Sunday, July 17, 2011

Summer in Winter

Strelitzia captured in the garden today [17/07/2011]

Lately, we have been enjoying day after day of picture-perfect weather.  Balmy temperatures in the mid-20's (that's degrees Celsius, of course!) during the middle part of the day, with cool nights perfect for snuggling under our duvet. This is not usual for this time of the year. This is mid-winter in South Africa and, where I live in the Western Cape, it is meant to be our rainy season. We are meant to have crisp, cold days with plenty of rain. It has not rained for well over a week now and there has hardly been any wind, with most days not only clear and sunny, but perfectly calm as well.

Could it be that we are having Summer in Winter? Does this mean we'll have Winter in Summer?

Cape White-eye enjoying a juicy orange

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Right now, the birds think this is the very best place to be. They have plenty of food (berries, nectar, worms and grubs in the garden, in addition to filled birdfeeders containing a selection of seeds, nuts, bread cubes, apples, oranges and suet). The birdbaths are emptied and filled every couple of days and they have an abundance of nesting materials from which to choose. Consequently, our garden has been a hive of activity with birds flitting left, right and centre, providing us with many hours of viewing pleasure.

Our resident male Lesser-collared Sunbird

Today,  I suggested that my husband take his camera into the garden and set himself up on a comfortable chair, to wait, until the birds arrive. He has always wanted to do this, but never manages to find the time to do so in a dedicated fashion. He certainly made up for lost time, today! He took loads and loads of lovely pictures, of which I've nabbed only a few to share with you, as several of you have mentioned how much you enjoy seeing our birds, often quite different from those elsewhere in the world. 
Look at the beautiful iridescent colouring of those feathers! He knows he's a beautiful creature!

A Red-eye Pigeon coming to snack on seed in the feeders. I have quite a few feeders in different designs hanging from the branches of this tree.

The Swee Waxbill's love this feeder and usually arrive in fours or sixes at a time. They are dear little birds, endemic to our area. This is a male.

Swee Waxbill (female) patiently waiting for her turn at the feeder.

This juvenile Olive Thrush kept popping up on top of the wall between us and our neighbour's property.

Swee Waxbills enjoying a feast of seed. They really like this particular feeder.

Resident female Lesser-collared Sunbird having a drink at one of the two nectar feeders in the garden. The squirrels love these feeders too!

Amethyst Sunbird (female)

Amethyst Sunbird (male)

This is so much easier than sipping nectar from a strelitzia!

Aren't I better-looking than that uppity male Lesser-collared Sunbird?

No, I'm not a bird! I'm a Gecko! Some birds find our sort a tasty snack, so we have to camouflage ourselves well.

We hide beneath rocks, stones, bark and leaves during the day and come out to hunt for moths and mosquitoes at night.

I also have quite a few of my own pictures to share, taken both in our garden and at one of my favourite nurseries, Aspidistra. I unfortunately had a bad day, photographically speaking, so my pictures are not of the best and I had to delete far more than half of those I took. I was very disappointed, as I had spent ages trying to compose artistic shots. I guess experience is a great teacher, so I'll just have to learn as much as I can from the experience, won't I? Nevertheless, I had an enormous amount of fun viewing my subjects, so the day itself was definitely not wasted...

I started off with a cup of coffee and a toasted sandwich at the nursery tea garden...just loved the little milk jug! My husband and the five dogs had dropped me off to enjoy myself for a few hours while they returned home to photograph birds!
The tea garden is set under large, shady trees amidst pretty gardenscapes and an ecclectic style of furnishings is used. Assorted old style garden chairs, some made from wrought iron, others wire and rattan are grouped informally around quaintly set tables, creating cosy little niches for guests. 

Tea garden scene taken with camera phone while waiting for my order to arrive.

Tea garden scene behind where I was seated. I love the colour combinations and textures in this.

The perimeter area of the tea garden is attractively decorated...

I enjoyed my coffee and toasted sandwich in this very pretty and restful setting!

View from the table I sat at in the tea garden.

A selection of clay pots on display.

An interesting wall-art effect created by using dried and treated pieces of vine creeper casually glued together to form an open-weave.

Ladies' slipper orchid.

The nursery has a lovely, deliberately aged and rustic feel to it. This contributes significantly to the feeling of unhurried timeless I always get when I go there.

There were several tin and wire shoes on display.

This idea would work well on a sheltered patio.

This nursery sells not only plants, but freely provides a wealth of lovely ideas for creating your own vignettes at home, using simple, everyday implements and artefacts you've very likely had stored in a garage, shed or loft for years. Bring them out into the sunshine, dust them off and Voila! You have created your own unique little spot in the garden to be enjoyed whenever the opportunity presents itself. You are only limited by your own imagination!

