Several overseas readers have commented on the lovely aloe blooms I feature now and then and some remark that while they have seen aloes, they have not seen them in bloom. With this is mind I want to show some of the flowers in my garden. The first shows an early stage of the flowering spikes pushing upward.

Here is the same aloe a few weeks later. The actual flowers haven’t opened yet.

We have several of these aloes growing all over the garden.

They will look really beautiful once their flowers have opened to welcome birds, bees and ants. Then there is this very tall aloe which is almost past its prime.



We need some cheering up after yesterday’s book review and what better than to look at the delightful pink flowers of the Dais cotinifolia or Pompon tree – of which you will be seeing a lot more of come November.

In bloom right now are the attractive pale blue flowers of the plumbago.

Many readers have expressed surprise at the sight of flowering aloes – you will get more of them as autumn segues into winter – but here is an aloe in bud.

The veld is already being brightened up by the small daisy-like flowers of the bitou.

I have several clivias growing in my garden – these were photographed after a shower of rain.

The large Natal fig tree often features in my blog for it dominates part of the garden. Below is a Cape fig (Ficus sur), beloved by many birds and insects – as well as fruit bats.


Autumn is a lovely time of the year when the days still tend to be warm and sunny, while a chill begins to creep in at night. The garden is still green and although most birds have already raised their families, I still find the odd eggshell below trees. They might be older than I think and blown there by the wind. This mottled one blends in well with its background:

While walking around the garden with my eyes on the ground, I came across this hole in a drier part of the lawn. It looks as though it has a tower of finely chewed grass surrounding it:

This is the time of the year when I come across fungi in unexpected places:

Snails also abound – I mostly find them on walls or steps. This one seems colour-coded with its background:

Lastly, because so many readers have commented on not having seen aloes in flower, here is an example of the first to bloom in my garden:


Some visitors are very quiet when they enter my garden. I can imagine their suppressed horror and their hands itching to clear it. They might venture something along the lines of “Your trees are so green” and happily move indoors. Others exclaim with delight and say something along the lines of “I hope we’re going to have tea outdoors.” I enjoy the latter.

Of course there are a myriad commonly planted flowers that not only look beautiful, but are attractive to a variety of pollinators. Years of drought cycles have taught me the harsh lesson about the amount of water required to keep flowerbeds looking attractive year-round. Indigenous plants, on the other hand, may not be as ‘showy’, yet they have consistently proved to be hardier and require a lot less water.

We all know that the availability of water is an important factor when gardening. For me shade (our summers get very hot), privacy, pollinators, and especially attracting birds have been priority guiding factors in my gardening endeavours – another is that I get by with very little assistance.

On with indigenous plants that birds also enjoy.

Aloes may look drab to some for much of the year. I enjoy their various shapes and spiky leaves. When they are ablaze with colour during the winter, however, it is difficult not to admire them.

Their nectar-rich flowers emerge at the time of year when food is more difficult to find. Apart from insects, a host of birds are attracted to the flowers. These include weavers, Cape White-eyes, sunbirds, and Blackheaded Orioles.

Our garden is too large for one person to handle comfortably and so, since our arrival, I set the bottom terrace aside as a ‘wild’ garden. I call it my ‘Secret Garden’ and – other than clearing a path through it once a year – let it be. This section is dominated by an enormous Natal fig that attracts African Green Pigeons, Knysna Turacos, Redwinged Starlings, Speckled Mousebirds, Black-collared Barbets, Blackeyed Bulbuls, Paradise Flycatchers, Redeyed Doves, Hadeda Ibises, and Grey Sparrows, to mention a few. We have planted many other indigenous trees over the decades, which have now matured and provide both food and shelter. Clivias also abound in this garden.

As you can imagine, the leaf litter here is thick and spongy underfoot. It is regularly raked over by Olive Thrushes and Cape Robin-chats. Red-necked Spurfowl comb through it as do pigeons and doves. I strongly suspect a Fiery-necked Nightjar has found refuge there too. Wood from dead exotic trees has been left to rot: providing a home for insects and food for Cardinal Woodpeckers and Green Woodhoopoes.

You could accurately describe my garden as ‘wild and woolly’ – many regard it as being unkempt. I love it: I garden for birds and my monthly bird lists prove that a wide variety of avian visitors do too. Some indigenous plants, such as the Cape Honeysuckle and Canary Creepers, are rampant growers that need to be kept in check by pruning once they have flowered. Both provide a rich supply of nectar that attracts a variety of bird, bees, butterflies and other insects. Here is a Cape Honeysuckle:

This is a small sprig of canary creeper:

The indigenous Plumbago not only produces beautiful blue blossoms that attract various pollinators, but the thickly tangled stems are ideal nesting spots for Cape Wagtails, Cape Robin-chats and Cape White-eyes. Plumbago also needs regular pruning to keep it in check.

Large Erythrina caffra trees dominate our back garden. Apart from hosting Hadeda Ibises at night, their bounty of lichen-covered branches, seasonal leaves, seeds and beautiful scarlet blossoms attract a host of birds such as weavers, Cape Crows, African Hoopoes, Fork-tailed Drongos, African Green Pigeons, Speckled Mousebirds and Green Woodhoopoes.

A similar variety of birds are attracted to the Crossberries that have seeded themselves all over the garden as well as this Puzzle Bush at our back gate.

They also enjoy the Dais cotonifolia trees – some planted and others self-seeded.

The very beautiful Cape Chestnut tree we planted about thirty years ago attracts a variety of pollinators and birds too.

Birds and indigenous plants go hand-in-hand and are a recipe for tranquillity and joy – whatever the season!


While much of South Africa is covered in grassland, pockets of natural forest survive, such as this one clinging to the steep sides of a gorge.

Succulents such as this Haworthia reinwardtii are rewarding to come across whilst walking in the veld.

Patches of pink brighten up indigenous forests – and our garden – when the Dais cotonifolia are in bloom.

The Cape Honeysuckle is coming into bloom now.

Aloes are also coming into bloom and will brighten up the autumn and winter landscape before long.

The Eastern Cape is home to the Spekboom (Portulacaria Afra), a hardy succulent favoured by elephants and a wonderful garden plant.