FEBRUARY 2021 GARDEN

The drought continues. In fact, yesterday morning we woke to not a single drop of water in our taps! So far the rain forecast either comes to nothing or it might yield 5mm – that does little more than settle the dust for a little while. This is the second summer in a row that I have not been able to grow vegetables or much in the way of flowers. Yet, there continues to be some colour and things of interest in our garden. The ever faithful frangipani (also known as Plumeria) is blooming beautifully and exudes the most delightful scent once the sun sets and the garden settles down for the night.

No matter how hot and dry it gets, we can always rely on the Plumbago to provide colour – and such pleasing colour too.

The hibiscus shrubs were already mature when we moved here three decades ago. Their long-lasting blooms too never disappoint.

I am very pleased that the variety of petunias I planted in containers in December continue to provide happy splashes of colour.

Then there are insects, such as this bee foraging on the tiny flowers of a tall weed.

I come across a spider-hunting wasp (Pompilidae) outside the kitchen door.

It is under the lip of an outside windowsill that I see a potential danger lurking in the form of two South African Paper Wasps in the throes of building their intricate nest.

End note: The water supply is trickling back in our pipes.

ANTS ON STEPS

There are few conditions like drought and heat to bring the activity of ants to the fore. We have both in abundance. I happened to sit on the steps outside our kitchen for a few minutes the other day and captured these images with my cell phone. My attention was first drawn to this gap in the wall:

The fine grains of sand spilling out of it is detritus from the mining activities of the ants as they have burrowed deeper into the ground behind the stones that make up the edge of the steps leading up to the top of the terrace. A spider has taken advantage of this gap to catch unsuspecting passersby. Where there is ant activity, there must be ants. I didn’t have far to look:

Here some of them are, walking up and down the leaves of this succulent plant growing right next to the steps. All of them were busy – too busy to stop and look around; to chat to their fellow workers; or simply to take a rest. All were focused on whatever job they had to do. Now among these ants are some construction workers, some of which must have tunnelled holes between the stone risers and built these towers:

I cannot help wondering if these are ‘cooling towers’ such as we see at some of our (dysfunctional) power stations on the Highveld.

MY JANUARY GARDEN 2021

The heat of summer is scorchingly upon us – along with the absence of much-needed rain. Bird baths require filling more than once a day and current restrictions prevent the garden from receiving the watering it needs to flourish, yet most plants are surviving. I have already shown the beautiful blossoms of the Cape Chestnut and the Pompon trees, so will look much lower.

Field Bindweed – so difficult to eradicate owing to their long underground runners – twists its way between the lavender bushes and climbs up the Spekboom. It has a beauty of its own.

The small clump of Gladiolus dalenii has increased over the years and is now providing beautiful colour outside the kitchen.

Numerous butterflies are flitting about – most are too high for me to photograph. Many of them are (I think) Acara Acraea.

All over the garden self-sown Crossberries are blooming.

As are scented pelargoniums.

Lastly, the Plumbago blossoms are looking particularly beautiful right now.

PATTERNS IN NATURE: STRIPES

Zebras spring to mind as soon as I consider stripes in nature. As photogenic as they are, however, Zebras are not going to feature in this collection. This time the net has been cast a little wider.

This band of quartz intrusion in sandstone looks like a carefully laid mosaic.

The stripes in this rock have been polished smooth by the wave action of the sea.

This wood louse easily fits into the ‘stripes’ category.

Here is a Bar-throated Apalis.

The puff-adder sports a beautiful arrangement of stripes in its pattern.

Then there are the ‘stripes’ or wrinkles we show in our skin as we age. In this beloved dog, the gradual march of tiny white stripes (hairs) continued relentlessly as he aged.

MEET BIG ANT

I had been watching the interaction between the two Common Fiscals vying for some tasty tit-bits nearby, when my attention was drawn to a large ant making its way across the garden table.

I was intrigued that it followed the edge of the hollow squares instead of walking across the metal ‘highways’ – except to explore the next hollow square.

There must have been something particularly fascinating in this corner, for this hitherto determined traveller halted its journey to inspect this particular area for a few seconds.

It waggled its feelers about a few times before raising its head and resuming its journey across the table – inspecting every hollow square in its path!