Dear Indigenous Enthusiast,
I hope you are keeping warm. Winter is just such an amazing time when the sun is low and the shadows beautiful. I was awestruck when I saw the shadows on the Paper Bark Acacia (Acacia sieberiana) in the garden.
It reminded me that one should just take a few seconds to experience beautiful moments in your indigenous garden.
Unbelievably, we are now past mid-winter, and the days are getting longer. To think in about 6 weeks’ time the trees will start budding and before you know it warm weather will be back, and the cycle of life start will all over again. I, for one, cannot wait.
Thanks to your generous donations we are very busy packing ‘Meal in a Bag’ for distribution to the needy in the informal settlements.
I know it is asking a lot but if you are able to assist these are the banking details;
Bank Account Random Harvest Nursery, FNB 51441129818 Cheque account: code 25 07 41 Reference: Food Parcels
Remember you can donate and enter the lucky draw. Every R100 donation will give you a number in the lucky draw where you stand to win one of two R1000.00 vouchers to spend in the nursery, bed and breakfast or tea garden.
The last two winners of the vouchers are: Morag Lawrence and Cathy Saunders - just in time for spring.
Just know you are doing a great thing helping with these meals which are making a big difference to people’s lives.
It has been and incredibly busy time in the nursery with all the projects and upgrades we are busy with.
We had to prune and shape the huge Acacias I in the nursery – What a job. They are so huge we had to get Brands Tree fellers in for safety’s sake. I can’t imagine working so precariously high above the ground.
Unfortunately we had to take out another huge Acacia galpinii (Monkey thorn) as it was about to split where my customers park sometimes. We have had the wood cured and hope to use it to make desks in the office. I hate the thought of just burning or chipping the wood.
We have also been sorting out the retail section of the nursery and redoing the plant displays and gardens just in time for spring which is just around the corner. My staff have been working incredibly hard with even the office staff chipping in with their labour.
As if we haven’t taken on enough, I decide to reconfigure the entrance to our offices. I am hoping it will be a better option for our customers.
The herb and veggie growing area is almost ready and we will be ready to plant in a week or two. Bowa and Godfrey have made such an amazing job of the woodwork that I am totally thrilled and cannot wait to finish it. I am sure when it is done you are going to love it as well.
I am so excited that Lance has offered this course for our customers. Bird watching is a truly rewarding hobby but sometimes it is a little difficult to ID birds in the beginning. This course will take you through the steps that will help you get started in what can be a lifetime hobby no matter how old or young you may be. Bird Watching is also a good excuse to get out into nature or even just to add to the enjoyment of your garden.
If you are keen on learning more about birds and about birding and have always wanted to develop one of the correct habits of looking at birds, or need a refresher, then this Birding Basics Course is just what you have been looking for. Lance Robinson will present the course. Each theoretical session is approximately 90 minutes in duration and will be followed by a practical session on the farm.
Dates: Saturday 21st August (session 1) and Saturday 28 August (session 2).
Time: 8h00 for 8h30
Cost: R400 per person. This includes welcome tea and coffee and tea and coffee and scones before the practical session
Booking is essential - please contact Lindelani on [email protected] Tel. No. 011 957-5356 or 082 553 0598
Saturday, 10th July 2021 – Lance Robinson
Start time: 7h30 FOR 8h00 sharp.
Saturday, 14th August 2021 – Andre Marx
Start time: 7h00 FOR 7h30 sharp.
Cost: R175.00 per person, this includes a scrumptious breakfast buffet
The first course by Bruce was such a resounding success that we have decided to host another course. The feedback from the students was so positive that most of them returned for the second, more advanced module. Bruce is an ecological horticulturalist and garden designer who lectured for many years at Lifestyle College. He has graciously agreed to run a course here at Random Harvest Nursery again for our customers.
He will start from the absolute basics and lead you through to creating a garden or gardens which are both beautiful and accommodate the needs of wildlife. He will also teach you how to interpret beautiful landscapes for your own garden.
These will be held on Saturday mornings from 9h00 to 12h00.
Dates: September 4th, 11th, and 18th and 25th and October 2nd, 9th, 16th and 23rd
Cost: R2500.00 for the full 8-day course.
