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Random Harvest Newsletter - January 2021

Posted On: Friday, January 1, 2021

Dear Indigenous Enthusiast,

I can’t believe this weird year. 2020, is over. I think it has taught all of us a few lessons. I know I have had lessons that will benefit Random Harvest and myself for many years to come.

I would like to sincerely thank all those of you who have supported us over the last year. It is only with your support that we can live our dream of creating a better environment for all the creatures who share this beautiful blue planet with us.

Your support for our food drive is also hugely appreciated, not only by me but also the many people we have managed to feed. This Christmas we managed to distribute 800 ‘Meal in a bag’ (this is enough for at least 5 adults) and Random Harvest also donated 200 party packs to bring a little Christmas cheer to the poor children in the informal settlements around us.

We are going to continue with our food drive in 2021 and if you feel you could continue to help it would be truly appreciated. (Bank Account FNB 51441129818 Cheque account : code 25 07 41)

I would also like to reassure you that we take our responsibilities to keep the nursery and tea garden well sanitised very seriously. We are, as you know, an outdoor venue which is a lot safer. We also sanitise all the tables and chairs and condiments in between each sitting.

IN THE NURSERY

We have been so busy and so blessed with orders coming in from all over the country and also Namibia. My staff have become past masters at packing the trucks.

We had a visit from the Horticultural students from UNISA. I hope I infected them with the idea that they should only plant indigenous plants and create habitat for the creatures that live aro und us.

Jonathan and I love building and inventing cheaper and more efficient ways of doing things.

We built this oven to sterilise the soil we use for cuttings and seed planting. It works like a dream and as such saves a huge amount of money as we are able to use the soil over and over again.

Our propagation has been coming along very well with our seeds germinating and our cuttings flourishing in our updated mist house. I am really delighted with how things are working right now.

EVENTS

MONTHLY COFFEE MORNINGS

Where: Random Harvest Indigenous Nursery
When: 10h30 to 12h00
Cost: Free of charge – we just ask you to please support the nursery and / or the tea garden while you are here.
What to Bring: A notebook, your questions on the topic, and a friend.

Date: Wednesday 6th January 2021
Topic: Gardening Questions and Answers.
Bring along your questions and we will do our best to answer them. This should be interesting and a learning curve for all of us.

Date: Wednesday 3rd February 2021
Topic: Trees of the year – 2021 (Acacia karroo & Portulacaria afra)

Our 2021 trees of the year are well known, the latter through all the publicity it has received as a carbon sink. We’ll chat about their horticultural and ecological value in the garden, their uses, and how best to grow them.

BIRD WALK/S

Saturday, 9 January 2021 – Lance Robinson
Saturday, 13 February 2021 РAndré Marx
Start time: 6h30 for 7h00 sharp.
Cost: 175.00 per person, this includes a scrumptious breakfast buffet

Bookings: (Essential) Contact Paul or David on 082 553 0598 or email [email protected] - Bookings cannot be made on our website – please use the details listed here. We have a maximum of 20 spaces available per bird walk.

The farm is looking particularly beautiful after all the rain. You will not only be able to enjoy the birds but the gardens and grassland as well

Zack, a 4-year-old, joined his mom on a recent bird walk. We were bowled over at his ability to identify so many birds, and that he completed the whole walk. Congratulations to Zack for winning himself a voucher to attend another bird walk.

Perhaps there are other young birders out there that would be interested in a bird walk for children. If so, please do get in touch with us so that we can gauge whether there is enough demand to host a walk specifically for young people. You can email us on [email protected]
Note: Don’t forget your binoculars, comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat.

*Buffet breakfast includes: Scrambled Eggs, Bacon, Pork or Beef Sausage, Sliced Tomato, Creamed Mushroom, Muesli with milk or yogurt, Fruit salad, Cocktail Rolls, Butter and Jams, Tea, Coffee, Water Jugs, Orange Juice.

INDIGENOUS GARDEN DESIGN COURSE BY BRUCE STEAD

We start Bruce’s course on Saturday 23rd January and still have a few spaces available. It is a most worthwhile course that will change forever the way in which you look at and work in your garden.

This very interesting and useful course starts from the absolute basics, no prior knowledge required and will lead you through to creating a beautiful garden that will also accommodate the needs of wildlife. Bruce will also teach you how to create your own peaceful haven.

The course will be held on Saturday mornings from 9h00 to 12h00 starting on the 23rd January 2021 and continue for 8 Saturday mornings.

