In our spring equinox week we have had rain, snow and temperatures falling across parts of the country. It has been a bit of a mixed blessing but new growth is very evident including in our garden and sunshine is back today.
Earlier in the week we were fearful of heavy rain. In two days we had 34 mm (1.3 inches) but nothing too hectic. A sudden hail storm was nerve-wracking while it lasted but mercifully it turned out to be very short and the spring leaves and blossoms survived with no shredding, thank goodness.
The rain finished on Tuesday and so yesterday (Wednesday) I took my camera round the garden for a quick photo-shoot to record whatever caught my attention in this equinox week. The showy flowers of the weeping boer-bean (Schotia brachypetala) can’t fail to catch the eye.
Aways a favourite of mine are the new leaves on the properly deciduous Pompon Tree (Dais cotinifolia). I say ‘properly deciduous’ as the leaves on these trees fall early in the winter and the tree is completely bare and looks very dead for months, and then the tiniest of shoots appear and burgeon quickly into a lovely veined freshness.
I can’t resist featuring again the spring-flowering African dog rose (Xylotheca kraussiana). This year the tree has a profusion of buds and only a few have opened so far.
Previously dormant plants have sprung up rapidly including Barberton daisies (gerberas) and blue squill that are already flowering.
This flowering Merwilla (previously Scilla) is different with a shorter flower spike than the Merwilla plumbea (formerly Scilla natalensis) that we also have in our garden.
I am very fond of this indigenous gerbera with the white fronts to the petals each backed in a deep pink. Its botanical name is Gerbera ambigua.
Principal pollinators of the Gerbera ambigua are a variety of beetles that feed on the pollen.
The shiny leaves of the Ochna shrubs are a delightful complement to the yellow flowers that feature in the header photo and the photo below. I am never certain if we have Ochna natalitia (Showy Ochna/Natal Plane) or the similar Ochna serrulata (Carnaval Ochna/Small-leaf Plane) in our garden.
The Ochna flowers are a real buttercup yellow but with flowers that are quite a bit larger than the average buttercup. I have just nipped outside to measure a flower and to my surprise all those that were in flower yesterday have dropped their petals with just the calyx remaining. The remaining buds have not yet opened. What a difference a day makes!
The Mackaya bella – hardly ever referred to by its common name ‘forest bell-bush’ has started flowering. Only under ultra-violet light are the ‘landing lights’ that in low-light conditions guide the carpenter bees that pollinate these flowers visible to human eyes.
This is the first time this scented pelargonium has flowered since it was planted as a cutting. We snitched a cutting from a border of plants on a pavement (sidewalk) in our neighbourhood. The very next week we discovered that the new house-owners had dug them all up so we got the cutting just in time!
I could only photograph a cluster of sagewood flowers (Buddleja salviifolia) that was high up in the tree as the lower flowers were either over or still in bud.
And this is the first of the everlasting grassland plant Helichrysum cooperi to flower this season. Most of the others in the garden are not yet in bud. These plants self-seed very generously and they provide good weed-preventing cover even in the dormant parts of the vegetable garden.
Although most of the flowers of the tree fuchsia (Halleria lucida) are over and some branches are already sporting fruits to the delight of visiting birds and vervet monkeys, I was able to photograph some sprays of flowers that remain.
On another tree a sparser array of flowers remain on the stems and branches. Some green fruits can be seen the top right of the photo above. As they ripen the fruits turn a purple-black.
The tall and foresty Natal wild banana (Strelitzia nicolai) that can grow up to 8m (26ft) high is not as well-known as the more manageably-sized Strelitzia reginae known as the bird-of-paradise of crane flower. Both strelitzias are in flower currently in our garden, but the Strelitzia reginae is still recovering from hail damage some months back and has only managed a few flowers so far.
Occasionally the sunshine broke through the clouds yesterday afternoon, backlighting the flaking and papery copper-coloured bark of the copper-stem corkwood (Commiphora harveyi), a tree that is also sporting a fresh flush of leaves.
Flowering well this season is a small clump of arum lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica), known in some regions elsewhere as calla lilies. These lilies are pollinated by beetles among other insects.
Fresh leaves are emerging on one of the Combretum trees while older leaves, some deepening in colour to orange and red, remain on the tree.
These green and white Albuca flowers have not yet opened and the buds appear candy-striped at this stage. With about 60 species of Albuca in southern African I am not going to try to figure out which particular species this one is.
The white stinkwood (Celtis africana) that grows just outside our garden on the margins next to the eucalyptus plantation is well on its way to having its full canopy of leaves. The indigenous Celtis africana can hybridise with two exotic species in the same genus. These are Celtis australis (nettle tree) and Celtis sinensis (Chinese hackberry) so I am not certain that what we have is the ‘real thing’ or a hybrid.
The wild pomegranate (Burchellia bubaline) has a reliably long flowering season and attracts many insects, spiders and birds. Sunbirds in particular are attracted to the nectar, and many insectivorous birds visit the dense cover of this plant to glean insects and spiders.
The trumpet-shaped flowers of the wild pomegranate are arranged in small posies and the colour darkens as the flowers age.
Wishing you a happy equinox – be it spring or autumn – as we are momentarily poised on the cusp of a new season.
Posted by Carol