Dear Indigenous Enthusiast
Happy 2019 to you! My wish for you all this year, is that you find time to delight in your garden. My favourite days are those when I can escape to work on my patio, surrounded by indigenous plant energy and the bird and insect song that comes with it.
I certainly hope you find lots in this first newsletter of 2019 to inspire the gardener in you!
IN THE NURSERY
Public holidays and festive season behind us, the nursery is still buzzing. Despite the terrible heat and concerning lack of rain, I am happy that my office looks out onto this oasis. It is amazing how resilient so many of our indigenous plants are to this weather.
Gardening in dry times can be challenging, but choosing to garden with indigenous plants that have built in strategies to survive these stressful times, is very rewarding.
Here are ten of my favourite heat and drought hardy plants in stock at the moment:
IN THE SHOP
We do stock some very interesting items in our quirky little shop. The latest product I have chosen to sell is an amazing environmentally friendly Takkie wash. It works like a dream, handy for cleaning your takkies (sneakers) after gardening, walking or just general use.
Also worth a mention is the range of nature orientated books that we have in stock, from books on butterflies and plants to indigenous gardening and alien invaders.
Monthly Coffee Mornings
Please note that our Coffee Mornings are free of charge.
We just ask that you support our nursery and tea garden before or after the event.
Wednesday 9 January, 2019: Gardening for Birds
Time: 10h30 – 12h00
We chat about gardening for birds in the first half, and then take a walk around the garden, birdwatching.
For the more energetic Jeffrey will continue to the dam where we often see many different species of birds.
You could also walk around the wildlife garden in the nursery for some inspiration.
Bring: A friend, notebook and pen. It can be very hot at this time of year, so please remember to bring a hat and plaster on the sunscreen.
Wednesday 6 February, 2019: Colourful indigenous plants
This coffee morning will be a visual feast of colourful indigenous plants.
We’ll start with a slide presentation and have a Q & A afterwards, about indigenous gardening with these gorgeous plants.
Lindsay Gray Courses
Training resumes for the Domestic Gardener and Garden Design courses with Lindsay Gray, principal of The School of Garden Design in January:
Domestic Gardener Training (08h30 – 15h45): Friday, 18 January
Give your gardener the gift of knowledge. This course is designed for any gardener who works in the domestic, commercial or landscaping environment. Instruction is given in Zulu with some contribution in English.
Easy Steps to Designing & Planting your Garden (08h30 – 16h00): Saturday, 19 January
“Garden Design” is the first step in landscaping. You cannot landscape a garden until you have designed it and, for that, you need to understand (a) how to organise spaces so that they meet your needs or that of your client, and (b) the environment to which it is attached.
This course covers key elements of garden design, plant selection and drawing techniques.
To reserve your place, contact Lindsay on 082 44 99 237 or email [email protected]/ or www.schoolofgardendesign.com
Our self-contained cottages are a comfortable fresh alternative for those on business travel that seek somewhere spacious, private, unpretentious and cost effective. Added to this, is the convenience of Wi-Fi and being close to Lanseria airport. Have a look on our website (Hyperlink please) and give us a call to answer any of your questions.
IN THE GARDEN – monthly gardening tips
Safe pesticides. As soon as the rains start every known pest seems to descend on the plants that should be in their prime. Before waging chemical warfare on these unwanted garden visitors, please remember that many are something else’s food, and if numbers and damage are completely out of control, stick to organic, environmentally friendly pesticides.
As far as weeds go, where possible, try removing them by hand instead of showering them with nasty herbicides. It is not only good for the environment but good for the soul as well. In flower beds, a thick layer of mulch drastically reduces the number of weeds that can germinate and grow. It also helps to keep moisture in the soil and improves the health of the soil by creating habitat for essential microbes.
Healthy gardens don’t get ravaged by pests
If a garden is healthy you are still going to find a few pests, but they won’t take over and decimate your plants. Just remember that worms and caterpillars are in general not pests, except for those that are well known for the damage they do, such as amaryllis (lily borer), lawn caterpillars and some beetle larvae.
A couple of years ago, I made a video clip on Gardening in Dry TimesWith the worrying heat and lack of rain that we have experienced, I thought it would be good to refer back to it. It is amazing how much water can be retained and saved in the garden when working with and not against nature.
PLANTS LOOKING GOOD
Sclerochiton apiculatus – Blue Lips (E)
If you are looking for a hardy, evergreen, drought-resistant, scrambling shrub for sun or semi-shade, then this is the plant for you.
It takes well to pruning, so Blue Lips is useful for smaller gardens, and can be used as a backdrop to a bed, a screening plant or in a mixed herbaceous border. It also makes an attractive container plant.
From November to April it bears beautiful, scented, blue flowers with silvery undersides.
Barleria repens Purple Prince ‘Purple Prince - Small Bush Violet (E)
Another hardy, evergreen, scrambling plant, that is beautiful planted at the base of small trees or in amongst smaller grasses for a more natural look.
