Saturday, December 05, 2009

The garden changes in time and season.  Take photos of the garden in the same way as taking photos of kids growing up. It is not obvious from day to day,  but looking back on the photos there are differences and a lot of memories.
The aloes in bloom. All aloes do not bloom at the same time, but most from the summer rainfall area, bloom in winter. ( the seeds will be ready for summer rain)  That is about 90% of the species in South Africa
The scene is calm and pretty,
the mesembs and daisies are not in bloom yet.
Now the mesembs and daisies are in bloom too. The last blooms on the racemes of the red hybrid (Aloe ferox X Aloe arborescens) are opening.
It is a carnival of color and some visitors are having a ball.  These glittering little bugs are harmless to the flowers. They live on nectar and pollen, assisting in the pollination of the plants in dry harsh ecosystems where there are not many bees.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The back door garden without a lawn.
That was a wise decision.

Way back we reached a point where keeping the lawn healthy and green became too much of a task. At that point we received notice of water restrictions - that was the last straw.
We dug up every piece of grass. The photo below was taken after a few month's work has been done and planting the aloes have already started. June 2005.

The aloes - blooming or not - are much prettier than a
half-dead lawn and the bonus is that it needs a lot less work and we do not water at all, the rain is enough.

The scene on this photo above is at the opposite side of the tree. One of the portions planted first. The aloes are from left to right:- Aloe ferox x Aloe arborescens, Aloe mutabilis x Aloe arborescens and Aloe cryptopoda

This planting is next to the tree. 
The aloes are Aloe petricola x Aloe globuligemma hybrids which Rudi raised from seeds (far left side on the photo). The close-up below shows more detail. Rudi planted a group of five plants which shows off very well when blooming together.  Aloe petricola has an upright raceme and the raceme of Aloe globuligemma is horizontal. The hybrid plants seems to be somewhat confused which pattern to follow, but I am quite happy with that, it gives an interesting effect.
The hybrid come in two colors. Dark orange
opening to yellow and red-pink opening to a creamy white, both with black stamens.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Aloe speciosa the aloe that turns it's rosette facing to the north.

The size of the raceme is 43 cm long and 27 cm around.
That is not remarkable for this species but it is very pretty on a young plant with a stem that is not over a meter high.
Aloe speciosa starts off growing upright like any other aloe, but it soon turns the rosette sideways facing north.

Aloe speciosa blooming in the Karoo. This aloe is a tree aloe, these plants would roughly measure between 3 and
5 meter in hight. The record is 6 meter.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

There is something nice and not so nice in all seasons.
Our winters are wet, but mild with brightly colored
wild flowers.
Welcome! new visitors to our blog. We are at home
in the south western province of South Africa.
Winter is in the middle of the year. Aloes recover
their full splendor very quickly once the rain starts.
This is Aloe rubroviolaceae (Yemen)
dry and shrivelled hanging on to life.
Photo above was taken in March 2009
Photo below was taken in June 2009.
The brick is there to give an idea of the size.

What a difference the rain makes!

Why not water the aloes year round?
We have water restrictions but that is not
 the main reason - aloes must have their
natural dry cycle. Aloes that are watered
and grow in shade tend to become soft.
Insects, snails, fungus and bacteria 
will quickly find a spot to break the 
skin and damage - if not kill- the plant. 
 The leaves grow long and sloppy and
the flower stalk grows further apart 
which does not show off the flowers 
so well.   Note in the background.
It is very difficult to see I happen to
 know it is there. The flower buds of
Aloe sabaea.  Very faint to the right 
of the Aloe rubroviolaceae racemes
Another gem from Yemen. 
I will show it another time.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

This nest of the  malachite  sunbird Nectarinia famosa can be right in your face and it will still be invisible. We have two sunbirds on a regular basis in our garden in the Western Cape.  The  malachite sunbird with the male a glittering green all over and the smaller sunbird  Nectarinia violacea (also refered to as Anthobaphes violacea) where the male has a glittering red/orange breast. The females of both are little brown jobs. They love the nectar of the Aloe sp. and also the Cotyledon sp. I am not an expert in birds feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

The nest was exactly the height of my face right above the path. I do not know if the they hatched any chicks but the sunbirds must have spent a lot of  time building the nest  without us noticing them.
It is a pity that I do not have a camera with a zoom.  The birds will think nothing of sitting right next to us when we are in the garden, but we must not have anything in our hands.  I tried walking with the camera.  Fine, they got used to it, but the moment I lift it in their direction, they dash away.
There are more nests in the garden.  The juveniles resemble the females I guess we might have seen some without realizing they are "our" birds.
All birds are welcome in the garden and we see to it that they get some treats and water,  but we are not into birding as such.
---------------  I had to add this September 2009.
I found this little female sunbird  nesting on the other corner of the house.

The height of the nest above the ground is obvious by the window in the background - the white is the window pane, not the sky, with the reddish window sill at the bottom. The nest is slightly larger than a man's fist.  Now that I know about the nest I make a small detour around the tree, where I would normally pass directly against that branch.  It obviously did not bother the birds in building the nest, but I will do my share.

There are more nests in the garden.  The juveniles resemble the female I guess we might have seen some.
All birds are welcome in the garden and we see to it that they get some treats and water,  but we are not into birding as such

Friday, February 27, 2009

planting under the big tree.

Like most hobbies there is just as much fun in the getting as in the having.  It is exciting to plant small portions of our hobby garden at a time.  Afterwards  we enjoy the memories how and when we got the plants. Some planning and designing went into it, but not anything intelligent e.g. by region, climate or species.
My next project is to create a garden under the Ceratonia siliqua  tree. Half belongs to Rudi (neatly divided like the rest of the garden). I have no idea what his half would look like, my half is for my smaller aloes and
Gasteria as these plants usually grow in the shade of rocks or bushes and this shady space will suite them well.

Giving some idea of the size of the tree. The space beneath
it is a circle about ten metres wide. (15360 bytes)
The outside branches of the tree bend down to the ground
forming a secluded area around the tree, but these branches
had to be removed as the aloes would want some direct sun. (16591 bytes)
The area around the tree was overgrown by trifasciata
which we cleared and replanted elsewhere. The leaves of the
Sansevieria sp. grew dense and long in the shade supporting
each other. Having removed some plants the rest to toppled
over but all will go. (19402 bytes)
Some nice logs to use for decoration. Watch this space !

but the unexpected is what happens in life
missed window.jpg (30746 bytes)
Without warning the tree fell over.  No harm done. The tree hit the corner of the roof  damaging the gutter, but missed the window.
My daughter and I in front of the tree.
for.size.jpg (49523 bytes)
Full grown grandson lying on a sidestem for size.
branch. now. dry.jpg (71791 bytes)
The same branch now without any leaves or life.
... but life goes on.