Cost: R2500.00 for the full 8-day course plus you will need to purchase stationary as per a list supplied.

For bookings and further information: Contact David on 082-553-0598 or email [email protected]

Remember we have Bed and Breakfast accommodation for people who stay far away.

PRACTICAL DOMESTIC GARDENER TRAINING

These courses run by Lindsay Gray will resume in February 2021.

In my opinion one of the best outcomes of this course is the confidence that is gained by the attendees.

DATE: Friday 19 February 2021
TIME: 8h30 to 15h30

This includes a set of notes for both the gardener and employer, tea/coffee and biscuits on arrival, breakfast and lunch and a certificate.

TO BOOK or for more info contact Lindsay Gray on 082-449-9237 or [email protected]

COTTAGES

Our beautiful, thatched cottage ‘Yellowwood’ is our featured cottage this month.

This lovely atmospheric, comfortable cottage has a private garden and is set apart from the other cottages, but not isolated, as it is relatively close to the main residence.

Please remember that we are careful to sanitise our cottages every day and more thoroughly after each guest has departed.

TEA GARDEN

We have finally completed the new ‘Fever Tree Boma’. Our customers have been enjoying sitting under the cool thatched roof. At long last we have sufficient seating space for you when it rains. It is a beautiful place to sit and watch the rain. We have also added canvas sides to keep out the cool winds.

I am hoping you enjoy this space as much as I do.

Remember that fresh homemade bread can be pre-ordered to take home, and we also have frozen meals available for you to buy.

IN THE SHOP

We have some delicious new preserves in the shop. Remember the luxurious dogs blankets in stock.

We also have a stock of bright new masks. If we are forced to cover our faces it may as well be bright and cheerful in these trying times.

Our Book of the month is the newly published ‘Fungi and Lichens of the Limpopo Valley by Retha van der Walt which we donated funds to. It is a very well written and laid out book, and at R420.00 is an excellent addition to the nature enthusiast’s bookshelf.

GARDENING TIP

Almost every gardener has had to deal with bird planted trees. Be on the lookout for seedlings that have germinated from bird droppings in your garden, particularly at this time of year when the soil is soft and there is plenty of rainwater to help them establish themselves. These surprises can be a gift but are often seeds of unwanted invasive alien plants such as Privet (Ligustrum sp), Bugweed (Solanum mauritianum) and Chinese hackberry (Celtis sinensis).

They can also be indigenous trees that have aggressive root systems (Cabbage Trees and Fig Trees for example), be too large for the garden or just in the wrong place, far too close to an existing tree. Pull out seedlings before they take hold in the soil.

If they are indigenous and good plants for biodiversity, perhaps re-plant in a suitable place, bag or pot them and give them to a friend or a school that could do with some additional trees. If they are alien invasives, make sure that they cannot grow once you have pulled them out.

PLANTS LOOKING GOOD

Leucosidea sericea - Oldwood (E) is a decorative, very hardy, evergreen, fast-growing, low-branching small tree with attractive, peeling bark and stems when pruned clean. The aromatic leaves have silvery hairs. Candle like spikes of yellowish-green flowers are borne from Aug. to Dec., and many pollinating insects are attracted to the garden by these flowers. It is an ideal screening plant, and a stunning, ancient looking small specimen tree when pruned up. Must have regular watering or be planted in damp areas to keep it looking good. Plant in sun or semi-shade.

Orthosiphon labiatus - Shellflower (E) is a hardy, semi-deciduous, medium-sized shrub with bright green, finely serrated, fairly hairy, aromatic leaves. The spikes of pink flowers are borne from Dec. to Mar. It attracts insects and birds to the garden. It is a beautiful shrub that can be used as a screen. It also makes a good small hedge. Prune lightly after blooming to encourage further flowering and to keep neat. Plant in full sun or semi-shade in well-drained soil and water well in summer.