To Book: Contact David on 082-553-5598 or email [email protected]
Date: Wednesday 7th July 2021
Topic: Succulents in the Garden.
Jonathan and Jeffrey will guide you on how to create a waterwise succulent bed in your garden. They will give tips on how to create a beautiful display of colours, textures, shapes, and flowers as well as how to maintain the bed for the best effect. They will then demonstrate how to plant up beautiful containers using succulents.
Date: Wednesday 4th August 2021
Topic: Regenerating the soil with the assistance of earthworms.
Dan Barwick of Turfnet is an expert on regenerating the soil with earthworms. He enthusiastically shares his vast knowledge of earthworms which makes him a pleasure to listen to. He is also happy to answer any questions you may have.
He will also introduce us to his interesting products that will add microbes to the soil and increase its fertility vastly.
A morning I am looking forward to and can’t wait to share with you.
These courses are designed to increase both the knowledge and the confidence of your gardener and this should translate into a beautiful garden at your home.
The next course is as follows:
DATES: Friday 20th August,2021
TIME: 8h30 to 15h30
The cost of the course 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 including cost of the course contact Lindsay Gray on 082-449-9237 or [email protected]
Our customers seem to be enjoying the outdoor atmosphere of the Tea Garden even when sitting in the airy Fever Tree Boma, the garden and the Gazebo. Taking Covid into account, we offer a safe place in the open air to sit and enjoy a tasty meal surrounded by nature.
I want to assure all our customers that we are very serious about sanitising and keeping the area safe.
Remember that if you are planning a low-key, quiet event Random Harvest offers a unique experience.
I thought I would share with you some things you could do while staying with us in the cottages. We may be close to Johannesburg but are miles away in terms of the atmosphere and experience.
I also think you should know that we have monitored security patrols to keep us safe and sound.
Take a walk to do some birdwatching in the beautiful gardens or down to the dam where you can experience some of our beautifully restored habitats.
Eat in our outdoor tea garden or at one of the designated areas in the garden. We will also deliver food to your cottage if you prefer. (Note: Orders need to be placed from 7h00 to 16h30)
Organise a special event with friends or family in a safe environment that adheres strictly to Covid-19 protocols and regulations where our caring attentive staff will add to the experience.
If you can bear to leave the farm, we are located in the heart of outdoor entertainment venues. Here are a few things to do.
• Hot air ballooning (9km away)
• Sterkfontein caves - In the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site (18km away) Read more here
• Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden (15km away)
For more suggestions read here
Our gardening tip this month is all about the soil so I thought I would showcase a few natural products you can use to improve your soil.
Random Harvest compost - a premix which already has rock-dust added to it.
Woodchip mulch - to keep the moisture in and the weeds down.
Two new products are Vermi food fertiliser and Vermicast shaker to give your soil all the goodness of earthworm casting.
Due to so many requests, we have also bagged the sandy mix we use for our bulbs and succulents.
A long awaited and needed book is Aquatic and wetland Plants of South Africa by CE van Ginkel and CJ Cilliers is available at R650.00
Senecio barbetonicus – Succulent Bush Senecio
An attractive, dense rounded succulent shrub that, although it can reach 2m can be pruned to any size you need. This beautiful plant bears sweetly scented, bright yellow, daisy-like flowers at the tips of the stems in spring. These flowers attract insects and then, of course, birds to the garden.
These pretty, cushion forming, dense vygies are drought tolerant. With little care, in winter, they will burst forth with brilliant, glistening flowers up to 2cm in dia. (depending on the species). Some are magenta and others are pink or pink and white striped. The flowers attract a whole host of insects to feast on their pollen and nectar. Ruschia can be used as an attractive container plant, mass planted in terraces or used in rock gardens and mixed beds. They need full sun and be careful not to overwater.
Cotula sericea – Silky Buttons
The common name of the outstanding groundcover is appropriate. The beautiful bright-yellow, button-like flowers are carried on long slender stems above the silky, fern-like, grey-green leaves. It flowers profusely in spring and summer but has some flowers all year round. The number of tiny insects and solitary leaves drawn to them is astounding. Its uses are so varied as few suggestions are, creeping in amongst rocks, in containers, pond edges and damp areas and almost any area you need a pretty groundcover. It can take a little shade but thrives in full sun.
