The Phyto-Philes: South African Winter Garden, Part 1

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Winter Gardening in South Africa

Willem is a wildlife artist based in South Africa. He says "My aim is simply to express the beauty and wonder that is in Nature, and to heighten people's appreciation of plants, animals and the wilderness. Not everything I paint is African! Though I've never been there, I'm also fascinated by Asia and I've done paintings of Asian rhinos and birds as well. I may in future do some of European, Australian and American species too. I'm fascinated by wild things from all over the world! I mainly paint in watercolours. . . but actually many media including 'digital' paintings with the computer!"

Aloe pegleronae

Wintertime in South Africa is dry, but not particularly cold. My garden gets hardly any frost. I make a point of having lots of plants that flower in the winter, attracting nectar-drinking birds as well as insects. Aloes, especially, are a major food resource in the winter, and are visited by many birds not necessarily thought of as nectar drinkers, such as weavers, bulbuls, orioles and woodpeckers. My first photo shows an Aloe peglerae, a small species with a compact rosette that remains at ground level. This is a rare species, confined in nature to the Magaliesberg region. Many succulent enthusiasts have removed plants from the wild, substantially reducing the population. I've grown mine from seeds.

Aloe muderensis

The next shows Aloe mudenensis, a medium-sized species. This one comes from Kwazulu-Natal, and though it has a limited distribution, there are still many left. It develops a short stem and rosettes reaching about a metre in height. The flowers are borne in compact heads at the tips of a branched inflorescence. They vary in colour from yellow to red, with various intermediate shades of orange and pink.

Aloe rupestris

The third photo shows an Aloe rupestris, one of the largest aloes, reaching 8 m/27' in height, although mine is still small! It has bottle-brush-like flowers emerging in branched heads. This species is also rare in South Africa, found only in the warm far eastern regions. This one and the previous one I grew from seeds as well.

To see some of the invertebrates attracted to Willem's winter flowers, Click here.

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