Yesterday and today have been by far the coldest of the winter so far – uncomfortably cold. The best part about this icy weather is that it has been accompanied by some very light rain: 4mm one evening, 4mm the next, and today we measured a ‘whopping’ 12mm! The garden is rejoicing. Look at this flower on the ginger bush:
Even the dry grass in the background has greened up over the past two damp days! It is wonderful to see damp soil in the patch of garden around the bird feeders instead of dust.
This is not a quality picture at all, but the very sharp-eyed among you might just recognise the shape of a Knysna Turaco in the leafless tree. I counted five of them in the garden yesterday! The strong Berg Wind that brought the cold front in its wake shook the trees and sent leaves cascading all over the garden. Instead of the usual crunch underfoot, I could delight in seeing wet leaves on the path.
Already Cape White-eyes and other birds having been making use of the pools of water that have collected in the aloe leaves.
These are snaps taken with my cell phone – not brilliant, but enough to share with you the joy of hearing the soft pattering of raindrops during the night; of breathing in the delicously damp aromas of wet soil, wet dry grass, and the unparalleled freshness of rain-washed air. They are good enough to convey the feeling that there is hope and that – despite the cold – even that little rain has revived me just as it has perked up the flowers in my tiny patch of garden and brought a new ‘growth-energy’ to the almost dead lemon tree in the back garden.
In the words of Langston Hughes:
Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
While there is not much in the way of flowers in our wintry garden – and the temperature seems to drop by the day – there are a variety of interesting leaves. The first of these are the remnants of the Sword Ferns (Nephrolepsis exaltata), which I try to keep under control so that they do not overrun the garden. Here they are caught in the dappled afternoon light:
Next are the beautifully shaped leaves of the Delicious Monster (known in some quarters as the Swiss cheese plant), which outgrew its pot years ago and now has the freedom to expand in the shadiest part of the garden:
There are not many leaves left on the Frangipani (Plumeria) tree, as most of them have fallen off and lie wrinkled and brown on what should be a lawn beneath it:
Having looked at the exotic plants, let us turn to some of the many indigenous trees and shrubs. The first of these is the Ginger Bush (Tetradenia riparia), which is in bloom now while putting out a new lot of leaves, which is why they are still so small:
Almost leafless is the Blinkblaar-wag-‘n-bietjie (Ziziphus mucronata) growing near the front door:
The beautiful shape of the leaves of a Cussonia (Cabbage) tree is silhouetted when I sit in its shade:
Lastly, these are the rather thin-looking, slightly shrivelled leaves of the Spekboom (Portulacaria afra) that will flesh out once the rains come:
It is usually a toss-up between the Olive Thrushes or the Laughing Doves which will be the first to arrive at the replenished feeders each morning. Close on their heels come the Southern-masked Weavers – still the most dominant weaver in our garden by far. The male Cape Weavers are already looking ready for the breeding season, with some showing more deeply coloured faces than others:
I never tire of seeing the rather shy Spectacled Weaver that darts out of the shrubbery when the coast is clear and is quick to disappear in a flash:
Black-headed Orioles call from high in the tree tops and have only occasionally swooped down to refresh themselves at the nectar feeder. The Speckled Pigeons have had a bit of a shock this month as we have at last got the boards under the eaves repaired. With a bit of luck they will now seek someone else’s roof in which to raise their next families – they had become too much to deal with in terms of the mess they make and their propensity to chase each other around the ceiling at night. I might have mentioned before that one of them (the same one?) has taken to eating the fish or tiny bits of chicken I put out on occasion – it even chases other birds away until it has eaten its fill. That sounds a little macabre, so here is an ever-cheerful Black-eyed (dark-capped) Bulbul to lift the mood:
Several Common Starlings are coming to visit at a time now, their beaks have turned yellow within the last few weeks, so I imagine they too are thinking about the breeding season ahead. Also in a courting mood has been a pair of Knysna Turacos that have been following each other through the trees and occasionally showing me their beautiful red wings when they fly across the garden. The other morning one of them came to drink at the bird bath not very far from where I was sitting – I felt very privileged to be so close to one. The photograph below is a cheat not from this month, but we all need to see beautiful creatures from time to time and I would love to share this one:
The Bronze Mannikins give me great cause for delight with their daily visits:
Lastly, the Red-winged Starlings continue to fly around the suburb in large flocks. I think whatever fruit they had managed to find in the fig tree is over for now they gather in the Erythrina caffra, where they nibble at the remaining few flowers and at the seedpods. Up to six of them at a time fly down to investigate the apples I have placed in the feeding area – and tend to make short work of them! This is a female:
My bird list for this month:
African Green Pigeon
Cape Turtle Dove
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Grey-headed Bush Shrike
Southern Masked Weaver
All is not doom and gloom in our drought-stricken garden for we have been blessed with several aloes blooming, of which this is one:
Then there are the lovely blooms of the Crassula ovata or, as many overseas readers know it, the Jade plant:
Both of these indigenous plants provide important sustenance for bees, butterflies, ants and other insects. I also have a minute patch of ground close to where I sit in the mornings in which I nurture petunias and pansies. These cannot be watered very often so are doing their best under trying circumstances to provide daily cheer:
They too attract an insect or two:
The bite of winter cold has arrived, especially in the early mornings. Gusty winds swirl around the garden bringing chilly air with them that seeps under doors and finger their way through windows. Trees that have until now been holding onto their yellowing leaves let go, allowing eddies of leaves to dance their dervish dances before nestling down to blanket the swimming pool, the lawn and to collect along the garden path.
There are very few clusters of the bright yellow canary creeper flowers that trailed over bushes and twined up tree trunks. These large heads of yellow have turned into small puffballs of seeds highlighted by the low sun, ready to burst forth in the wind to find a suitable spot in which to start another river of yellow blossom next autumn.
A variety of the leaves that swirl around in the wind collect in banks against the garden wall and in small drifts in hollows – anything that will halt their constant movement causes a damming up of leaves that are scarcely worth sweeping away for the next wind will scatter them liberally about.
So, having begun with the winter view of our garden path, I leave you with a winter view of a country road.