This bust has water trickling over it continuously, hence the lovely mossy covering.

Old gates propped up to make a nice feature/divide are not only practical, but rather striking, too! Hunt for these at flea markets and garage sales.

A rusty daybed makes a statement in this section of the nursery. Piled with pretty, floral cushions and a soft comforter, it would make a delightful recliner under an old, shady tree in your own garden. Bring on the tea!

I loved this urn!

Even broken pottery can be used to create a little feature!

I was fascinated by these wonderful twists of raw wood, or are they roots, or aged vines???

A length of bamboo fencing, a nice old window grid, a pretty clay pot and a piece of airplant. Simple, yet undeniably effective as a focal point.

General view across a section of the nursery.

Nicely laid out paths ensure comfortable browsing in all weather conditions.

These concrete dishes make great birdbaths! I love the way the mirror shards reflect the light.

Such an attractive, yet simple, wooden sculpture. It held my attention significantly!

A stripped old cupboard and table create the foundation for a little work of creative imagination and the pots can be swiched around and changed often to keep the display alive and interesting.

Naive concrete statues placed amongst the different plant groupings add novelty to the scene.

A simple wooden garden structure used to create a charming garden room with seating for two. Clever and inexpensive, especially if you have any old bits of wood begging to be given a new lease on life. Hang pretty planters on the cross beams, get creative with your flooring and add a windchime, some creepers, and an ornament or birdfeeder or two and you have your own special little haven to escape to when things get too much!

The owner is also passionate about using old pieces of wood and has quite an extensive collection which is not for sale.

A fun place to hunt for that special little something to add a bit of whimsy to your garden.

Look at that clear blue sky! This is a mid-winter's day! I'm strolling around with a thin, long-sleeved top and feeling pleasantly warm.

Adding height to a garden using old furniture topped with various plantings and artefacts.

This archway caught my eye!

Chairs and tables are used extensively as potplant displays or even planted up themselves, depending on the type of chair.

Not everyone's interpretation of an Angel, but certainly different and interesting in its own way.

This caught my eye!

The nursery is maintained immaculately. Staff are quietly busy throughout.

Don't throw that old wheelbarrow away...use it as a water feature! I had not seen this done before. Everyone seems to use their old ones to plants in. I did!

Something unusual...

A clever idea for building a water feature out of scrap.

A small, yet very attractive water feature perfect for a spot on the patio tucked amongst lush foliage.

A pretty Mandevilla vine with an early flower.

Several archways are used to divide the nursery into different spaces. I would love to have a couple of archways in my own garden.

There is so much to see and take in. This is not a place you come to if you are in a hurry. Part of the charm is being able to enjoy it at a leisurely pace.

Attractive stone pots planted up with wispy grasses. Simple yet very effective.

These large concrete Angels are particularly evident at the moment.

Concrete casts decorated with mosaic pieces and bits of chipped mirror can make attractive garden pieces. This nursery makes use of heart shapes a lot.

There is a lot of ironwork on show with the rusted-look featuring most predominantly. Much of it is old and weathered, giving it even more character than new pieces treated to look old.

The water features come in different styles, shapes, sizes and are suited to a range of budgets.

There are water-features tucked into every available space throughout the nursery...some small, others quite grand. Part of the delight of any visit is the sound of water that follows you as you wander about. In addition, many exotic birds and fowl are housed in aviaries strategically placed throughout the grounds. They are so well integrated into the overall design, you often don't realise you're beside one until the resident bird tweets at you! Many wild birds fly freely about, and this all adds undeniably to the magic of the moment. I am able to drift about contentedly for several hours, even though this is by no means a large nursery.

There are little vignettes throughout this nursery and these are changed frequently. The owner is passionate about landscaping and garden design and keeps the nursery fresh and vibrant at all times. Consequently, there is always something to be surprised by with each visit.

If you have time to browse, you'll find interesting plants tucked away amongst the little displays throughout the nursery grounds.

I thought this made an attractive 'sculpture' The Palm is not growing in the pot! It is a large tree planted firmly in the ground in the background. I thought it added something to the empty pot along with the broken garden fork.

A rusty birdcage serves as a focal point for a small, concrete and mosaic, mirrored, water feature.

Art from junk...this nursery specialises in featuring original Junkyard Art, some of which really is quite striking. I thought this a clever way to display old spades.

I loved this daintily flowered plant.

