LEAVES IN MY GARDEN

While there is not much in the way of flowers in our wintry garden – and the temperature seems to drop by the day – there are a variety of interesting leaves. The first of these are the remnants of the Sword Ferns (Nephrolepsis exaltata), which I try to keep under control so that they do not overrun the garden. Here they are caught in the dappled afternoon light:

Next are the beautifully shaped leaves of the Delicious Monster (known in some quarters as the Swiss cheese plant), which outgrew its pot years ago and now has the freedom to expand in the shadiest part of the garden:

There are not many leaves left on the Frangipani (Plumeria) tree, as most of them have fallen off and lie wrinkled and brown on what should be a lawn beneath it:

Having looked at the exotic plants, let us turn to some of the many indigenous trees and shrubs. The first of these is the Ginger Bush (Tetradenia riparia), which is in bloom now while putting out a new lot of leaves, which is why they are still so small:

Almost leafless is the Blinkblaar-wag-‘n-bietjie (Ziziphus mucronata) growing near the front door:

The beautiful shape of the leaves of a Cussonia (Cabbage) tree is silhouetted when I sit in its shade:

Lastly, these are the rather thin-looking, slightly shrivelled leaves of the Spekboom (Portulacaria afra) that will flesh out once the rains come:

TWO DROUGHT FLOWERS

I happened upon a ‘survivor’ in our local Currie Park. This Giant Candelabra Lily had miraculously missed being chomped by the Urban Herd that have eaten most of the saplings planted there over the years to provide shade.

The background to this lovely flower shows that between the cattle and the drought there is no lawn left; a brave Vachellia is valiantly putting out new leaves from what is left of its stem; and a ‘visiting card’ has been left on the right.

A real bonus for my drought-stricken garden has been the magnificent blooming of Spekboom for the second summer in a row!

DROUGHT FLOWERS

Happily, despite the drought, our indigenous garden shows pops of colour now and then. The predominant colour that has brightened the garden over the past few weeks is the light blue of the Plumbago.

Plumbago

The biggest surprise though has been the pale pink blossoms showing on our Spekboom for the first time ever, even though this particular plant has been growing in the garden for about seven years or even longer.

Spekboom

So, those of you with ‘bloomless’ Spekboom in your gardens … there is hope after all!

BLOOMING SPEKBOOM

Drive through the semi-arid sections of the Eastern Cape at this time of the year and, despite the drought, you might be puzzled at first by the pinky-mauve blush of colour to be seen on the bush-covered hillsides. A closer look will reveal the very pretty flowers of the Spekboom (Portulacaria afra).

These tiny star-shaped flowers look particularly beautiful when appearing en masse.

The Spekboom tolerates poor soil and is a drought survivor, making it an ideal garden plant. Although I have had Spekboom growing (from slips) in my garden for some years now, they have yet to blossom. Perhaps it takes the plant a while to ‘settle in’, but I am looking forward to the day when they sprout some pink!

YOU CANNOT BOOK THE WEATHER

The camp sites in the Addo Elephant National Park are so popular – even during the week and out of the traditional ‘holiday seasons’ – that one has to book way ahead. As the time approached we scanned the expected weather daily: cold and rainy … cold and rainy … then our day of arrival was forecast to be warmer and dry: good for pitching the tent at least. The day before we left the temperature had risen to 46°C and all signs of rain had disappeared.

We had not bargained for either the strong wind or the smoke and dust-laden air that filled the sky at least from Port Elizabeth to Grahamstown. What should have been a twenty minute job of setting up camp became longer: the ground was so hard that we had to drill holes to get the tent pegs in; the wind whipped every corner of the tent and flysheet and shook it; the tent billowed and guy ropes were whipped out of our hands even as our eyes filled with dust and grit and the smoke from veld fires assailed our nostrils. Thank goodness for the thick hedges of Spekboom planted between the camp sites: they not only provide a degree of privacy for campers but afford some protection from the wind.

At Domkrag the reeds swayed and bent in the strong wind which shook the carefully woven nests without mercy.

A Red-knobbed Coot (Fulica cristata) battled its way through the water weeds as the wind swept down the hill and buffeted all the water fowl that dared to be out on the open water.

Others, like this pair of Yellow-billed Ducks (Anas undulata) sat on the bank with their heads tucked well in.

The late afternoon air was thick with smoke and dust.

With the bonus of a dramatic sun approaching the horizon, casting its golden glow on the surface of Ghwarrie Pan.