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:


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


We had to rid our garden of several exotic cacti when we arrived – all too large for a previous collector to remove and definitely not child-friendly with all those spikes around! A row of Christ Thorn (Euphorbia milii) lined the front path, their scarlet flowers reminding me of gardens I frequented in my youth, when these plants were very popular. Over the last few decades we have planted numerous indigenous trees and as they have grown and created shade, these Christ Thorns withered so that I was sure we were going to lose them altogether.

Now that the drought has thinned out the vegetation and halted the spring flush of new leaves; now that there is no deep filtering of the sunlight, they are thriving once more and providing a tiny splash of colour in an otherwise fairly colourless garden. They need full sun to grow well and have certainly proved to be drought tolerant.

I need to don some thick gloves to move them to a better spot for, given good growing conditions, they flower for much of the year. These plants are native to Madagascar and have found their way around the world because of their suitability for growing in pots as well as in gardens – and the fact that they need little water to survive.