Summer is over and, in spite of the continuing high temperatures during the day as well as uncomfortably warm temperatures at night, the sun rises much later now and sets far earlier than we would like. The oppressive heat and impressive build-up of clouds late this afternoon – which included a few very loud rumbles of thunder – yielded 1mm rain. So, autumn is here: far from being a “season of fruitfulness” in terms of harvesting vegetables [thank you drought] it is nonetheless a season of seeds. Here is a selection from my garden today:
These fluffy seeds come from a weed I have still to identify. This particular one grew over six feet tall – I was so awed by its height that I left it to grow in a crack outside the kitchen door.
The beautiful flowers of the Gladiolus dalenii have left these seed pods behind.
Then there are the Cape Gooseberries that have seeded themselves around the garden. Their sun-kissed golden fruit make a welcome addition to a fruit salad. Sadly, there have been so few of them so I wasn’t able to make jam this year.
A dwarf marigold has laid down its head, ready for the autumnal sleep. Its vibrantly coloured petals will continue to fade before falling off to reveal the short black seeds at its base. I hope they will fall on fertile ground next summer.
The pretty pink blossoms of the pompon trees shrivel to look like miniature paint brushes before they finally let go and drop to the ground. Many of these trees growing in our garden have grown from seed.
The scarlet seeds from the Erythrina caffra are beginning to litter our driveway – always showing up brightly against the piles of dry leaves swirling about in the breeze.
It is time to brighten up this blog, which has reflected the muted colours of winter for too long. This is the time of the year when the buds of the Erythrina caffra trees create a sense of anticipation of the scarlet beauty in the offing.
At this stage they don’t look like much, until these buds begin to unfurl to look like this.
Blossoms so eye-catching that they are worth photographing again and again …
If I can capture one of the many birds that frequent these trees during the blossoming period, so much the better. Here is a Cape Weaver sampling the delights.
Catching the warmth of the early morning sun after a chilly night by perching on the top branches of the Erythrina caffra were an African Green Pigeon:
And a Cattle Egret:
Daily temperatures remain warm to hot and we still hope for a chance of rain. The seasons move on regardless of what we wish, hope or do: the sun rises significantly later and sets noticeably earlier; deciduous trees shake off their drying leaves with each breeze; the afternoon light seems a little softer … There are no dramatic changes to the season here in the form of beautiful colours and yet – a real tell-tale sign that summer has bid us farewell are the cluster of black seed pods that hang down from the Erythrina caffra. They burst open to reveal their hard scarlet seeds that glisten in the sunlight and gradually drop to the ground.
When you see these lying about, you know there is no turning the clock back!
There are no beautiful bulbs peeping through the ground and, so far, no pastel pinks of peach blossoms or the delicate white of flowers on the plum tree. The prolonged drought has meant that once again the arrival of spring has not been heralded by an array of pretty flowers appearing among the last of the winter grass. These will all have to wait until we finally receive a soaking spring rain. Not all is lost though, for at the end of winter and well into spring we are blessed with the scarlet blooms of the Erythrina caffra.
This is a relatively young tree growing just around the corner from where we live. If one walks to the top of Hill 60 and looks down on the town stretching out below, there are spots of red all over as these trees bloom profusely before putting out their new leaves. We have ancient, giant trees, in our garden that are far too large to fit into a photograph. The best I can do is use the opportunity to show you a closer view of these blossoms that brighten the post-winter landscape.
These flowers are low down on the tree and can easily be seen from our back gate.
I also have a delightful view of the tree in our neighbour’s garden and can observe the birds visiting it every day: Black-eyed blackcaps, Olive thrushes, Black-headed orioles, Common starlings, Red-winged starlings, Cape Weavers, Village weavers, Greater double-collared sunbirds, Amethyst sunbirds, Laughing doves, Red-eyed doves, Speckled pigeons, Fork-tailed drongos … and so many more.