JUNE GARDEN 2021

All is not doom and gloom in our drought-stricken garden for we have been blessed with several aloes blooming, of which this is one:

Then there are the lovely blooms of the Crassula ovata or, as many overseas readers know it, the Jade plant:

Both of these indigenous plants provide important sustenance for bees, butterflies, ants and other insects. I also have a minute patch of ground close to where I sit in the mornings in which I nurture petunias and pansies. These cannot be watered very often so are doing their best under trying circumstances to provide daily cheer:

They too attract an insect or two:

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.

MORE BEES

It is Lockdown Day 34: this means that it is over a month since we have been able to go outside of our gardens (thankfully I have a garden!) and go for a walk. During the course of the month the cheering array of cosmos flowers dancing in the breezes have dwindled to the last few; the tall stems have fallen over; and soon there will be none left. The last few continue to be visited by bees and so I show you one of the last ‘action’ cosmos and its visitor:

POLLEN BASKETS

We all know that pollination takes place when a bee carries pollen from the anther of one flower to the stigma of another. Close observation reveals that the pollen clings to the sticky hairs on the bee’s body and is rubbed off as the bee flies from one blossom to another. The flowers in this and other photographs are Cosmos.

In addition to pollinating plants, bees collect pollen to take to their hives for food. The large orange-yellow bulges on the hind legs of this bee looks as though it is carrying baskets for this purpose – much as we would use a shopping basket.

These baskets or pollen sacs are known as the corbicula, which are made up of hairs blended together to form a concave shape. Once a bee has visited a flower it begins a grooming process during which the pollen that has gathered on the body is brushed down towards the hind legs and packed into the pollen baskets mixed with a little nectar.