Crassula tetragona – Karkai
This wonderful textural succulent, shrub has bright green, sword-shaped leaves arranged in crossed pairs along the stem which make it a wonderful textural plant. In summer and autumn mases of tiny flowers are carried above the plant. Its compact habit make it a wonderful container and bonsai plant. It grows equally well in sun or partial shade. It is also beautiful planted in amongst rocks.
Dracaena aletriformis - Large-leaved Dragon Tree
This beautiful accent plant will grace any shady area in your garden. With its long strap-like leaves that are carried in a rosette at the end of tall stems it also adds texture to a shade garden. Spikes of cream-white flowers are borne from November to February. Their sweet fragrance is particularly strong in the evenings. The sticky large orange seeds are relished by birds. Use in deep to moderate shade or as an indoor or container plant.
Sansevieria aethiopica – Mother-in-laws Tongue
This hardy succulent will grow well in dry, dark shade in amongst tree roots which is usually a difficult area to garden in. It has erect rosettes of mottled, sword-shaped leaves that multiply create dense stands. When it flowers it is a sight to behold. Tall spikes of creamy-white, wonderfully scented flowers open at night and are borne on and off throughout the year. The reddish berries attract birds.
Andropogon appendiculatus – Vlei Bluestem
This hardy grass has beautiful colours of red, green, and bronze at this time of year. The summer-borne flowers are almost purple. This grass looks great all year round and can be used in a grassland garden or in a mixed border as it is not aggressive. But, as with all grasses, it does need to be pruned back and cleaned at the end of winter. Plant in sun or semi-shade and water regularly.
Grewia occidentalis – Cross-berry
An attractive, fast growing shrub with trailing stems and glossy dark green leaves. In summer it bears gorgeous star-like pink flowers with clusters of prominent, bright yellow stamens in the centre. The edible fruits are clustered together in a square or cross shape which attract birds. As it also attracts butterflies it is a must for a wildlife garden. Prune to keep in shape or train it up a wall or trellis and plant in sun or shade.
Allophylus dregeanus - Simple-leaved False Crowberry
This attractive small tree or large shrub has beautiful dark, glossy leaves and greyish bark which wrinkles with age. In autumn and winter, it bears spikes of sweetly scented white flowers followed by profuse, edible shiny red berries. These features seem to glow in the shade where it thrives.
Duvernoia aconitiflora – Lemon Pistol Bush
A fast-growing shrub that thrives in sun or semi-shade and is a great screening plant but is quite large and is not suitable for small gardens. Spikes of showy, shell-shaped white flowers are held well above the glossy light green leaves. They attract sunbirds and butterflies.
Asparagus densiflorus ‘Mazeppa’ – Mazeppa Bay Asparagus
This is a form of Asparagus fern which makes a beautiful groundcover for sun, semi-shade or lightly shaded areas. The arching stems have tightly packed needle-like leaves. The stems are covered with white star-like, fragrant flowers in summer and autumn. They are followed by beautiful, glossy red berries which the birds relish. Plant in garden beds, containers and hanging baskets.
Now is a good time to prepare your soil for spring planting. Although it is better not to dig the soil over too often as it destroys the micro life of the soil, sometimes the soil becomes compact and dry and lumpy. It is only then that one should dig in a good amount of compost and work it to a fine texture. Depending on the friability of the soil anything from 5cm to 10cm of compost should be added. Use an active compost (full of microbes) and add a fine layer of Rock Dust (our compost already has Rock Dust added).
The new earthworm products in the shop can then be added to increase the fertility of your soil and add to the microbial life.
Mulch the bed, I use wood chip mulch, and you will be ready for planting in spring.
We can thank pollinating insects (including honeybees) for our gardens full of a variety of beautiful flowers, and here is why. There are about 20 000 indigenous plant species in South Africa and mostly each does not have its own unique pollinator. Similarly, pollinators tend to visit a variety of plants flower’s – there are exceptions.
Pollination is, therefore, a web of interactions that we understand very little of. It does, however, appear that it is the pollinators that are in demand resulting in plants competing for a pollinator. The onus is thus on the plants to produce flowers that are more attractive than their neighbour’s flowers. And that’s why you can have a beautiful garden.