It also makes a wonderful container plant. Plant in well-drained, compost-rich soil and mulch well.
It blooms profusely with glossy, dark purple flowers in summer and autumn but also has a few flowers for most of the year.
Gomphostigma virgatum- River Stars (E); Otterbossie (A)
This extremely hardy, evergreen, water-loving, graceful, grey foliaged perennial or shrub blooms profusely almost all year round with spikes of white flowers.
This shrub grows well in running, not stagnant, water and in a normally-irrigated garden.
I have seen this pretty, delicate-looking plant anchored between rocks in a fast-flowing stream in the Free State – shows how tough it is.
Plant close together in groups for the best effect. Plant in full sun or semi-shade and prune to keep it neat.
Hypoxis hemerocallidea- African Potato (E)
A very hardy, deciduous plant with a large tuber from which folded, strap-like leaves arise that are hairy and arranged in a triangular fashion.
The spikes of bright-yellow, star-shaped flowers rise through the centre of the plant on short spikes. It flowers from very early spring to midsummer (Aug. to Apr.).
Plant in a rockery or grassland garden. It requires well-drained, compost-rich soil in full sun or semi-shade.
Karomia speciosa- Mauve Chinese-hats (E)
Hardy, deciduous, sparsely-branched shrub or small tree with clusters of beautiful deep-blue flowers that have a persistent papery mauve to pink calyx that resembles a Chinese hat (Dec. to Apr.).
The flowers attract pollinating insects, butterflies, Carpenter Bees and nectar- and insect-eating birds.
This colourful plant makes a showy focal point in the garden, or a beautiful backdrop or screening or container plant. Plant in well-drained compost-rich soil.
Pterocarpus rotundifolius Round-leafed Teak (E)
This fairly hardy, deciduous, decorative, tree grows naturally in Bushveld and on rocky hillsides.
It bears showy sprays of scented, glowing yellow flowers with crinkly petals that decorate the tree on and off from Oct. to Feb.
The Round Leafed Teak makes a wonderful garden specimen.Plant in sun or semi-shade in well-drained soil.
Gladiolus ochroleucus - Triangular gladiolus (E); Pypie (A)
This is probably one of the most rewarding of the Gladiolus.
It is evergreen hardy and bears the most beautiful spikes of pink flowers almost all year round.
Use in a short grassland garden, in clumps in a rockery or make a truly beautiful container plant.
It requires well-drained, compost rich soil. Plant in full sun or semi-shade.
PLANTS ON SPECIAL THIS MONTH – LESS 15% DISCOUNT
Cinneraria saxifraga - Wild Cineraria (E)
This pretty, delicate-looking, groundcover is both hardy and evergreen.
It has bright-green, almost round leaves with scalloped edges, and bears masses of small, yellow, daisy-like flowers in spring and autumn, with a few speckling the plant at the height of summer.
Ideal for hanging baskets and borders, it grows well in semi-shade and sun, but not hot reflected heat.
Plant in well-drained soil.
Metarungia longistrobus - Sun Bird Bush (E)
This hardy, evergreen, neat shrub bears peachy-orange flowers that attract nectar-feeding birds, such as Sunbirds, and pollinating insects to the garden.
It is a very useful landscaping plant, as it tolerates quite a wide variety of conditions, from semi-shade to sun, and poor to well-composted soil.
ON THE FARM
Wow! This last few weeks it has been hot. This is when I am really pleased that I grow indigenous plants, as the plants in the garden and in the nursery have coped very well.
The birds have been really busy this month and Jeffrey and I have had lots of fun watching them.
The Red-knobbed Coot have been nesting in the Papyrus. We had one downpour of rain and with all the water running into the dam their nest floated out into the middle of the dam with their babies in it.
They were really industrious and for a whole morning just collected nesting material and built their nest up until it was safe for their chicks.
I noticed something interesting when I saw the pictures of the babies. Their fluffy feathers make the outline indistinct. I am sure this is so that predators get confused. Mind you the Coots are such good parents and will attack anything that comes near their babies.
They have also redeemed themselves in my eyes by allowing the Moorhens to share the dam. Normally they won’t tolerate the Moorhen but this year we have four Moorhens as well as the Coot on the dam.
The Moorhen have become so tame they are like chickens running around on the edges of the dam, right out in the open.
I was getting worried about the dam at the beginning of the season and there were so few birds and I thought the fish we stocked up on had all either been eaten or died.
I needn’t have worried as we have had some unusual and beautiful birds visit.
I was thrilled to add the Squacco Heron to our bird list which now stands at 166 species of bird seen inside the perimeter of Random Harvest.
The Little Egret with his bright yellow feet has made the dam his home this season. Normally we only see him on and off during summer but he has now been in and around the dam for the last month.
The Spoonbills have been visiting on and off for the last 6 – 8 weeks. I am always surprised at just how tall he is.
