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:

CAPE AUTUMN WIDOW III

It is that time of the year again when the season has changed. The sun rises later and sets noticeably earlier; there is a chill in the evening air and a crisp edge to the days. Autumn has arrived and so have the Cape Autumn Widow (Dira clytus) butterflies. This year they seem to be more abundant than ever: I counted over fifty of them congregated just above the lawn in our back garden this morning.

Despite their numbers, I assure you they are quite difficult to photograph as they’re never still for long. They flutter here, there, and everywhere. I have encountered them on our back lawn every morning from early on until about mid-morning, when they seemingly disappear. Fewer of them appear on our front lawn and I suspect this is because I have deliberately allowed a variety of wild grasses to grow round the back. After all, if I cannot grow vegetables during this drought, why not let the natural grasses take over and cover the ground at least.

The Cape Autumn Widows are dark brown with numerous eye-spots on their wings which are thought to confer some protection against predatory birds – although I watched a Fork-tailed Drongo feasting on them the other morning!

I mostly see these butterflies almost floating on the air, flying low over the grass. I understand the females do this to scatter their eggs, which are then attached to the grass stems. I certainly hope most of them have chosen the wild grasses, for our lawn will need to be mowed once more at least before the winter sets in!

MY JANUARY GARDEN 2021

The heat of summer is scorchingly upon us – along with the absence of much-needed rain. Bird baths require filling more than once a day and current restrictions prevent the garden from receiving the watering it needs to flourish, yet most plants are surviving. I have already shown the beautiful blossoms of the Cape Chestnut and the Pompon trees, so will look much lower.

Field Bindweed – so difficult to eradicate owing to their long underground runners – twists its way between the lavender bushes and climbs up the Spekboom. It has a beauty of its own.

The small clump of Gladiolus dalenii has increased over the years and is now providing beautiful colour outside the kitchen.

Numerous butterflies are flitting about – most are too high for me to photograph. Many of them are (I think) Acara Acraea.

All over the garden self-sown Crossberries are blooming.

As are scented pelargoniums.

Lastly, the Plumbago blossoms are looking particularly beautiful right now.

NARROW GREEN-BANDED SWALLOWTAIL

Why ‘green-banded’ when this visitor is obviously blue? According to my newly-acquired Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa by Steve Woodhall, the upper side bands can be either green or blue – that is useful to know. A number of these butterflies have been passing through our garden since May – most far too high up or too quick on the wing for me to photograph. That was until my eye was caught by this one while I was having tea with my cell phone at hand:

It obligingly stayed put when I had a closer look:

Whereupon it closed its wings:

Then opened them slightly before continuing its journey: