Random Harvest Newsletter - January 2016

Posted On: Friday, January 1, 2016

 

Dear Indigenous Enthusiast,

Even though it is a bit late all my staff and I would like to wish you all a very happy 2016 - I hope all your dreams come true. 

I was really happy that we started off the new year with some nice rain – wasn’t that a blessing?

The change in the grassland on the farm is nothing short of miraculous and Jeffrey and I are just loving driving around there to check what has popped its head up. 

It is amazing what a change in outlook a little rain brings.

 

In The Nursery

Jeffrey, Fritos and Aubrey have built a beautiful forest garden display.  I think they have outdone themselves with what they have created. 

I hope you will be inspired to try some of the many beautiful plants that can be planted in shady areas, which so many people think are difficult.

 

For those of you with tiny gardens or small spaces on a balcony or in your garden, Jonathan has planted up a whole butterfly garden in containers. 

Butterflies are not fussy about how big the space is, as long as you see to their few simple needs they will grace your garden with their presence.

He has also made a butterfly and insect water feeder which we are trying out.  When times are dry the insects really struggle with getting water as most of the water in our gardens is too deep for them to use. 

We are experimenting with an insect and butterfly water dish.  We have cemented pebbles and gravel onto a terracotta saucer (this is to make cleaning easier).  I will keep you posted on its effectiveness.

The Waterwise Garden in the nursery is looking absolutely inspirational.  All during this dry time it has flourished and borne masses of flowers.  It has been proof of how important it is to group plants with the same water requirements together. We also grouped plants that need a little more water, placing them in dips and run-off areas.  I am really impressed with it.

 

Plants That Are Looking Good

I thought that since we have a forest display I would talk about some shade loving plants you could use in your garden.

Gloriosa superba - Flame lily (E); Vlamlelie (A) This beautiful bulb will climb up into your trees and reward you with beautiful orange and yellow flowers with petals that look like flames. It climbs with tendrils at the tips of the leaves which twine around branches and other plants. They make beautiful cut flowers. Keep relatively dry in winter
Chlorophytum bowkeri Very hardy, robust, deciduous perennial with basal, attractive, folded, strap-like leaves. Densely packed, small, pure white, star-like flowers that close in the evenings are borne on long spikes from Dec. to April and attract insects to the garden. A beautiful plant for large, shady areas and semi-wild forest gardens. This versatile plant also grows in sun and damp or rocky areas
Impatiens hochstetterii - Mauve Impatiens (E) This pretty semi deciduous plant has attractive glossy leaves with a pink petiole that accents the pretty small pink flowers that are borne en masse. Plant in the shade in compost rich soil. Prune back in winter. A lovely soft mounding plant for shady areas. If they are affected by frost they will re sprout or re seed in spring.
Crinum moorei - Moore’s Crinum (E); Boslelie (A) Fast growing evergreen bulb with beautiful broad, flat, bright green leaves in a rosette on the end of a short stalk. The long flowering stalk carries a head of large, pink tubular flowers in beautiful umbels. The flowers are scented in the evening indicating that they are moth pollinated.
Plumbago auriculata and Senecio tamoides. This mix of Blue Plumbago and yellow Canary creeper is really beautiful grown along a fence as a colourful backdrop to shady area. They bloom together and make a stunning show. Prune after flowering to keep tidy and encourage flowering.
Bauhinia tomentosa - Yellow Bauhinia (E); Geelbauhinia (A) This shrub of gorgeous yellow flowers with a dark spot in the middle is ideal planted on forest edges. As long as it gets some sun at some time in the day it will thrive and reward you with gorgeous flowers that attract many insects to the garden. Prune it lightly to encourage it to bush out and produce flowers.

The grasses also come into their own at this time of year when they begin to seed. Some of them are truly beautiful when in seed. They are such graceful plants that add movement to the garden even in the gentlest of breezes. Added to this, some of our most beautiful bulbs grow in amongst the grasses.

Aristida junciformis - Ngongoni Three Awn (E) This forms a beautiful fountain-shaped tuft and is gorgeous planted en masse or as a single feature plant. Use only the bigger bulbs such as the Pineapple Lillies (Eucomis) in between as it is a robust grass
Eucomis comosa - Slender Pineapple Flower (E); Krulkoppie (A) This robust, deciduous bulb is ideal for planting in between the bigger grasses. It has spikes of beautiful pink flowers and the leaves are tinged with maroon as well.
Melinus repens - Natal Red Top (E); Natalse Rooipluim (A), The plumes of beautiful pink seed heads glow in the sun. This grass grows in small tufts and is ideal for planting up a grass bed with bulbs and perennials in between.
Lapeirousia sandersonii – Autumn Painted Petals (E); Bou-angelier (A) Painted Petals is a fitting name for this beautiful little bulb. Each petal has beautiful markings. It is a very hardy plant which is seldom seen in cultivation as the seed is really hard to come by. Plant in amongst pebbles and grasses for a beautiful show.

I had to add a few plants that are flowering so profusely you just have to be tempted by their cheerful flowers that are so full of life.  Plants can give a person so much joy when we take the time to really look at them and if they are indigenous to see the life they support.

Hermannia muricata - Poproos (A) This tiny shrublet may be delicate but it bears masses of beautiful hanging flowers. Plant in full sun for the best results.
Sclerochiton odoratissimus - White Lips (E); Witlippe (A) This attractive, glossy leaved, small shrub bears masses of pretty white flowers that are streaked with red or purple lines and are wonderfully fragrant in late summer and autumn. The flowers are like little hands facing the sun. It is a sight to behold when in flower especially with all the insects that visit the flowers.
Barleria greenii - Wild Bush Petunia (E) Beautiful deciduous spiny shrub with the most amazing pink Petunia-like flowers. They are sweet smelling at night which suggests that they are moth pollinated and have copious nectar that attracts Carpenter Bees and other insects to the garden. Plant in full sun and prune right back in winter to ensure mass flowering the next season.

