May in our False Bay garden during COVID lockdown

by Diana Studer

- gardening for biodiversity

in Cape Town, South Africa


We had good rain in May and fierce windy storms. No flooding, filling our dams nicely. But parts of South Africa wait for rain with empty dams. Hypoestes aristata a haze of purple flowers, feeds bees, that furled petal so intricately spotted. Blue grey leaves of Cotyledon orbiculata work well for my blue and white Cornish Stripe. For Gail's Wildflower Wednesday at Clay and Limestone in Tennessee


Hypoestes aristata with bee
Hypoestes aristata with bee

The weather suits the aloes which are, wait for it, wait for it, in bud. Flaming red aloe torches against snowy mountains epitomise our Cape winter for me.


Aloes in bud Cotyledon orbiculata bottom right
Aloes in bud
Cotyledon orbiculata bottom right

May garden flowers for Through the Garden Gate with Sarah Down by the Sea in Dorset

Blue Felicia, mauve Plectranthus saccatus, deepest red Lachenalia bulbifera.

Tiny white Crassula capitata, white fragrant trumpets Jasminum angulare, lime gold terracotta Euphorbia tirucalli.

Soft yellow Hypoxis, chrome yellow Euryops daisies, golden orange Tecoma capensis.


May garden flowers
May garden flowers

Mystery caterpillar waits hopefully on iNaturalist, but has disappeared from my garden. 

Cucullia sp. perhaps??


Mystery caterpillar
Mystery caterpillar


We removed the dead Searsia. Chipped and bagged to solarise. We have three Halleria lucida in our garden. Large one across from the Adirondack patio. Medium one already in the tapestry hedge on the verge. Among the pebbles on the beach at our pond was a volunteer sapling. Potted up and it flourished. Waited a couple of weeks for the sand to settle, and planted tree number 44 in that gap.


Halleria lucida for the tapestry hedge gap
Halleria lucida for the tapestry hedge gap

We have lemon flowers and tiny Tahiti limes, a steady supply of Iceberg roses (and one rosehip). Perennial basil planted for bees is constantly in flower.


Exotic May flowers
Exotic May flowers


Paired shell of a giant clam is a souvenir from his travelling days. Thomas, no accounting for taste, finds it a PERFECT pillow. He has his missiles ready, if we move away before he has had enough cuddles, he hurls his weapons after us, with a very satisfying THWOCK. Protea seedheads brought home from hikes, are perfect cat toys, the right size and weight to chase.


Thomas on his shell pillow with missiles ready to fire
Thomas on his shell pillow
with missiles ready to fire


Zöe dwarfed by Marie Antoinette's towering powdered wig.


Zöe in pompadour
Zöe in pompadour


And sitting pointedly peering into the fire. Something wrong here! This is usually warm?


Zöe waiting pointedly for the fire to be lit
Zöe waiting pointedly for the fire to be lit


We wait patiently for Monday when our lockdown lifts to Level 3. We can walk, while the sun is shining! Instead of with vampires from 6 to 9 on a winter morning - we will have 6 to 6. Giving working people some chance of fresh air and exercise. Beaches and parks are still Look but No Entry.


Gazing wistfully at Look but DoN'T Touch sea in COVID haircut and underslung mask
Gazing wistfully at Look but DoN'T Touch sea
in COVID haircut and underslung mask


Phoebe sings - How long 'till this is over?? Homeschooling dad raising the bar. Her proud granny, one of my original blog buddies; Being Me is an English teacher and writer.


Last two library books, still waiting for them to reopen. Maybe July??


Beatrice MASINI - The Watercolourist

That was fascinating - escapism from lockdown. A young English woman is commissioned to paint the plants in the exotic garden of Villa Manzoni near Milan two hundred years ago.


Kathleen BARBER - Are you sleeping - when you wake up your nightmare begins.

