SEPTEMBER 2020 GARDEN

The postage stamp size garden I am endeavouring to maintain with far too little water has yielded great pleasure in terms of colour. Especially pleasing are the Namaqualand / African daisies. I planted a packet of out-of-date seeds in the bare, dry ground with great faith and have watched them anxiously from the first tiny shoots to the orange and yellow flowers that open with the sun and wave merrily in the breezes.

Growing plants from seeds in a drought is a risky affair and so I caved in once our local nursery opened and bought calendula seedlings. These have survived being chomped by several locusts to produce pretty blooms, such as this one.

The miniature marigolds were also purchased as seedlings, but very few have survived the onslaught of snails.

This Van Stadens River Daisy (Dimorphotheca ecklonis) originates from plants my late mother grew on our farm in the now Mpumalanga.

To my considerable joy, several self-sown cosmos have grown up from last year’s crop.

A very strange thing I have discovered since the COVID-19 lockdown began is that there are no flower seeds for sale in the supermarkets. At first they weren’t allowed to sell any seeds (don’t ask) and now only have vegetable seeds on offer!

NO BEES

Bees have been very scarce in our garden for a while now. I am thus concerned that the few flowers we have enjoyed this winter have fallen foul of the lack of pollinators.

BUT WE HAVE THESE:

While looking at the stunted, yet very pretty, self-sown cosmos I noticed it being visited by this insect:

A much closer view reveals it to look like this:

It moved to the next flower and was joined by this one:

Both have a long proboscis. There are a lot of ordinary flies about too, so I realise I need to stop thinking about bees, butterflies, moths and beetles being the only pollinators – nature makes sure there is a variety.

WINTER GARDEN 2020

The winter cold is associated with the end of a vibrant life cycle and a period of dormancy as shown by these leaves and the dead dahlia head:

Leaf litter

Dahlia head

Most of our trees are evergreen, as are the euphorbias and aloes:

Euphorbia

Aloe leaf

The aloe flowers are both beautiful and provide important nutrition during this harsh season.

Aloe flowers

Blackjack seeds abound, just waiting to be dispersed.

Blackjack seeds

While self-sown cosmos make a brave start.

Cosmos seedling

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.