Not all bees have painful stings. Solitary bees only sting if they are handled. Most are small and their stings are not particularly painful. Not only are honeybee’s stings painful, but their stings are barbed. When you brush the stinging bee away it tears the bee’s body apart, it dies, and the sting carries on injecting its poison to maximize the agony. Only honeybees have a barbed sting. Therefore, a bee friendly garden is quite safe.
The Sunbirds have been very busy gorging on the nectar from the Aloes and Wild Dagga.
The best part is these gives us wonderful opportunities of just sitting observing these totally enchanting busy little flying jewels! Ronald has also had the patience to take these wonderful photos that I am sharing with you.
We haven’t seen huge quantities of birds in the grassland, but we sure have seen quality. Jeff and I were thrilled to see this Marsh Owl. We haven’t seen one for some time, so it was exciting.
To our great excitement we also saw a Black Sparrowhawk. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to get a decent picture to share with you, but it was clear enough for Andre to identify it for us.
Talk about identifying - we are so lucky to have Steve Woodhall, Andre Marx, Astri Leroy and Connal Eardly help us with identification of our farm’s variety of creatures.
Steve identified this caterpillar as a Striped Hawkmoth which feeds on succulents. This is the first time I have seen one of these beautiful caterpillars.
Astri identified this rain spider, (Palystes superciliosus), one of the huntsman spider family. It is one of our biggest spiders and they often come indoors, so it's good to know they are harmless to us and other animals.
This picture is a little deceiving as he is a really big spider (with a let span of up to 11cm
I am printing Connals’ reply to these two fly pictures as I think it is interesting.
“The second two pictures are flies. Flies have one pair of wings, which you cannot see in the photographs. They also have antennae that comprise a fat basal segment and a second hair- like segment. One can see this in the second picture. Also, one can see that they do not have nice conspicuous antennae. Third, very few bees have very large eyes that touch above. Drones (male honeybees) have such eyes and these two flies possibly mimic honeybees so that makes them confusing. Drones also do not have pollen baskets which flies do not have, which makes them even more confusing.”
The flies were on Euphorbia flowers. As you can see from the spider webs there is lots of other life on the Euphorbias as well.
Winter is a very busy time for us and this winter I think I must have lost my mind with all the projects we are doing.
The reed bed Robert of Water Brothers built for us is working so well I, in my wisdom, broke the old one and am busy building the new more efficient reed bed.
I am planning to make a vegetable garden in this area if the birds will allow it and not eat everything in sight.
We transplanted this big Steganotaenia aralacea (Carrot Tree) so hold thumbs the guys did a good job and the tree thrives.
We are busy collecting seed, making compost and the many other jobs around the nursery.
We may work hard at Random Harvest with my endless plans and projects, but we do have a great place to relax at lunchtime.
The only thing that bugs me about these projects is that sometimes we disturb the resident creatures.
This Red-lipped Herald Snake was under the rubber liner. But we did move it to another good space where it can thrive.
The Grassland may be dry, but it is still a magical place. If we take time to actually look at the grasses, they are endlessly changing and always beautiful. As is this Cymbopogon plurinoides (Turpentine Grass) which also has many important essential oils and best of all is a great perch for the tiny Bronze Manniken.
Heather came for a visit from KwaZulu Natal (at last). She has been part of the team for the last 20 years and is responsible for all the beautiful illustrations we use. We had some great ideas on how to improve Random Harvest but, as usual, when Heather and I get together it means lots of work for both of us but hopefully our plans will improve your visits to Random Harvest.
The Buddleja auriculata (Eared Sagewood) are starting to bloom and their wonderful scent is wafting through the nursery. This plant always makes me think spring is around the corner. Hopefully if the flowers are this early maybe spring will also be early.
I hope the very cold days like the one that caused these icicles at the water trough are over. Although you would not believe it was that cold as the gardens look as if they haven’t noticed it is winter yet.
Visit us at Random Harvest and enjoy observing the birds and other creatures that live here as much as I do.
Please also remember that Jeffrey, Jonathan, or I are very happy to help with garden advice if you come along with some pictures and sizes of the areas you want to change.
To avoid the disappointment of us not being available, please do book an appointment in advance.
I will close with this beautiful picture of the sunrise and the full moon from my cottage, how can I not be happy?
Look forward to sharing this special place with you.
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