IT HAS RAINED

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

BEAUTIFUL CRASSULA OVATA

Crassula ovata is one of about 150 species of Crassula native to South Africa. These compact evergreen shrubs grow up to 3 m tall and are looking especially beautiful at this time of the year when they are in full bloom. These ones are growing next to our swimming pool.

These bushes are currently bearing masses of sweetly scented, pale-pink, star-shaped flowers in tight ball-shaped clusters – another winter beauty we are blessed with.

ALOIDENDRON BARBERAE

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.

THE DANDELION

While the Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) probably originated in Europe, it is now a cosmopolitan traveller that has settled around the world. In South Africa these flowers are commonly seen growing in lawns, along paths, pavements and road verges, as well as next to road verges. Despite the well-documented culinary and medicinal uses of dandelions, they are mostly regarded as weeds. Thanks to their long flowering period, dandelions also provide a ready supply of nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinators, often when little else is available. I enjoy seeing the bright yellow dandelion flowers that pop up in our garden.

They are survivors – as this poem by Vachel Lindsay illustrates so well:

The Dandelion

O dandelion, rich and haughty,
  King of village flowers!
  Each day is coronation time,
  You have no humble hours.
  I like to see you bring a troop
  To beat the blue-grass spears,
  To scorn the lawn-mower that would be
  Like fate’s triumphant shears.
  Your yellow heads are cut away,
  It seems your reign is o’er.
  By noon you raise a sea of stars
  More golden than before.