Gardening here is not an easy undertaking, given the drought, the large size of our garden, and that I am mostly the only gardener. There hardly seems time to see to the general needs of the day, so gardening tends to sit on the back burner. After all, the clay soil is baked hard; the summer sun shrivelled any fragile seedlings; there is no water to spare for the garden – especially as we only receive water every second day and often endure several days sans water in our taps. This can be quite discouraging … yet, whilst I have let my vegetable patches lie fallow and I mostly rely on indigenous plants to keep me going, I have not remained idle.
I happened across this photograph taken in May 2015 – probably to brag about the cascade of yellow blossoms from the canary creeper. This is indigenous to the area where I live and grows with no help from me. In fact, until this long drought really wreaked havoc on the garden, I used to prune it back or even pull some of it up after flowering! I wouldn’t do that now: every bit of green that survives without having to be watered is a boon.
In the background is a tall Erythrina caffra that grows in our neighbour’s garden. It is covered with leaves still. In the left of the photograph you might spot some orange flowers of the golden shower creeper that formed a mantle over the trees that had grown up next to the pool during my working years when I had next to no time for pruning. The orange flowers on the right are Cape honeysuckle – another indigenous plant that (used to) runs riot here. It too used to be cut back or even pulled out once it had flowered. Not anymore! The two green bushes in front would be covered with white daisies from time to time, and you might recognise some nasturtium leaves peeping out from under them.
Roll on six drought-stricken years…
So many of the bushes and creepers have died that I spent several months (helped on occasion by an itinerant gardener who could wield a saw more easily than me) cutting them back to reclaim a small patch of garden. The daisy bushes have died and in their place I have planted a seedling of a cabbage tree gifted by a friend.
This is the photograph I took today. The Erythrina caffra is covered with its scarlet flowers. The green leaves hanging down on the right-hand side of the photograph are all that remains of the canary creeper – we had very few blossoms this year. The bare branches in the background above the large stones (which have always been there) indicate where the Cape honeysuckle has been cut back to. Many of the photographs I have taken of birds show them perched on these branches. It too has had enough of the drought and is barely hanging on – so far this tangle of honeysuckle has only produced a flower here and there.
I have turned the open space into a bird feeding area on the one side and on the other is where I grow my tiny patch of flowers – mostly from seedlings, although some seeds have poked through the dry soil. I water this patch when I can. It boasts three bird baths, some aloes and a crassula. The flowers of the latter have turned brown now, but looked spectacular only a week or two ago. The empty pots are waiting either for rain or for a steadier supply of water before they can be filled with herbs and flowers. Why all that unkempt grass, you might wonder. The ground is too hard to even get a fork into it, so it too is waiting for the softening effects of a soaking rain. Gardening requires a lot of patience!