NAMAQUALAND DAISIES

These indigenous Namaqualand Daisies (Dimorphotheca sinuata) are grown in gardens all over South Africa, providing a riot of colour during the late winter months. All gardens except for mine that is! Somehow, neither the many packets of purchased seeds, nor handfuls of collected seed have ever found favour here – until the first sprinkling of rain at the end of September this year.

I see these flower seeds are now marketed under the umbrella name of African Daisies, which I think is a misnomer – there are so many ‘African’ daisies to choose from. Interestingly enough, the name ‘Daisy’ originates from the ancient Saxon term ‘Day’s eye’ referring to its habit of  opening during the day to show its ‘eye’ and then closing at night – or when the sun is not shining. As you can imagine, these Namaqualand Daisies look their best in the full sunshine.

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BLOOMING IN ADDO

We were too early to witness the full flush of spring flowers in the Addo Elephant National Park. The first rains have wrought a beautiful change nonetheless. See what a section of the park looked like in March 2015:

This is what it looks like now:

The Erythrina lysistemon at the Main Rest Camp provides a bright introduction to spring blooms:

Banks of the Common Gazania (Gazania krebsiana) line the roads:

Very beautiful splashes of yellow are also provided by Rhigozum obovatum:

Then there are Felicia aethiopica, also known as Bloublommetjie:

Along with Felicia filifolia, known as Draaibos:

Pretty (as yet unidentified) flowers include the following:

If any of my readers is able to put a name to them I would be grateful.

PINCUSHION PROTEA

I have not travelled down to the Western Cape, which is the natural habitat for these flowers, but photographed this beautiful Pincushion Protea (Leucospermum cordifolium) in a friend’s garden in our town, where it appears to be thriving on a steep slope.

LEONOTIS LEONURUS

I have featured the Leonotis leonurus (Wild Dagga or Lion’s Tail) before. Here you can see the plant about to come into full bloom:

And the next two pictures show there is still an element of beauty even once the flowers have gone:

 

CLIVIA SEEDS

Despite the paucity of flowers during this very dry time of the year, the shadier parts of the garden are brightened up by the scarlet seeds on the clivia plants.

Clivias are South African bush lilies and I look forward to showcasing them once they are in bloom again. Meanwhile, it is interesting to learn that the plant is named after the Duchess of Northumberland, Lady Charlotte Clive, who died in 1866.

The ones growing in my garden are the Clivia miniata that grow in partial shade in forests and along the coast of eastern South Africa. They multiply over time and so, what started as a clump beneath the fig tree when we arrived, have now been planted in various other spots in our garden, in the gardens of neighbours and have even been successfully transplanted to a Gauteng garden. Sharing plants must be one of a gardener’s greatest pleasures.

YOU CAN’T EAT MONEY

I have just enjoyed a pot of delicious Sasini tea whilst catching a wintry sun in the garden. This is a time when I can be contemplative and enjoy watching the birds in peace – and what a variety there were too!

First, the tea: this packet of very fine loose tea leaves was a gift from a friend after a visit to Kenya some years ago.  Sasini is one of the major tea producers in that country, so I was pleased to try it out at the time and continue to dip into it now and again. Do not make the mistake of following the traditional recipe of one teaspoon per person and one for the pot if you are not fond of strong tea: this tea is strong, smooth and creamy to the taste. It is a perfect tea to drink slowly while watching birds, reading or enjoying good company. I like it with a splash of milk.

Then, the birds. I was outdoors for only half an hour and in that time noted twenty species of birds. First up was a Blackheaded Oriole drinking from the nectar pub. This was also visited several times by a pair of Forktailed Drongos and a number of weavers – both Cape Weavers and Village Weavers.

Laughing Doves abound as usual and this morning were joined by a pair of Redeyed Doves, a Cape Turtle Dove and the Rock Pigeons that live in our roof.

A Cape Robin cautiously inspected the apples on the feeding tray before it was ousted by a cheeky Blackeyed Bulbul and an overbearing Olive Thrush. The apples were also a drawcard for a Boubou, some Common Starlings, a Fiscal Shrike, and a Blackcollared Barbet.

A flock of Bronze Manikins feasted on the fine seed in the ‘bird house’ feeder and, as I was about to come indoors, a Knysna Lourie made its rasping call from the fig tree.

What has all of this got to do with money? A lot. You see, while I was sipping my tea and enjoying the birds, I got to thinking about how fortunate we are: even though we are in the grip of drought, the crassula is blooming,

Plumbago flowers are putting on a brave show, the air smells fresh, the garden is filled with the sound of birds, and the clear sky forms a beautiful backdrop for the emerging flowers of the Erythrina caffra. Not bad for a drought.

And then … I happened across this quotation by the filmmaker, Alanis Obomsawin:

When the last tree is cut, the last fish caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.

Yes, I thought, we can’t eat money despite so many people pursuing it at all costs. We can, however, become stewards of nature – even in our own gardens.

FLOWERS OF THE GREAT FISH NATURE RESERVE

The Great Fish Nature Reserve conserves the largest single tract of sub-tropical thicket in South Africa. A visit there during the driest part of the year in this semi-arid region does not raise any expectations of a display of indigenous flowers, and yet … prominent splashes of bright yellow draw attention to the beautiful blossoms of the Rhigozum obovatum, commonly known as Karoo Gold – at least that is the nearest identification I can find to match these lovely flowers. My sources suggest a later flowering period, but so many plants appear to be pushing the envelope these days. If you can provide a more accurate identification, please do.

Other pretty flowers observed include Jamesbrittenia microphylla

Hibuscus trionum, also known as Bladder Hibiscus

Leonatus leonuris, known as Wild Dagga

There were glimpses of Cape Honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis) in the thickets too.

I had hoped to photograph aloes – there were so many in bloom along the road to the reserve – but saw only three plants, only one of which was blooming. I suspect the Black Rhinos find these succulent plants are tasty and nutritious to eat!