We have always been impressed by the number of gardens in our town that sport beautifully tall and graceful looking tree aloes – at the time we purchased one for our garden these were called Aloe bainesii – and we planted one in our ‘secret garden’ next to the Natal fig. It grew quickly – they can reach up to 18 or 20m – and tall. What we didn’t realise at the time was how much more the fig tree branches would spread over time, swallowing up the tree aloe and rubbing off its leaves and branches every time a strong wind blows.
The Aloe bainesii became known as Aloe barberae and has now been reclassified as Aloidendron barberae. This tall tree of many names often branches about halfway up, forming an attractive crown. It is magnificent as is, yet becomes really spectacular when it flowers from about April through to June. This tree is growing in the back garden of a home not far from where we live.
These pinky-orange flowers produce copious nectar that attracts sunbirds and a variety of insects. The latter then attract insectivorous birds. Individual flowers grow up to 3,7cm long. When young, the flowers are initially erect but spread horizontally as they mature, which allows the insect pollinators to escape more easily.
We have now planted two sections of the original tree aloe, found on the ground, in another section of the garden where they will receive more sun, will not be decapitated in the wind, and should in time produce an abundance of flowers for us to enjoy.
Patterns are all around us. Look at these leaves against the sun:
The lines and holes in a long-dead Eucalyptus tree trunk:
Then there is this stripe in a stone found next to the road:
I often mention driving out on the Highlands road and so the time has come to show you some glimpses of it. This section of the narrow road is flanked by game fences, wattle trees and pretty grasses highlighted by the early morning sunshine.
The first of a group of cyclists appear, having come up a steep incline.
Further on I see a runner about to disappear down a hill.
The road snakes sinuously past a stand of Eucalyptus trees as it leads me towards the hills beckoning ahead.
Here is one of the splendid views that make this road a pleasure to drive along.
Catching the warmth of the early morning sun after a chilly night by perching on the top branches of the Erythrina caffra were an African Green Pigeon:
And a Cattle Egret:
The drought has not been kind to my ‘secret’ garden, deliberately left ‘wild’ and undisturbed for the benefit of creatures either living there or finding shelter and sustenance. Several trees and shrubs have died, leaving open spaces and creating sunny spots. This is a view from it looking up the steps to the rest of the front garden.
Over the years the mulch made up of leaves, twigs – and Hadeda ibis droppings – has grown thick and spongy underfoot.
A dead fiddle-wood is kept company by a cluster of other trees growing straight up to reach the light. On the right are branches of another tree that has fallen down during the strong winds.
Behind them the Natal fig towers over everything, its base covered by clivias.
The lowing of cows (part of the Urban Herd) drew me to that spot this morning. These are only a few of many gathered on the verge of a main road leading into town. The curtain of foliage is courtesy of the fig tree.