It’s the second blisteringly hot day of an autumn heatwave worthy of midsummer. Perhaps it’s a catch-up to compensate for a not terribly hot summer which has seen fruits take longer to ripen and the frustrations of a no-beach lockdown period. The fruits can be picked, but by the weekend we are expecting rain, so a beach day may not materialise. While we wait for the start of our rainy season here in Cape Town, keeping the garden watered is a challenge. No doubt we all have multiple water storage tanks as a result of a very steep learning curve on water conservation in recent years, and these have been the saviour of many a patch of grass or even mature tree.
When I look at photos of the garden taken over the last 30 or so years, it is easy to see how the seasons have become drier and the plants that once abounded in lush flowerbeds surrounding verdant lawns have become only photo memories. Today, aloes dominate the beds, with plumbago, pelargoniums, bougainvillea and agapanthus surviving the dry conditions. Several trees have succumbed and others have replaced them, but the main concern for the future garden is the amount of shade being lost as the trees relocate! My most successful plants are the shade-loving clivias and bromeliads, with their showy leaves providing interest all year, and random splashes of bright colour throughout the seasons. Their success is due to my not having to interfere with their thriving, as they can exist undisturbed even though a little water and food is beneficial (my gardener constantly reminds me of this).
The large area between the house and the road has been the main victim of drought. This was once fed by a spring which kept the soil so moist that digging a hole resulted in a mini pond. Extensive development further up the hill and the voracious appetite of the gum tree nearby has depleted this water source to the point of no return, and where restios once flourished, their slender reeds forming perfectly symmetrical domes reaching shoulder height, only sand and stones remain. It will take many years of above-average rainfall to restore any form of ground cover to this sad area.
We are currently under a different form of lockdown – the baboons have returned and we must keep all doors and windows closed as they pass through. Not the most fun in a heatwave.