Domestic Gardeners Course

Lindsay Gray will be restarting these popular courses again next month.  The first course is on Friday, 12th February.  These courses do make a difference to the people that attend as well as for their employers.

Please book early if you would like your gardener to attend.  The cost of the course is R650. Contact either David on 082-553-0598 or Lindsay on 082 44 99 237 or email [email protected] to book

On The Farm

We have had some exciting birds visiting us.  

This Red billed Quelea visited the bird feeding table for the first time. 

So far he hasn’t let all his many friends know about it. 

They could land up eating us out of house and home if he calls his whole flock to the bounty offered up by the feeding table.

Jeffrey took this picture of a Red Backed Shrike. 

This is only the second time we have seen him here at Random Harvest. 

He really made himself at home in the Ehretia rigida (Puzzlebush).

The Black Crowned Night Heron definitely seems to have made himself at home down at the dam.

We see him there almost every time we go down to the dam.

The Moorhen who is resident at the dam now is getting really cheeky and carries on with his business regardless of who is down there. 

The other day we saw him foraging out of the water and in among the Sacred Ibis for the first time. 

It is really great when the birds get so used to you that they carry on with their business and give you an opportunity to really observe them in their natural habitat.

 


 

The Acacias have been absolutely amazing this year.  They seem to have responded to the dry conditions by flowering with masses and masses of flowers that last for ages.  The Acacia tortillis (Umbrella thorns) actually bloomed twice.

The Acacia rehmaniana (Silky Thorn) are still blooming and have had flowers since November.  I have never seen this before and some of the trees are 30 years old.

The Acacia karroo (Sweet Thorn) have been absolutely stunning.  Each time it has rained a bit they have burst into flower with really intense sulphur yellow flowers.  The scent of the flowers has been something to experience.  Never before have I smelt them so strongly fragrant.

I even discovered I had a big Acacia nilotica (Scented Thorn) which bloomed for the first time this year. Generally the trees have been amazing in this dry time.

Nature really responds to things we don’t notice.  The frogs started serenading 2 days before the rain came – How do they know?   I am upset if I wake up in the night and they are silent. 

I feel very privileged to be able to go to bed and be serenaded by the (very vocal!) frogs, listen to the gentle calls of the Thick Knees and hear the calls of the Jackal – Lucky me! I am upset if I wake up in the night and they are silent.

This Bullfrog decided to bury himself in one of the pots Mike has in his area where we are testing new species.  Mike is not happy with the Bullfrog who destroyed one of his precious plants – I on the other hand was ecstatic at seeing the Bullfrog.

Mike is not happy with the Hadedas either who probe in his pots and pull his plants out.  Well! That is life at Random Harvest.

Amazingly we have seen quite a few Chameleons this year.  It has been a number years since I saw any of them.  I am always excited to see them – it also means we are doing something right as they are really susceptible to the use of poisons in the garden.

I am always happy when I see my staff sharing in my love of nature.  Here is Meshack, who loves nature, with a huge grasshopper on his back.  Instead of chasing it or killing it he really seemed to enjoy the experience.

The dead tree on the island in the dam finally rotted and fell over.  We went and replaced it with this one.  Luckily we replaced it on a really hot day so the guys really enjoyed their dip in the water.

It didn’t take the Cormorant long to make himself at home on his new perch.

I have started replacing some of the Kikuyu grass at the dam with grass plugs that I have grown from seed that I collected on the farm.  We have started with Imperata cylindrica (cotton wool grass).  This is in the hopes that the Grass Owl will come to breed in it. 

It may take a few years but here’s to living in hope.

When the rain did come it was with real violence.  This old Willow tree got struck by lightning and it was right under the lightning conductor.

The centre of the tree had dry rot so it went up like a chimney.  I have never seen anything like this before.

It was amazing and I must say exciting.

Not only did it strike the Willow but also some of my packets of Figs under the Acacia sieberiana (Paper Bark)

Jeffrey took a real chance burning these palm leaves and other plants we are unable to turn into mulch.  He was so close to the compost that my heart was in my mouth after the last episode of my compost catching alight.  But I should have just had faith in him and trusted him because, invariably, he does know exactly what he is doing.

 


 

We had the children over from Ikusasa the home for street children.  I must say they are amazing and very loving.  I was so pleased to learn that after we started paying for their transport to school their pass rate has gone up from 64% to 100% pass rate.  They used to walk 30 km to and from school.   No wonder they were too tired to do their homework.

I also love teaching them about nature and bringing them to the farm.  They have so little opportunity to be in nature.

After my friend Charles Craib died his mom gave me his glass house.  We are busy reconstructing it in the nursery.  I am really pleased as every time I see it I will think of him and what an amazing friend and botanist he was.

I just had to add this picture of bugs in the Paperbark.  I thought it was a beautiful picture.  Even though they may not be the best for the plants I think we all have a place and as long as they are not doing huge damage they are also allowed to live with us.

A few of my Mom’s chickens have hatched clutches of babies.  I must say they are really cute and have already learned to run to the Golf Car to get their food from my mother.

Quite a few people had functions in our Tea Garden over Christmas and all seemed to really enjoy themselves.

The retail was also really busy over Christmas and I would like to thank all of you who supported us over this time.  It is really appreciated.

Once again all the best for the New Year and may all your plants be indigenous.

Sincerely

Linda

Cell 079-872-8975
email [email protected]

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