This is the first time we have seen a pair of Malachite Kingfishers normally it is just a single bird.
I am hoping that they will breed as they have also been around for about a month.
So far Jeffrey and I haven’t found where they would be nesting.
It is amazing at just how big a fish this tiny bird can eat and it is fun watching them hunt.
I needn’t’ have worried about the fish. We watched a Cormorant that had obviously found a small shoal of fish and was diving in and popping out with a fish to eat. I couldn’t believe how many fish he ate. I lost count at 18.
The Purple Heron is also stalking around the edge of the dam looking for the next meal. As he visits daily I am sure he is having success.
Jeffrey took this picture of a Cormorant drying his wings on the bank. You can certainly see his prehistoric ancestor in this pose.
I loved this picture of the Malachite Kingfisher and Southern Red Bishop and wanted to share it with you.
We were excited to have the crimson-breasted Shrike arrive back here at Random Harvest after an absence of about 5 years. He has been very active in the nursery. He is quite shy and this makes it difficult to get a good picture of him.
Not only have the birds enjoyed our ‘Christmas Tree for the Birds’, but our customers have also had lots of fun seeing the birds up close and personal.
The birds have been pigging out and costing us a fortune, not that I begrudge it as they are a constant joy to watch in the tree and I hope it is giving them the opportunity to bring up lots of babies.
This Red-winged Starling bent itself double over the Christmas decoration bird feeder to get its share.
The Southern Masked Weaver and Southern Red Bishop are the perfect Christmas colours of red and gold. They are like living Christmas decorations.
The grassland has not grown as it should, but the birds have been enjoying it. The Black-headed Heron is having a fine time hunting creatures as have the Guinea Fowl.
Ours seems to be the only viable grassland in the area and thus we have seen more and more birds frequenting it.
We watched the Cape Longclaw gathering nesting material. It was quite funny as just a few strands of grass would not do – he had to have a huge mouthful.
The Crowned Lapwing have successfully brought up their chicks. These too have the fine fluffy feathers. The more I think about it the more I think it is to make them an indistinct target for predators.
There is a huge flock of Red-billed Queleas on the farm. I am quite pleased they haven’t found the Christmas tree for the birds as I am afraid I would not be able to afford to feed them all.
There is a pair of Slender Mongoose that seem to have made their home at the dam. We are seeing them regularly. I guess they have found mongoose heaven with all the ground nesting birds around them on whose eggs they feed. I must say they also feast on my Mom’s chicken eggs when they get a chance.
There are lots of beautiful caterpillars around at the moment. These are the larvae of the Emperor Moth. They normally feed on Cussonia species but here they were feeding on Seemanaralia gerrardii (Wild Maple). You never stop learning in an indigenous garden.
The Death’s Head Hawkmoth is quite a drab moth but its larvae are colourful and gorgeous. I am always so pleased to have these interesting creatures in the garden.
The Wild Peach (Kiggelaria Africana) have been eaten up by the little black caterpillars of the Garden Acraea butterfly. Please don’t get out the poisons. The trees are evolved to deal with this annual event and will come back even stronger. The bonus is that the butterflies flitting around your garden are beautiful.
Also remember the non-honeybee pollinators. I am so chuffed that a student is coming to collect specimens of these tiny wasps and other creatures here at Random Harvest. He says he has never seen such a concentration of them. It means we are doing something for the environment correctly.
Some of the plants are looking amazing like these Terminalia phanerophlebia (Lebombo Clusterleaf) against the brooding, cloudy sky. I always think these trees are mystical looking, especially at dusk or in cloudy weather.
The Erythrina zeyheri (Plough breakers) have been in full bloom.This interesting plant is an underground tree that grows in grasslands. Growing more underground is an adaptation against frost and fire. Once a year they push out these beautiful leaves and scarlet flowers.
Indigenous plants are never boring as they each have their own methods of fitting in, in the environment. The thing I love most of all is all the life that they support.
Indigenous gardens have a huge role to play in today’s world of diminishing resources. As indigenous gardeners we are providing havens for displaced plants and creatures.
Let our New Year’s resolution be to provide these havens in and around our homes and in any little space we have access to.
It is amazing how everything responds to a little rain after such a hot dry period.
The Acacia karroo (Sweet Thorn) that normally bloom after 25mm of rain have been blooming after each little bit we have received and are amazingly beautiful. The birds and insects appreciate them as much or more than I do.
This little Speckled Mousebird fluffed himself up and made the most of the few drops of rain that fell. Cooling himself off having a good bath as well.
It may have been a tough, hot, dry summer but we still live in a beautiful land.
This is a picture of my little piece of heaven at the dam with the gorgeous Highveld Sky.
I have to be the most fortunate person in the world to be able to live like this.
I wish you all the very best for 2019 and may we dedicate this year to doing our bit for the environment, no matter how small.
All the little bits soon add up to making a huge difference.
email [email protected]
For directions please go to our website www.randomharvest.co.za : or call 082-553-0598
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