supply in the garden during winter months (I know, Winter is not an excuse to not have any flowers in the garden, but this year I’ve left planting a bit late, might still get in some pansies, though!) – and they served as subject matter for a quick watercolour with no sketching before-hand.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Vintage Coffee Roses

Coffee and watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm watercolour paper  

Painted with Coffee (Nescafé instant, very strong) and a bit of Cadmium Red – the rose on the left is from my garden and the one on the right is done from an inverted image of a friend's rose on FaceBook.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Rampage of appreciation

W&N Watercolour in Moleskine 200gsm watercolour sketch-book
 
Flowers from my garden.

Appreciate your friends
and family
and hold them near.
NOW
Compliment yourself
on the day’s achievements
no matter how big or few they are.
Appreciate the stamina of your body.
And who you are.
Turn toward
your perfect life.
It is the best feeling.
Go on a rampage of appreciation.
Relax and breathe into appreciation
of what you shared.
No relationship is ever done.
It’s all eternal.
- Maree Clarkson

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Aloe ferox painting 2

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm
Aloe ferox (also known as the Cape Aloe, Bitter Aloe, Red Aloe and Tap Aloe), is a species of arborescent aloe indigenous to Southern Africa. It is one of several Aloe species used to make bitter aloes, a purgative medication and also yields a non-bitter gel that can be used in cosmetics.

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Die Bitteraalwyn (Aloe ferox), inheems aan Suid-Afrika, is ’n struik wat deel is van die aalwynfamilie. Die plant blom vanaf Mei tot September. Die struik is ’n stadige groeier met ’n enkelstam en dik, doringrige, vlesige blare en buisvormige, oranje-rooi blomme. Dit is ’n uitstekende struik vir die rotstuin en verkies vol son en matige water. Die sap van die blare word vir medisyne en skoonheidsprodukte gebruik.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

From the bottom of the garden...

Watercolour and ink sketch in Moleskine Large Note book
 
“From the bottom of the garden,
enthroned in his earthenware pot,
the hydrangea god surveys his minions—”

Due to the acidity of our soi, which is caused by the many Blue Gum trees planted in the area, our Hydrangeas are mostly mauve, blue or pink, and if we want a white variety, we have to add a lot of alkalinity to the soil.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Charming Naturalness

Watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm – A vase with flowers on my kitchen table
 
“He must have an artist’s eye for colour and form who can arrange a hundred flowers as tastefully, in any other way, as by strolling through a garden, and picking here one and there one, and adding them to the bouquet in the accidental order in which they chance to come. Thus we see every summer day the fair lady coming in from the breezy side hill with gorgeous colours and most witching effects. If only she could be changed to alabaster, was ever a finer show of flowers in so fine a vase? But instead of allowing the flowers to remain as they were gathered, they are laid upon the table, divided, rearranged on some principle of taste, I know not what, but never again have that charming naturalness and grace which they first had.”
- Henry Ward Beecher

Friday, 5 February 2016

Aloe ferox painting 1

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm

A painting of an Aloe ferox in my garden. Each winter my aloes put up the most spectacular show of orange, brightening up the dull winter landscape. I can feel the season is turning already, gets lighter much later in the mornings and soon (well, roundabouts June/July) I’ll be blessed with their beauty again.
Aloe ferox (known as the Cape Aloe, Bitter Aloe, Red Aloe and Tap Aloe), is a species of arborescent aloe indigenous to southern Africa. It is one of several Aloe species used to make bitter aloes, a purgative medication, and also yields a non-bitter gel that can be used in cosmetics.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

autumn reds


Black ink sketch with colour wash in Moleskine 200gsm watercolour sketch-book

Autumn – The colourful month of May filled with red daisies and orange leaves.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Bunny Ears Cactus (Opuntia microdasys)

W&N watercolour on Aqua 300gsm watercolour paper – 8″ × 12″

My Bunny Ears cactus on my patio (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa)

These cacti originated in the wild (North and Central Mexico) and are popular garden and house plants here in South Africa. I bought my Bunny Ears last summer and after a nice rest this past winter, is now showing lots of new ‘ears’. I’m just wondering if I will have any flowers while it is in a pot…
Opuntia microdasys forms a dense shrub 40–60 cm tall, occasionally more, composed of pad-like stems 6–15 cm long and 4–12 cm broad.

Opuntia microdasys has no spines, but instead has numerous white or yellow glochids 2–3 mm long in dense clusters; these detach very easily on being touched, and can cause considerable skin irritation, so the plants must be treated with caution. Despite this, it is a very popular cactus in cultivation.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Daisy Love in Spring

Watercolour in my Moleskine 200gsm watercolour paper Nature Journal 

FLOWERS ARE ONE OF THE GREATEST INSPIRATIONS FROM NATURE!

Every Spring I revel in the masses of daisies that appear in one corner of my garden – no matter how cold the Winter has been, they’re the first to welcome the warmer weather with their beautiful colours!

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Winter blues


Black ink sketch and colour wash in Moleskine 200gsm watercolour sketch-book.

Winter here always has bright blue skies and blue Kingfisher daisies flowering in the garden.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Spring splendour


Black ink sketch with colourwash in Moleskine 200gsm watercolour sketch-book

Spring is always a celebration of new light green leaves on the Celtis africana (Stinkwood tree) and sunny Euryops daisies.


Sunday, 24 January 2016

Summer Cosmos


Black ink sketch and colour wash in Moleskine 200gsm watercolour sketch-book.

Summer goes hand in hand with fields of Cosmos flowers every November to March, covering the landscape in pinks, cerises and purples.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Echeveria imbricata


Ink sketch and watercolour in Moleskine Watercolour sketch-book – 8″ × 5″

I’m absolutely mad about Echeverias and have a small section in my garden set aside just for them. My collection started off in the late 70’s when my father gave me three rosettes in a pot, which I transplanted into a rockery and soon they covered the whole area. Since then I have given away hundreds to friends, the geese got out of the pond area and made a hearty meal of them and they’ve survived many of the severe frosts we get in our area.