Plectroniella armata - False Turkeyberry (E) is a hardy, deciduous, multi-stemmed shrub or small tree with smooth, grey bark and straight, hard spines. The attractive glossy leaves are dark green on top and pale green below. Creamy-white, sweetly scented, dense clusters of flowers are borne from Oct. to Mar. These are followed by yellow-orange, edible fruits that are relished by birds and which can also be used to make a jelly. This attractive plant makes a good addition to a security hedge and bird garden. Plant in semi-shade or light shade in well-drained soil

Crocosmia aurea - Falling Stars (E) is a hardy, deciduous, perennial, plant with sword-shaped leaves that arise from an underground corm. The bright-orange, star-shaped spikes of flowers are borne from Jan. to Jun. They do not need to be lifted annually, and if left in the soil, will multiply rapidly, forming large colonies. Interplant with evergreen, clump-forming plants such as Dietes bicolor or Anthericum saundersiae. It is an easy, rewarding garden plant that also makes beautiful cut flowers. The flowers attract insects and, as the birds relish the seeds, you will find volunteer seedlings popping up in the garden where the seeds have been distributed by the birds. Best planted in well-composted soil in semi-shade.

Plectranthus ciliatus ‘Aureated’ - Speckled Spur-Flower (E) is an outstanding, fairly hardy, evergreen groundcover with attractive, quilted, dark-green and yellow variegated leaves that have purple undersides and purple stems. It has spikes of white or mauve flowers in late summer and autumn that attract insects and butterflies to the garden. In times gone by it was used to wash sheepskin garments and other clothing. In light shade or semi-shade areas, this attractive groundcover provides colour with its purple leaves all year round. Plant in containers or hanging baskets as well as in the open ground. Plant in well-composted soil with adequate water and prune back lightly after flowering.

Streptocarpus Hybrids are hardy, evergreen perennials with clumps of long, quilted, strap shaped leaves that are arranged in a basal rosette. It bears colourful, large, trumpet- shaped flowers that have dark streaks and are carried at the tips of long delicate, flowering stems in spring and summer. Water thoroughly only when the plants are dry. Water less during winter.

Streptocarpus should rather be under watered than over watered. Looks beautiful planted alongside a shady pond or in containers. Plant in a well-composted medium with good drainage in a shady position, where the soil is moist, rather than wet.

PLANTS ON SPECIAL

Tetradenia riparia - Ginger bush (E) is a fairly hardy, deciduous, fast growing, aromatic shrub with semi-succulent stems and soft, heart-shaped leaves. Tall spikes of pale mauve flowers at the ends of the stems transform the shrub into a misty mauve cloud during autumn and winter when little else is blooming. Male and female flowers on separate plants, therefore only female plants bear fruit. Male flowers produce more of the misty haze appearance with more profuse flowers. Useful medicinal plant. Protect from frost, otherwise the flowers will be damaged and won’t put on an impressive show. Prune back hard after flowering to keep in shape and promote flowering next season. It needs a rich, well-drained soil and full sun.

Thunbergia neglecta is a very hardy, evergreen, low-growing, scrambling perennial with attractive, heart-shaped leaves. In summer it bears beautiful, round, open, creamy-yellow flowers with a darker-yellow centre. They attract insects to the garden. Pretty planted in a grassland garden scrambling through the grasses, out of a hanging basket, creeping up a trellis or tumbling over retaining walls. Prune after flowering to keep in shape and ensure masses of flowers in the next season. It is fast-growing, requires well-drained soil and only moderate water. It can be planted in sun or semi-shade.

Brachylaena discolor - Coastal silver-oak (E) is a hardy, evergreen, fast growing tree or large shrub with beautiful silver and dark green leaves. White, nectar rich flowers are borne from July to Sept. Male and female flowers on separate plants. Used medicinally and the wood is used for carving. Ideal as a windbreak and screening plant. A beautiful small, silvery tree for smaller gardens, but the crown needs to be pruned to encourage it to bush out. With regular pruning it can be kept to any size you want and makes a great windbreak and screen. Plant in full sun or semi-shade.

Eucomis comosa - Slender Pineapple Flower (E); is a very hardy, deciduous, bulbous plant with a rosette of attractive, broad, strap-like leaves with a maroon cast. The spikes of sweetly scented, pink or maroon, star-shaped flowers with attractive, purple ovaries are borne from Oct. to Feb. An excellent garden plant that looks particularly good amongst grasses. It also makes a good, long-lasting cut flower. Used in traditional medicine. It grows best in full sun, in either damp or dry spots.

ON THE FARM

I realise I do go on and on about the grassland on the farm, but it is looking so beautiful and full of life I just can’t resist sharing the joy Jeffrey and I get out of it with you.

The coffee morning walk in the grassland was a huge success with the attendees not wanting to leave but walking around to inspect each new little wildflower that was spotted.