Broken pieces of pottery casually grouped on the rungs of an old ladder, softened by the addition of asparagus fern.

A clever idea for decorating with stones and pebbles.

I do hope you enjoyed this look-in at my favourite nursery, Aspidistra!
 The final few pictures were taken in my own garden this afternoon...
A selection of special little rocks collected from all over. The latest added to the collection was brought back for me by my daughter after she and her Dad went to Beaufort West. It's the rock immediately behind and to the right of the little stone bird.

This birdbath needs a scrub. I'll do it tomorrow!

One of my favourite indigenous shrubs in full bloom at the moment! I must find out what it's called next time I'm at the nursery!

Fallen leaves to remind us it is indeed winter! Although there's so much green about, the trees above are bare!

Coco's camelias are flowering well, now. She'll have plenty to pick up from those that fall to the ground.

Our strelitzias are coming into bloom now. They are called Bird of Paradise in some countries, and are native to South Africa. The Sunbirds love them as they are dripping with nectar!


  1. Both Strelitzia pictures are gorgeous, one of my favourite flower. You truly have summer in the winter as we have autumn in the summer. Germany does not have more than 17 degress today, pretty grey and moist. Somehow unfit for July! What I wanted to add: your posts are always worth waiting, you make me dream while seeing your lovely pictures. Maybe one day I will visit SA! Thanks!

    so much to see...i KNOW i'll have to come back and wander between the photos again...and way can i see everything in one sitting!

    such GORGEOUS birds...and bird of paradise...your pictures are awesome!!

    and that nursery!! amazing! i think you could wander through there...for hours...and still not see everything! the wood...all the little things...the tea garden...

    then on to your house again...i LOVE your little rocks...stones...i too have such similar things...

    OH and the gecko! i can't forget him!! when i lived farther south...we used to have these almost see-through geckos that only came out at night...i love lizards!!

    what a wonderful post, as always take us on such memorable journeys...and THIS one in particular...i'll make sure to come back and stroll again!!

    (ps - about my post...nope, i have no idea which mushrooms are edible...i keep thinking of getting a book...but then i day, i'll remember! :))

  3. ((OH...i was FIRST!! i was FIRST!! unless someone clicked that publish button before me....))

  4. Such a lot to take in!
    The birds, with their amazing colours are quite fantastic - like from another world. The Bird of Paradise flower is also other-worldly. I've had one in a bouquet, but of course haven't ever seen one growing.
    The garden centre - hard to believe it's just one centre! - is fascinating. So many good ideas - you must have had a grand time noting them all. Seeing the iron window grate reminded me that I have one to plant up. Most years I'd consider it too late in mid-July, but summer hasn't arrived here yet, so perhaps I'll give it some attention this afternoon.

  5. Wowie, Zowie! This post was jam packed with awesome photos of you husband's and yours! I love your birds with their variety of colors and long beaks.

    I don't think we have any places like your nursery around here. I love it! I could spend a number of hours there, too.

    Thanks for your nice comment on my last post. A friend of mine and I went to a garden tour of a guy who has lots of daylilies today. When I said I didn't have room for more, my friend said I should go up the curb on the side of the yard. At first I didn't think it would work, but then thought we could go down a little further than we already are. I'm not sure if I should bring that up to Larry this summer, though.

  6. What a wonderful three-part treat you gave us today, Desiree! First the great photos your husband took of the birds. They are so colorful, I just love looking at them all. You must thank him on behalf of your readers.

    And then the nursery! So much unique stuff to see, and want! I need to find a chair for my garden to use just for holding potted plants. I couldn't help wondering as I was looking st mosaic items if you have ever done any more mosaics. I remember the mirror you did, and it was so delightful.

    And then the pictures of your garden, and your strelitzia! Such a beautiful and exotic flower. You are so lucky to be able to grow it.

    Interesting that you are having summer in winter, while we here seem to be having winter in summer. I think this is going to go down in weather history as the summer that never was. It is still rainy and cold here, even in the middle of July. Great for you, but a bit worrisome.

    Thanks for the great visit with you! I wish I could do it in person.

  7. You have surpassed yourself yet again.

    This is a fabulous, wonderful, excellent, super post.

    I adore 'Birds of Paradise' flowers and I now know their correct name.

    The icing on the cake was the photo of that most beautiful lesser-collared sunbird which I saw for the very first time when I visited South Africa and fell in love with them.

    Desiree I am never disappointed when I visit here.


  8. I love the bird eating the orange. Neat photos.

  9. If we have winter in summer why shouldn't you have summer in winter? mid-twenties? Chance would be a fine thing for us.

