30 July, 2014

A Swartland garden in July

- gardening for biodiversity

Our garden decides which colour features thru the year. Red and yellow flames echo the kitchen hearth at the Owl House. I've learnt a deeper love for my blue-green Melianthus major as I see it cherished by Northern foreign gardeners. Theirs is cut down by frost, and mine is bravely cut to the ground, stalk by stalk as the seeds fall. Strelitzia is not only flame-coloured, but also flame-shaped.

Teeth on the leaves of Melianthus major
 about to open

My potted indigenous bulbs are dominated by the most vigorous self-seeder Lachenalia rubida. Thick fleshy leaves smother delicate bulbs. Tall spires of glowing coral-red flowers form an avenue between the ash trees. Scatter your path with rubies, my lady? I have a potful on the kitchen shelf.

Lachenalia rubida avenue under the ash trees

Down the driveway, the exposed to passersby part of our garden, the jewel among the olives is Japanese flowering quince Chaenomeles speciosa (from China) - a July birthday gift to the previous gardener and me. Seagull sculpture is a gift from my middlest sister, now far away. Memories locked in there - we went to the artist's studio when I was still at school.

Japanese flowering quince and gull sculpture

Our tiny baby leopard tortoise Stigmochelys pardalis is endemic to Africa, including Sudan to Ethiopia. They eat milkweed and succulents, then disperse the seeds they have eaten. In the wild, this little tortoise could live to one hundred. More pictures at ispot za.

Baby leopard tortoise with Aragon our cat for scale

Our garden flock of pin-tailed whydahs, sparrows, weavers, red bishops, doves and pigeons, is hungry, and happy to eat morning and evening - also between meals if we are showing the house. Aloes and pig's ears for the sunbirds. Witkaree berries harvested by red-cheeked mousebirds.

Winter birds dining with Spirulino

First impression of the garden is yellow. Two pools of sunshine in Euryops pectinatus daisy bushes. Finely divided soft grey leaves. Endemic to the South-Western Cape. Sparked by the carpet of lime yellow Oxalis pes-caprae - our neighbours weed with fury, but I welcome them. Potted for False Bay Ifafa lilies are blooming.

Euryops pectinatus with Oxalis pes-caprae
Ifafa lily

Chasmanthe floribunda in my chosen buttery yellow, but some tackle yellow with such exuberance that they revert to orange. Growing tall and heavy, they need to be planted deep.

Chasmanthe floribunda

As we tidy the garden for the next guardians, I rediscovered the repeating pattern of bulbs along the path to the front door. White trumpets of arum lilies are the July focus in Paradise (and Roses). Camphor bush has flowers followed by white puffs of cotton for the birds to line their nests with.

Front path, white arum
camphor bush flowers and seeds

July is our coldest month. Our previous record minimum was -0.6C on 13th July 2010. We remember that day as our solar panel sprang a leak. In 2014 we hit new record lows says the South African Weather Service, and we woke up twice, to frost in the garden, and 'icebergs' in the birdbath. 9th July we were -1.3C and on 8th July -0.7C. We watch the weather forecast, and the Ungardener drains and disconnects the solar panels till all danger of frost is safely past.

Neither my garden nor I am prepared for FROST! I gathered up lady finger banana, my mother's Hoya and orchids ro spend 2 nights on our verandah where it was plus 1C. Today it is sunny and 25C!

Prepared for frost and waiting on the verandah
False Bay garden in transit

A wistful look back at our garden. One eye is looking to our False Bay garden where we found a carob tree!

Under the ash trees in July
Wildflower Wednesday @ Clay and Limestone. The quince, Hoya and orchids are non-South Africans.
End of the Month View with Patient Gardener. The bits the camera and I enjoy.

Pictures by Diana of  Elephant's Eye
(in Porterville, near Cape Town in South Africa)

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Photographs and Copyright

Photographs are from Diana Studer or Jurg Studer.
His Panasonic Lumix FZ100 (info from Panasonic)
My Canon PowerShot A490 (info from Canon)

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Midnight in Darkest Africa

Midnight in Darkest Africa
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