MY JUNE 2022 GARDEN

It is at this time of the year that the Cape Honeysuckle puts on a fine show of cheerful bright orange flowers so beloved by sunbirds, weavers, Cape White-eyes, bees and butterflies.

Aloes vie for space among the crassulas plants edging our swimming pool. They too provide cheer and attract the Greater Double-collared sunbirds, weavers, Black-headed orioles, and Black-eyed Bulbuls as well as bees and ants.

The Spekboom growing in various places in the garden does not mind either the icy weather or the drought.

A large flock of Red-winged Starlings visit the fig tree daily and often perch in the top branches of the Erythrina caffra to catch the early morning sun. These trees are now devoid of all but the hardiest of leaves and are covered in clusters of black seed pods that have split open to reveal the scarlet ‘lucky beans’ inside. Flower buds are making their spiky appearance, so before long the trees will look resplendent in their scarlet blooms.

A Black-headed Oriole perches in one of the many Pompon trees that are rapidly losing their leaves. The formerly beautiful pink blossoms now look like miniature floor mops that have been hung out to dry.

A male Garden Inspector / Garden Commodore (Precis archesia archesia) sees what the Canary Creeper flowers have to offer. We have seen very few butterflies in our garden so far.

LATE POMPONS

Every summer we are treated to a delightful flush of fragrant, pinkish-mauve flowers that cover the many Pompon (Dais cotonifolia) trees in our garden. Some of these we planted, but most are self-seeded. They looked particularly lovely during December, when the trees were blanketed in pink blossoms.

Now the trees are covered with the more muted colours of the dried flowers and the swimming pool has to be regularly cleared of the petals as they are separated from the trees by the hot wind fanning through the garden. Their fairly brief period of glory is over. But wait … look at these bright spots poking through the foliage.

Here and there a branch, or even a whole tree, has brought forth a fresh range of flowers for us to enjoy.

Although these trees occur naturally along the eastern part of South Africa, from the Eastern Cape, through the Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and into Limpopo and Mpumalanga, the flowering season seems to vary slightly. Here it is usually between November and December, so to find such pretty flowers coming out near the end of January is a real bonus!

A NEW BEGINNING

Our garden was dramatically transformed by the light rain received during December. One of the delights has been the prolific blooming of the Dais cotinifolia or Pompon trees, many of which are self-seeded. They are fast-growing indigenous trees that adorn not only our garden but many others in town. They have also been planted as street trees and are easily discernible in the wild, where the profusion of pink flowers stand out.

The blossoming of these trees will forever be associated with the annual visit to us by my late mother over the Christmas period – what a beautiful reminder they are of a truly beautiful woman whose visits we looked forward to enormously! Seeing them now, it is difficult to believe they were bare and skeletal looking the previous December.

The first sign of their recovery is the appearance of their smooth, simple leaves with their veins forming very clear patterns.

In the photograph of Klaas’s Cuckoo I featured recently you could see the round heads of the flower buds on the Dais cotinifolia.

In some you might just see the pink of the flowers in tight bunches inside. These heads pop open to reveal the beauty within.

The flowers attract butterflies, bees, as well as Cape White-eyes. The appearance of these pretty blossoms always signal a new beginning for me. They last for about three weeks and so are still looking pretty on this first morning of a new year.

THE FINER DETAILS

From the magnificence of the trees around us to a closer look in the garden. Cosmos flowers have been delighting us for months. They keep re-seeding themselves and so the bed has been a mass of pink, white and a combination of these colours. The flowers are so prolific that one actually has to look closely to see the seed heads.

The Pompon trees were among the first to put out leaves at the start of spring and it has been delightful to watch their skeletal branches getting lost in the thick foliage, leaving only the dried reminders of the flowers from last season.

Recent rain has encouraged the buds to swell, to allow glimpses of pink to show, and now these trees are covered with beautiful pink blossoms that will need to be showcased on their own. Pink is cheerful – and we are enjoying a lot of it at the moment. Pale blue is also welcome and so are the plumbago flowers that are starting to make their presence felt next to our pool and along the garden path.

HOW GREEN IS MY … GARDEN

I keep harping on about the drought, and with good reason for both Howieson’s Poort and Settler’s Dam have run out of water – leaving our town in dire straits. The very light (and little) rain that has fallen has not been enough to provide the much-needed runoff that will make its way to these vital storage dams. Nonetheless, the rain has made a noticeable difference to the vegetation and has been captured in hollows, such as this aloe leaf in my garden

The aloes now have a beautifully green backdrop that provides shelter for the birds.

Our forested garden is becoming rejuvenated: the Natal Fig is heavy with fruit that attracts African Green Pigeons, Red-winged Starlings, Speckled Mousebirds, Cape White-eyes, Olive Thrushes, and many other birds. The pompon trees are filled with swelling buds that will soon provide a beautiful display of pink flowers – and the Cape Chestnut is already blooming!

Fine droplets of welcome rain cling to the leaves of a canary creeper.

It is a pleasure to sit in the shade outdoors and to enjoy all of this green – last December our garden looked apocalyptically brown and skeletal!