Wednesday, April 25, 2012

True Blue

Nature is always full of surprises, I guess that is why I love gardening, there is always something new and unplanned happening.

I spend a lot of time researching the plants that I add to my garden, but sometimes it's the unexpected gifts that turn out to be best. Some time ago I bought an Indigofera frutescens from the nursery at Helderberg Nature Reserve. In the pot was another tiny seedling of something. Not knowing what it was I planted it any way.

My free gift has turned out to be Felicia echinata. It has grown so well that it is almost as high as the tree I bought it with, in fact you can barely see the Indigofera between the leaves. I am sure this will change but in the meantime it is providing some lovely colour.

There are about 84 species of Felicia of which 79 are found in Southern Africa.

Felicia echinata has long stems branching out from ground level. These stems reach a height of about 60cm and are covered with small glossy green leaves with prickly toothed margins. Two to three beautiful blue daisy type flowers are found at the tips of these branches. Mine only ever seem to get one flower per branch. The flowers are about 20mm in diameter and occur between April and October.

Some of the branches first grow along the ground before turning upwards and occasionally these ground hugging parts will send out roots.

Felicia echinata is a really worthwhile addition to any garden , growing well in a sunny position and adding interest even when not flowering.

Another one of these blue daisies I have growing is Felicia amelloides. This is a small shrub, reaching a height of about 60cm (mine are lower) with almost equal spread. The oval leaves are covered with very tiny hairs giving it a sandpapery feel. This Felicia will tolerate light shade. The characteristic blue daisy type flowers stand out above the leaves, borne on stalks about 180mm long. It occurs naturally in the southern and eastern Cape, but is often confused with Felicia aethiopica which is found on the Peninsula. I am not entirely sure that I have F. amelloides although this was what the label said when I bought them.

Regardless of the name, these are really lovely fillers to a shrub border and mine are seldom without flowers. Unlike most other Felicias the flowers on these remain open even at night.

Finally made it to join Wildflower Wednesday -by the skin of my teeth.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Rain Spider Babies

Great excitement in the garden on Thursday evening. 
My daughter spotted this rain spider nest about 10 days ago and has been keeping a watchful eye on it ever since.

Thursday evening just before 7p.m. she went to have a look, an ear-piercing squeal told us something was happening.

Yes! The spiderlings were emerging from their nest.

Hundreds of the little things climbing out and heading off into the safety of the thick ivy.

The nest is against our boundary wall with quite dense shrubbery in front of it.
Getting these photo graphs meant climbing through this heavy plant growth and getting quite close, all the while wondering where Mommy spider is. Female rain spiders can be quite aggressive when they have babies to protect.

All these photo's were taken by my son, which finally gave Mom the opportunity to get her own back. He has always been the practical joker in the family and has been the cause of more than one heart stopping moment. It was getting dark when the last few photo's were taken and I was standing behind him holding a torch. Then I saw my chance – I tapped him lightly on the shoulder and yelled. The reaction was perfect! He jumped back almost dropping the camera, ready to run but almost fell over me who by then was rolling on the ground with laughter.

Rain spiders lay between 50 and 300 eggs. I don't know how many babies came out of this nest but it was a lot. There were at least 30 visible on the nest at any time, with a continual mass exodus lasting almost half an hour.