  10. Des my friend you have posted another masterpiece. Your's and your hubby's pictures make me want to magically transport myself to South Africa where I can see these sights first hand. To say I enjoyed the pictures would be an understatement. Thank you for giving me so much pleasure on this Sunday evening around 6:30 PM. Have a wonderful week.

  11. Wow these are gorgeous. I've never seen some of those birds before. The lesser collard one has a beak like a hummingbird. However I have seen my share of lizards as I used to live in NM. lol I loved the garden ones were lovely. I would love to go there.

  12. What a treat once again Desiree! I wish my strelitzia would flower - but I understand I have to have patience and it will eventually bloom. In the meantime I will enjoy your lovely photos. The one thing I most adore about visiting SA is going to those nursery/come tea gardens. Yours is spectacular - I would always be finding excuses to drop in. the cherry on the top was those wonderful bird photos your husband had taken for you!

  13. I love the birds they are great so beautiful and I loved coming here and seeing such wonderful photos.....Thank you so much for making my morning with such lovely photos.......

  14. Thanks for strolling us through that awesome nursery-I really enjoyed it, but I think your backyard birds are truly showing off! LOL

  15. I don't know which ones are better, the birds or the nursery photos. They are all so beautiful, it's difficult to pick. You sure do know how to compose a picture.

  16. What a wonderful post! Do thank your husband for the excellent bird captures -- such beauties, especially the sunbirds! And thank you for letting us tag along to that gorgeous nursery.

  17. Tell hubby he has taken some fabulous bird shots. You do have fabulous birds too. That nursery was something different with novel ideas. A great place to relax.It sounds like you have our winter and we have yours. We have had cold and rain when we usually have a dry sunny winter.

  18. Hi there my friend. I really don't know what to say, for words just aren't enough to thank you for that wonderful treat and stunning photos in your post today!! Wow, Wow, and Wow might just cover it, but I see that someone else has already said that. My goodness, didn't your husband do extraordinarily well with those bird photos. Fantastic, and really, worthy of publication in any magazine, or even a book. Do thank him on behalf of all your little bloggy friends! As I said before, the sunbird is awesome! Your photos were really interesting, I have to say, and you really did get some super compositions in your shots. What a wonderful place to just stroll around - a photo opportunity at every turn I would imagine. Thank you again my friend. As for us, well I have just woken up and it is damp and dreary (that awful drizzle that seems to get into everything!) :(

  19. That bright sunbird is so beautiful!

    Nursery looks pretty fabulous too and your winter is looking far nicer than our summer at the moment! Enjoy the blue skies for me this week! xx

  20. Good Lordee-bee woman , was that a long post or what ? I feel like I go on and on too, sometimes we have to divide them up into two or three posts as it is so much for a reader to take in at once. Plus I know how long it takes to ' produce' that a post like that---hours ! Gorgoeus pictures, love the birds, the flower/tea shop and your garden. Thanks for being so kind to remember me on my blog--you are such a sweetie, take care, Gina

  21. What beautiful photos! After each one I thought 'Oh, I'll mention THAT one", but it's like trying to pick a favorite child...I simply couldn't. Thanks so much for sharing such a beautiful part of the world with those of us who otherwise would never witness it!


  22. My first thought was that you spoil the birds a lot. But they are beautiful. I'm intrigued at those with a curved beak, but it's really useful for drinking from your feeders.
    The nursery you went to is more than a flower shop, it's a garden paradise, it seems. A lot of good ideas to take from there. And, about the wheel barrel as a water feature... If it has a lot of holes, it would really be a pain to hold water in it.

  23. I certainly like the sound of your winter temperatures! What a cute little fellow the Cape White Eye is. You must have been very patient to get such a good photo. Also thanks for taking the time to comment on my butterfly photo.
    Photography is certainly helping me learn to appreciate the beauty of nature so much more.

  24. Lots of great ideas at this nursery, I would take home all the rusted iron pieces of fences and else. Great place!!!
    hugs Desiree

  25. Your weather sounds comparable to mine in the Mts of CO. What a great bird photo!

  26. Just when I thought you couldn't possibly top your posts .... there, you go and do it again Desiree!
    A magnificent post :D)

    The most beautiful birds exist in your garden. Oh that luminesence (I'm sure the spelling is wrong - eek, sorry Laura ;-))

    I adore the great little eating places you hunt out and photograph. You not only share pictures, you share the mood and feel of those places.

    What a nursery - I'd have to be dragged kicking and screaming from that place. Such a multitude of ideas for making our treasured gardens even more special.

    Wonderful Posting !!

