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Dear Indigenous Enthusiast,
Sorry I have been so lazy as to have missed the newsflash for January. My best friend was visiting from Germany and we had lots to do and talk about so please forgive me.
I wish you a belated Happy New Year. My wish for you is that you wake up each morning full of joy and looking forward to what the day may bring. That the beauty around you fills your heart with gratitude and makes you happy. That the birds in your indigenous garden wake you up and the frogs serenade you to sleep.
IN THE NURSERY
Water in the Garden
Create a creature friendly little pond in your garden. It is inexpensive to build and will reward you handsomely with hours of pleasure watching the life in and around it. The most important points to remember to make the pond a success with the wildlife are:
There are some really good looking water plants in the nursery to help you create a wildlife haven that is really beautiful.
At long last there are waterlillies (Nymphaea nouchalli - Right) in stock. So if you have been waiting patiently we have some lovely specimens @ R77.50
A few sedges on the edge of the pond are important for dragonfly nymphs to climb out on the stem and change into dragonflies while clinging onto the sedge stem. They also help tadpoles hide to avoid predators.
We have stock of these super waterside sedges.
The Cyperus laevigatus (Smooth flat sedge), Juncus effuses (Juncus) and Scirpus sp. are all perfect for this and don't grow too big.
To make the pond pretty and attract insects plant marsh plants on the edge. The Hesperantha coccinea (Scarlet River Lily) has beautiful spikes of pink or red flowers while groundcover Monopsis lutea (Yellow Lobelia) will also grow over the edge and its yellow flowers will attract insects.
The huge leaves and brown flower spikes of the Gunnera perpensa (River Pumpkin) provide refuge and shade for creatures around the pond. The seeds will provide a few meals for seed eating birds.
Crinum campanulatum (Vlei Lily) has such spectacular flowers just to remind you how beautiful indigenous plants can be as well as attracting insects for the wildlife around the pond.
If you don't have a marshy area around your pond for planting marsh plants - floating pots are a really convenient way of planting them. These pots float on the pond. You can join them together, anchor them or just let them float freely.
The instructions for building a small pond will be on our blogspot on the website www.rhn.co.za by 15th February.
Jeffrey and William went on a trip to Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve with Carol Knoll last weekend and their minds were completely blown as to just how diverse and beautiful the grasslands really are.
Suikerbosrand is really worth a visit at this time of the year and it is just on our doorstep. Melville Koppies is another great grassland place to visit right in the heart of Johannesburg. Visit their website on www.mk.org.za for opening times.
You can create a little grassland in a sunny area of your garden. Remember grasslands are full of wildflowers growing in between the grasses. The grasses add movement and a different texture to your garden as well as attracting birds, butterflies and other insects.
When planting a grassland garden remember to space the grasses quite far apart, leave sand patches in between, add lots of wild flowers and driftwood as well as a few rocks and pebbles.
The grasses are looking beautiful as they come into seed. We also have some unusual grassland plants in stock such as Vahlia capensis with its beautiful glowing yellow flowers.
The Felicia muricata with its little white daisies blooms almost all year round in a garden. There are white Barleria pretoriensis, dianthus mooiensis and becium obovatum.
There are also succulents in between the rocks in a grassland such as Delosperma purpureum and Ruschia humata. The Berkheya lyriata that look like yellow Barberton Daisies and the delicate Sutera caerulea, Athrixia elata, Hermannia rugulosa and Lobelia corniculata.
This is just a taste of the variety and richness of the species that grow together with the grasses.
New Year's Resolutions for yourself and the environment.
ON THE FARM
Firstly, Jeffrey is in the dog box. He walks around with the camera as an extension of his arm. The other day he saw a Black Shouldered Kite catch a dove. Really exciting - Jeff just tries (unsuccessfully) to save the dove. Where is the camera? In the office of course! This is Murphy's law working at its best.
Our Butterfly Christmas bushclump was a huge success. Especially with a Carpenter Bee…….. either he was trying to collect nectar from the butterfly or trying to drill a nest. Who knows?
