IT KEEPS ON GIVING

The Cape Honeysuckle is a plant that keeps on giving. We look forward to its bright orange blooms every season, usually appearing at a time when the garden is looking rather drab. This blaze of colour is in our back garden, which tends to be neglected during winter.

Seen close-up, you can appreciate why the blossoms would be popular with pollinators such as ants, bees and butterflies.

There is plenty for everyone.

The tubular flowers are a favourite among the sunbirds. Here a Greater Double-collared Sunbird slips his perfectly formed bill in to reach the nectar.

Weavers generally peck holes in the base of the tube, or snip the flower off its base to get the sweetness they desire. This explains why so many flowers end up on the ground even on the finest of days. Once the flowers are over, one might be forgiven for thinking there would be nothing more to offer. This plant keeps on giving though: its seeds are sought after by, amongst others, Streakyheaded Seedeaters.

Recently I have spotted several bees on the leaves. I cannot be sure what sustenance they are finding there, but I see a few of them out almost daily.

A VERY LATE SPRING

Having waited months for rain and watched the dams dry up, the grass shrivel and die, leaves fall off trees to expose bare branches, and to live under relentless blue skies so beautiful it hurt to look up in the intense heat day after day, after day … it rained. Not enough to ease our water situation – our town still has no running water available several days in the week – but enough for nature to take the gap and do what it should have been able to do in the spring. To quote from Keats, we had to ask Where are the songs of Spring? / Ay, where are they? Now, as summer barrels towards autumn, we are experiencing a spring-like growth in the garden. Not only are the trees that were so bare a matter of weeks ago able to cast deep shade, but the Pompon trees (Dais cotinifolia) are sporting tiny flower buds.

Cosmos seeds planted with enthusiasm at the end of winter have blossomed at last.

The Van Staden’s River Daisy (Dimorphotheca ecklonis) is putting out a few blossoms that are attracting insects.

Crossberry (Grewia occidentalis) flowers are out.

So are the Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata).

Soon the garden will be brightened when the Cape Honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis) comes out in full bloom.

Don’t for a moment think my garden is awash with flowers. These are the few, very few, that have made it through a scorching summer. The important thing is that they have survived and are doing their best to ensure the survival of their species.

SPIDER-HUNTING WASP

Three or four spider-hunting wasps (belonging to the family Pompilidae) have been daily tea-time companions for a couple of weeks. They have been difficult to photograph as they hover above or go in and out of the potted plants on the patio. I have at last captured one on a Cape Honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis) and am showing off its brilliant colours as highlighted by the sun in these three photographs:

NOTE: Click on a photograph should you wish to see a larger view.

CAPE HONEYSUCKLE

Looking through my archives, I am reminded of the long flowering period of the indigenous Cape Honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis) in the Eastern Cape. I have photographs of these beautiful orange tubular flowers stretching from September through to May. There is an abundance of them now, both in gardens and in the veld.

While many gardeners trim these fast-growing plants into attractive hedges, I fight a losing battle against its propensity to spread everywhere. Nonetheless, it is evergreen here and forms a usefully dense screen of glossy green leaves – and I am always grateful for its very attractive flowers.

They are rich in nectar and so attract bees and butterflies as well as a number of nectar-feeding birds. Two I have managed to photograph are the Double-collared Sunbird:

Another is a Cape White-eye:

Despite its unruly, rampant growth, the Cape Honeysuckle is drought resistant and so is a welcome inhabitant in our garden, both in the sun and in areas of semi-shade. It is always a delight to see buds forming as they are the forerunners of a blaze of colour, often when we need it most!

NOTE: Click on a photograph if you wish a larger view.

MY AUTUMN GARDEN

The heat combined with a prolonged drought has meant a paucity of flowers blooming during the summer. A light autumnal rain encouraged a few hardy ones to brighten the space – mostly singly and so each has required a much closer look than usual, which I share with you. First is the Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata). These are generally enjoyed en masse and we pay scant attention to the delicate texture and pattern of the petals.

This is the only lavender flower in the garden. Buds have appeared on other plants since the rain and so I have more flowers to look forward to.

The spreading perennial, Commelina benghalensis is starting to blossom. The flowers are so small that one does not usually bend down to appreciate them. At this stage though anything with colour is worth a closer look!

We are approaching the best time of the year to appreciate the trumpet-shaped orange flowers of the Cape Honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis), another flower one tends to admire from afar instead of appreciating the delicate darker orange stripes on the petals and the dark stamens.

Then there is a scruffy looking geranium that has survived, bravely showing a flower or two that is also worth a closer look in order to appreciate its beauty.

These pictures were all taken with my cell phone.