  27. I love visiting you here. The pictures of the birds and plants are amazing - unlike anything we have here in Canada - that I've seen anyway. I could spend hours in the nursery/tea garden. So beautiful!

  28. Oh Desiree! This post takes my breath away! What an incredible nursery you have there to visit! Looking at the photos gave me so many great ideas . . . I can hardly wait to be back among the walking, and able to get outside and create an oasis in my own backyard. Thanks for sharing not just the photos, but the commentary. I am continually amazed by the birds and scenery where you live.
    Thank you for your uplifting comments. It is so reassuring to know others care about my recovery.

  29. It's always like a mini-vacation coming here. The birds are lovely and even the pigeon is exotic looking to me - never saw one like that before.

    Thanks for sharing your life ;-)

  30. Your garden contains some exotic looking blooms! And the birds! Absolutely lovely! I don't think we have some of those here---I looked out and saw a brown thrasher and two mockingbirds. The cardinals have been flying around such that they seem to be playing a game of tag! I never thought of placing an orange out there for them---I'll have to try that. I also need to scrub the birdbath- thanks for the reminder!

    That nursery is amazing! I love it when creative types create art from found objects! I think I would have spent the entire day there just looking around! Thanks for sharing!

  31. So much beauty in one post!! The first picture of the Bird of Paradise took my breath away, but each photo surpassed the previous one! It was like chocolate for the eyes! Loved it!!

    And, to answer your question about my sign...nope, no one has come to claim the weeds! But, there's always hope for tomorrow.

  32. Oh my gosh these are the most amazing , colourful photos. You do have beautiful birds in your neck of the woods. I am so glad you explained the different kinds. This is a great beautiful post. Thank you for sharing. B

  33. Just pure heaven to visit you! I bounce from Africa to Sweden..from the East Coast of the U.S. to the West coast...what a life!
    Please do thank your husband for finding the time to photograph those birds. I have birds in my home and have for many years...and to see these in the wild, nothing like we have in Southern California, was such a treat! Please! Thank him for me?
    Love and hugs,
    And dear friend...thank you for your visit. My blog is suffering terribly and I know it. :(

  34. Well, I thought I was in love with the Sunbird until I saw the Pigeon. What beautiful eyes!

    And, you kind of out did yourself with the rest of the pictures. I could take snap shots around here for a month of Sundays and never find subjects so interesting or beautiful.

    Dad's in the hospital with cellulitis, but doing fine.

    I was in the ER last Tuesday for food poisoning which will probably end up on my blog. I'm fine now.


  35. What a lovely day you had and the tea room is beautiful. Very peaceful.
    Thank you for sharing.

  36. Amazing photos! Your birds are so colourful! I love all of the sculptures and features in the nursery. I would peep through the holes of the wooden sculpture to see what they framed.

  37. This is a fantastic post. I once worked as a manager in a nursery that had a similar garden, although much smaller. It was my dream to work there. Unfortunately it was sold to a big developer and now is a parking lot for a grocery store. I cried when they took everything away. So thank you for sharing these pictures. I would have loved to have walked there with you. Also I love the birds your husband photographed...I think they are the most challenging to capture.

  38. It is great that you know all the names of those birds. I have always wished I had the patience to be a bird watcher and learn their names. The Tea Room and nursery are lovely and I love they way they repurpose old items to give them new life. So many great ideas here. My own little patch of flowers is gone- my evil, horrible landlord came banging on the door and insisted I cut all of my lovely flowers down. She didn't like them (apparently in her unimaginative American suburban mind, plain lawns are preferable) and she said she was allergic. Like her allergies should matter at my house. I was so sad/mad, but at least the anger helped keep me motivated while I worked. Anyhoo, some day, I hope to live somewhere with a real garden like you have.

  39. Dear Desiree, As everyone has noted, you and your husband take glorious photographs! I so enjoyed journeying with you to see birds, nursery, and your garden.

    What I especially liked? the Lesser-Collared Sunbird and the Swee Waxbill, the dried vine creeper design, the urn, the serene angels, the stones-and-pebble design, and the sturdy rock your daughter gave you.

    Oh, too many to type them all! Thank you.

    And thank you also for visiting my blog and posting three comments. Wow! I'm thrilled at your picture taking, your writing, and your comments--especially about the convent schools you attended and the nun you still remember. Thank you for sharing that with me. Peace to you today. Dee

  40. What an amazing nursery. I just loved seeing all the displays they had, so many great ideas!
    What beautiful birds visit you garden, so many colors and sizes. The sunbirds are so pretty.
    Sounds like perfect winter weather to me.


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