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:

HEIMWEE FOR THE ADDO ELEPHANT NATIONAL PARK

We have been in lock-down for ninety-five days already – despite having moved to Level Three (‘advanced’ Level Three nogal!) that allows more businesses to open, we still cannot visit family and friends nor can we cross provincial borders without a permit – and you require a very good reason to get one of those. National Parks are now open for day visitors, yet the above-mentioned restrictions make visiting the Kruger National Park out of the question. In the spirit of the photograph below, I will look back to share some of the delights of the Addo Elephant National Park which we hope to visit again before much longer.

Naturally, one goes to the Addo Elephant National Park to see elephants – they seldom disappoint. We have seen herds of over a hundred individuals congregating around the Hapoor waterhole; been surprised by single elephants right next to the road; and have enjoyed watching small groups – such as the one these two are part of – at the Domkrag waterhole. Here we are able to get out of our vehicle and look down at these magnificent animals as they go about their daily life.

You might be fortunate enough to come across a Secretary Bird striding through the grasslands.  They occur singly and in pairs – it is always worth scanning the veld to see if you can spot another one.

Zebras grace the landscape in Addo – they might occur in small groups or in much larger ones that stretch across the side of a grassy slope. They are always a delight to observe.

I am always pleased to come across the large Mountain tortoises that lumber through the grass or patiently cross rocky areas. This one was taking advantage of a puddle in the road after rain.

Then there are the beautiful Cape Glossy Starlings that brighten the landscape.

By keeping an eye open for more than just animals, you get to enjoy some of the many butterflies too.

DON’T EAT ME!

When you are a soft and squishy larva of a butterfly you need to send out a clear message to potential predators: DON’T EAT ME – rather find something else looking less fearsome and palatable! This message is loud and clear in these four examples:

AUTUMNAL CATERPILLARS

They have appeared all over the garden – all within two weeks. All are spiky and brightly coloured:

This is one of several threading their way through the grass on the lawn.

Several have been crawling along the outside walls of our house.

Some have even been seen wending their way on the lid of the dustbin.

I won’t venture to guess which butterfly these are the larva of but, judging by the number of them in our garden, we should be getting a lot of them here sometime!