It is still looking marvellous so if you have time why not take a stroll and just enjoy being in nature. It is slowly changing, and the grasses are beginning to overshadow the flowers. But they in their own way are also truly beautiful.

I thought I would share a few pictures with you of how beautiful it has been and some of the amazing flowers that pop up.

Vigna vexillata (Wild Sweet Pea) has been particularly abundant this season. As the grass grows so they start to climb up the grass stems.

The tiny Hypoxis argentea have all but disappeared now that the grasses are growing and overshadowing them until they pop up next year before the grasses. I used the picture with the bee to give you a scale as to these tiny but perfect flowers.

The Pelargonium luridum look like pink Agapanthus popping their heads up between the grasses. I remember how thrilled I was when I saw the first one in the grassland, now, they are quite abundant.

One of my favourite scenes in the grassland is when you see the Guinea fowl pecking in between the grasses. This is a typical Highveld vista, and it reminds me how beautiful this part of the country must have been. We have a tiny microcosm here at Random Harvest.

I am happy to report that we have managed to save the Egyptian Geese babies from the depredations of the crows. They grow so quickly it is amazing. They are now starting to go on walk about to graze and then make their way back to the dam.

The Wattled Lapwing also managed to bring up their whole brood. They fearlessly attack the golf cart and Abby if we get even close to their babies.

The baby Paradise Flycatchers have also flown the nest. It looks like the parents are breeding again in the same nest. I wonder if they have enough time to hatch out another brood. This is a picture of the handsome father.

We have seen a few unusual summer visitors this season. One of them was this Namaqua Dove. The other was a female Red-backed Shrike.

We always see the Purple Indigobird when it comes to feed at the ‘Christmas tree for the birds’ in December. I always get so excited when I see him.

This got me to wondering if he is not regularly visiting the feeding station but, as he looks so similar to the bishops when they are not in breeding plumage, I am mistaking him for a red bishop. It is always so difficult to identify the ‘little brown birds’

The birds have been busy at the dam. On Christmas Day I spent a good half an hour watching the Pied Kingfisher diving into the dam to catch his dinner. It is a pity we don’t take more time just to observe nature – somehow it feeds the soul.

The Green-backed Heron has been skulking in the reeds on the edge of the dam. He is very cryptic and sometimes we only see him when he is flushed out.

I am always so pleased when I see the water pouring into the dam down the furrows we built to carry water from roofs and paving. As the water gets deeper the Yellow-billed Ducks start frequenting the dam.

I was thrilled to see the Mopane Worms back on the Schotia brachypetala (Weeping Boerbean)

The Emperor moth caterpillars are also back on the Cussonia species.

One of my customers was quite shocked that I was so excited to see these huge caterpillars eating the plants. For me, it just means we are doing something right and not just spraying poison around. We may be killing the worms, but we are also making our environment and lives very sterile without life around us.

Happiness is seeing a snake. This beautiful, Red-lipped Herald is living in amongst the bags in the nursery. What a privilege!

Yolam has seen a big Rinkhals swimming in the dam and there are a pair where we store the refuse that goes for recycling.

Reptiles are a sign of a healthy environment so even though you may think I am crazy to be so happy, it does mean we are keeping true to our mission of creating a more inclusive world for all our fellow creatures.

The only disappointment is that I saw a Bullfrog swimming across the dam, but he didn’t stay. This is the first time in about 15 years that they haven’t bred here. One thing is for sure – the reason for this is not that the dam is not healthy, as there are millions of tiny fish in and many dragon flies around it.

We have a beautiful baby heifer that was born on Christmas day, what a gift.

Birds can be a double-edged sword. They munch all the fruit my mother tends so lovingly. I found this amazing product that covers the fruit, but you can get your hand in to pick the ripe fruit. So, we cover some of the fruit and leave some for the birds. I think that is a fair and equitable solution.

A beautiful sight has been these coloured Arums blooming in amongst the grass under the trees. I am blown away by how well they have done in amongst the tree roots. Their beauty has taken everyone’s breath away.

Finally, I would like to share this picture of the magnificent Gloriosa rothschildiana. They have bloomed well, and I hope to get some seed to sow and maybe, with a bit of luck have some to sell next year.

I would like to wish you all the very best for 2021 and may all our gardens, no matter how small, make a beautiful peaceful space for our families and the creatures that so add to the pleasure of a garden.

Sincerely

Linda

Cell 079-872-8975
email [email protected]

For directions please go to our website www.randomharvest.co.za : or call 082-553-0598

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