(Could be a tagline for us and COVID) A journalist investigates an old murder case. Her progress is on the web in But WAIT There is More daily posts. Addictive ... until our heroine realises it is about HER.


Trawling my own bookshelves


Laurens VAN DER POST - The Seed and the Sower

A Christmas trilogy. Japanese prisoners of war. Intense, but beautifully written with deep empathy for every character, both the 'good' and the 'bad'.


Edith WHARTON - The Age of Innocence

My father's mother came from New Zealand to visit the family, their two little girls. She stayed for the Duration, as there were no ships home during the Second World War. I never met her, but this solitary book has survived, passed from her son, to his wife, to my sister, to me. I read with double pleasure - for the fine writing, and lingering to wonder why my grandmother cherished this book. Written in 1920 and yet it seems timeless.


Choose your parents carefully


Meet the doctor leading Africa’s fight to contain the Coronavirus pandemic


Cape Town is a hotspot


Masiphumelele shows us we can succeed —together


How South Africa’s action on Covid-19 contrasts sharply with its response to Aids


From the future: life in Denmark after the lockdown


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Pictures by Diana and Jürg Studer

of Elephant's Eye on False Bay


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  1. Your garden is so colourful despite the fact it’s winter. Thomas’ antics made me smile. Our cat used to throw missiles at us too. Enjoy your extra time outside. B x

  2. I have never seen the aloe flower like that, it’s beautiful, so exotic , Thomas looks so pretty amongst his treasures and Zoe truly does look like she wants her fire lit lol, enjoy your step up from lock down!

  3. I love all your exotic flowers so stunning to have so much colour despite the season! always! Thomas and Zoe made me smile they have found unique corners of your garden! Hope it won't be long until you can get closer to the sea. Stay safe. Sarah x

  4. As impressed as I was with the Hypoestes (SO MANY more flowers than mine!), I love the cat photos. My Pipig, at 12, is also somewhat playful but instead of tossing seedheads, she brings in live lizards from her "catio" to show off and bat around (until we manage to catch the lizard and put it safely back outside). Unlike Zoe, she relies on a heating pad for warmth, and complains if we've fail to turn it on when she's ready to sleep on it.

    I hope your release from lockdown goes smoothly. Ours isn't going at all smoothly but that has to do with events unrelated to the pandemic.

    1. Indeed - take care.

      Too warm for a fire today, Zoe is using me as a heating pad.

  5. Your garden is very beautiful. The flowers are so exotic. It is my first time to see some of them. The cats are funny, I like them a lot. I hope you can soon go to the beach.

  6. beautiful flowers and cute kitty!

  7. Love the iceberg roses, and the aloes, and the colorful May flowers. And of course the kitties! Hoping you will stay healthy. This is a very strange time, but gardens are more important than ever!

  8. What a fascinating caterpillar, did you ever find out what it was. Lovely blooms in your garden Diana.

    1. Not yet. But I hope that one day on iNat someone will recognise it.

    2. Will you let us know when you find out? It looks fascinating. Shame it didn't stay.

  9. I love Zoe's pompadour - it was the same style as my hair during the last part of lockdown. A hair cut, dental appointment and a slow stroll around town were my first pleasures after being released.

  10. Exotic May Flowers indeed, The Aloes in bud really caught my eye.

  11. Lovely. Being locked in gives you a new appreciation for the wonders of a garden.

  12. The caterpillar looks astonishing with its stripes, I wonder what it is.

  13. Zoe's pompadour is worthy of her queenly attitude.

    The Aloe is a beauty--which one is it?

    1. The open flowers are A. marlothii. The tight buds (now much taller) are A. ferox

  14. Dear Diana,
    as you know, my friend, for me as an Austrian colder climate person your garden and your garden plants are always exotic. Your aloes are amazing, but what I really really love is the smell of lemon blossoms. Thank you for that. Happy to read your confinement to the house is not that strict anymore. Enjoy your "new freedom". All my best and happy days