I am so sad. An Acacia tortillis (Umbrella Thorn) next to the shade house started falling over. This was due to small amounts of water every day, which caused it to be very shallow rooted. A good soaking once every 2 to 4 weeks instead, would have encouraged the roots to go down deeper, seeding the moisture they required.
I tried to prop it up and saw that it needed to be trimmed as it was leaning on the Acacia rehmaniana (Silky Thorn). Before there was time to organize the trimming we had 40mm of rain and down went the Umbrella Thorn sadly taking the Silky Thorn with it.
Boo Hoo! I was so sad. I was even sadder when I saw what my beautiful trees had been reduced to - a little heap of wood and mulch. This was a good lesson in overwatering - DON'T DO IT!
On a happier note the Gymnosporia buxifolia (Common Spike Thorn) at the entrance gate is just dripping with seed - look out for it when you visit us.
The Swallows have rejected me again this year. They came to check the gazebo in the nursery and my verandah. Rejected me and went to nest at my friend Liz's cottage.
Not fair! Once the babies had left the nest they went hunting with their parents and returned to the nest at night. I was surprised as I thought once the babies have left the nest they never return to it. We live and learn.
The Bull Frogs bred in the dam. As you can see from the picture there is big daddy guarding his babies. He keeps them in the shallows, in amongst the vegetation. Guard them he does……don't come near or he will go for you. With his big front tooth he can cause some damage, as he is a loyal and protective parent.
He is also sly - when the tadpoles started changing and getting ready to leave the water he took them in amongst the tall reeds.
What we did see though, is the Striped River Frogs taking their first hops into the big wide world. There were thousands of them. They also migrated from the wetland below us in their many thousands
So! Unluckily we did not see them leave when they were grown. Look carefully at the picture of the bull frog and you will see a beautiful blue dragonfly.
We had a great rain in December where 40mm fell in a short time and my furrows to collect the water from the office and storeroom roofs were running bank full. It sounded like a waterfall.
Jeff and I went down in the rain to play in the furrows. Lucky I have someone as enthusiastic as I am to share these experiences with. We were like kids - it was lots of fun. It also dumped an amazing amount of water in such a short time.
We have had lots of visitors since the dam was so full.
White faced ducks were just one of the birds. I just love them and their gentle, distinctive call. The Red Knobbed Coot also claimed it as his domain.
We also saw Yellow billed Duck and Red Billed Teal. Unfortunately the dam leaks and quite a lot of water has leaked out so some of the ducks have left.
While talking about birds! I always confuse the Pin-tailed and Shaft-tailed Whydahs. I very conscientiously checked my ID of the cheeky Whydah and promptly typed in the wrong name. He was not the Shaft-tailed Whydah but actually the Pin-tailed Whydah.
How is this beautiful Wild poppy (Papaver aculeatum - Pictured right)?
Our first to appear in the grasslands. What excitement! I have been working so hard and spending so much money on weeding and trying to bring our grassland back to its natural state.
I have resisted the temptation of planting species in the grassland and am letting it take its time regenerating. You can imagine how excited I was. It is amazing just how quickly the wildflowers are appearing.
Remember you can take a walk through the grassland down to the dam if you are feeling energetic.
I had to share these beautiful pictures with you. The first is of our local Grass Crinum (Crinum graminicola) blooming in between Red Topped grass (Melinus repens). I thought it was too beautiful to keep to myself. Although to have it bloom you have to be patient. It takes about 6 or 7 years.
The second one is a newly hatched emperor moth - gorgeous.
Sorry this month I seem to be running away from myself and talking too much. The last thing I need to mention is the events with the children were a hit. They loved getting up close and personal with the animals brought along by 'Zoo to You'.
The creativity they showed when making their decorations was astounding. They gave me lots of ideas for next year's Christmas tree.
They loved taking home their beastie box kit ready to assemble they made put in their gardens. I am sure they are also going to have a lot of fun watching the creatures it attracts.
Hope your new year started well and we see you at Random Harvest.
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For directions please go to our website www.rhn.co.za : or call 082-553-0598
Hours of business 8:00 to 17:00 Monday to Friday (Closed Sundays)
Cottages 072-562-3396 : Nursery 082-553-0598
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