Random Harvest Newsletter Archive

Random Harvest Newsletter - February 2024

Posted On: Thursday, February 1, 2024

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Dear Indigenous Enthusiast,

I cannot express how happy I am about the rain we have received.  Not only am I rejoicing but the grassland and plants are as well.  It was a shock to be so dry after the previous few years when we had an abundance of rain, it just makes you appreciate it even more.  

It also reminds one of the miraculous way the magical grasslands can restore themselves so quickly.

IN THE NURSERY

I never thought I would be happy to see the wheelbarrows standing idle.  My staff had to abandon them and stop planting because of the amount of rain.  What a pleasure.

My staff have named me ‘bou en breek’ (build and break) and I am at it again.  

A new lady, Naomi, started with us and I had to make a cottage for her.  This building morphed from stables to storerooms and now a cottage.  

I decided Ronald’s cottage needed extending so am busy with this again.  I am certainly living up to my reputation at the moment.

We have a torrent of seedlings coming out from our propagation section.  Paul has done an amazing job of this over the past year.

This led to us having to clean the shade house to make space for all the new seedlings.  What a monster undertaking this was.

Jeff is so organised, and my staff so dedicated to their jobs it made it look easy, but I am aware of just how complicated this job is and how many trays one has to move around.

FOOD PARCELS

Thank you so much for your help with this initiative.  Jeffrey is going to visit each home to assess the assistance the families need more closely.  We are hoping to help in other ways and not only with food.  There is a high rate of suicide amongst the poorest and we are hoping to be able to get counselling for them and also to help upskill them to make their efforts to find employment more successful.  Random Harvest is going to do the training. 

We have found a very nice taxi owner who has been helping us with the logistics.

If you could continue with your help, I will truly appreciate it.  We are making a difference, and I would like to, with your assistance, continue to do so.

Random Harvest Nursery, FNB 51441129818 Cheque account: 
code 25 07 41, Reference: Food Parcels.  

If any of our overseas readers would like to support this worthy initiative our Swift Code is FIRNZAJJ8

BIRD WALKS

Ntandazo and Jeffrey heard the Jacobin Cuckoo in the Acacias in the retail section of the nursery. Despite running around with their cameras Jeffrey and Ronald didn’t manage to get a picture.  I think the next bird walk will be fun looking for him.  Here’s holding thumbs that they get to see him.

Date: 10th February with Chris Hines
Time: 6h30 for 7h00

Date: 9th March with Lance Robinson
Time: 6h30 for 7h00

Cost: R185.00 per person, this includes a delicious breakfast buffet 

Booking is essential - please contact Ronald on [email protected] Tel. No. 082-553-0598

BIRDING WORKSHOP – SWALLOWS, SWIFTS AND MARTINS

Lance has kindly agreed to hold a workshop on how to identify these enigmatic birds and to share his vast knowledge on their feeding, breeding and habitat requirements.

We have programmed this now as soon enough they will be starting to prepare for their winter migration.

Date: Saturday 3rd February 2024 

The program IS as follows:

7h00 for 7h30 Welcoming coffee and biscuits
7h30 to 8h45 Walk to identify Birds
8h45 to 9h00 Cold Juice
9h00 to approximately11h00 Workshop and walk again

Savoury finger food buffet.

Cost: R500.00 per person fully inclusive of the course, welcome coffee and rusks, cold drinks and a finger food buffet.

COFFEE MORNINGS

Date: Wednesday 7th February at 10h30
Topic: Psychoactive plant uses by Jean-francios Sobiecki

The people who attended the talk on this fascinating subject were enthralled.  These plants are traditionally used worldwide with very little documented about thwm in South Africa.  Jean-Francoise set the author off on a journey to answer the question; are African traditional healers using visionary and other psychoactive plants in order to assist their spiritual and medical healing practices? 

Come along and learn how the author found over 300 species of African psychoactive plants and its far-reaching applications in medicine, holistic healing, psychology, and overall wellness. 

Not to be missed!

Date: Wednesday 6th March at 10h30    
Topic: A bird walk (stroll) in the garden with Jeffrey Mapila

I thought a bird walk in the garden with Jeffrey would be great as it is before the migrants leave.  Jeff can also answer your questions along the way.

Coffee Morning Cost: R25.00 per person towards our food parcel drive and includes a cup of coffee.  No booking required (a donation of nonperishable food for our food parcel drive would be greatly appreciated.)

TRAINING COURSES BY LINDSAY GRAY

Lindsay restarts her courses in February.  
Dates: 16 February 2024 and 15 March 2024.

This practical course is designed for new gardeners and domestic gardeners or to brush up on the knowledge of gardening.  Bring your gardener along to gain practical knowledge and confidence to benefit your garden.  Attendees receive a certificate of attendance for this course.

Date: Saturday, 16 March 2024. Designing and Planting your Garden
Details in the next newsletter, or please check our events page on our website.

For more detailed information contact Lindsay Gray on 082-449-9237 or email [email protected]

TEA GARDEN

The weather is so perfect for an early morning walk on the farm and grassland.  All the birds and insects are busy at this time giving you a perfect opportunity to reconnect with nature on your doorstep.

This will also build up a healthy appetite for a relaxing delicious breakfast in the tea garden.  You can sit and relax and maybe plan what beautiful indigenous plants you would like to add to your own garden.

SHOP

We always try and stock the shop with unusual and many homemade products as well as products from local crafts people.

We have found a new supplier of delicious guaranteed raw honey.  They have supplied 3 types: Blue gum, Avo and Litchi (delicious) and multiflora.

The insect hotels my staff make have proven popular and we have had to restock the shop.  Even the tiniest garden has space for one of these to encourage biodiversity in your garden.

Fynbos Tea bags are back in stock – a mix of different plant parts from the Fynbos area to make a delicious cup of tea.

A few other products are Painted birds ‘perched’ a stump, deliciously scented Soya candles with a handmade sculpture on the lid and hand sewn food covers to keep your food safe when outside having a braai in this wonderful weather.

RETAIL 

If you need help and inspiration with your garden, James or Ntandazo can come out and consult with you to help with advice on what to plant where, taking into account your personal preferences and the prevailing conditions. 

There is a small fee attached of R300.00 per hour and travelling which is deductible depending on the size of the order you place.

For those further afield remember we can send beautiful indigenous plants for your garden via courier to you.

WHOLESALE

I would like to remind you that Jonathan, who has considerable knowledge on indigenous plants, is available to visit your sites with you and offer some inspiration on planting suggestions which would make your landscapes unique and not run of the mill.

Also, we do deliver far and wide making the vast variety of our indigenous plant available to you and your clients in the in the interests of creating beautiful, hugely biodiverse landscapes in tune with nature, in place of sterile gardens without any benefit to the environment.

Call Jonathan on 076-830-5242 or email [email protected]

COTTAGES

Valentine Month Special

What better way for you and your dearest to celebrate your love for one another with a little romantic gateway. Escape from it all and spend a night in one of our pretty, peaceful cottages here at Random Harvest.

We will provide a delicious picnic basket for your evening meal which will include a bottle of champagne to help celebrate your time together.

The following morning enjoy a delicious non-champagne breakfast.  This can be served either in the Tea Garden or delivered to you in your cottage.

The all-inclusive price is R1995.00 per couple.

For Valentine’s Day 14th of February
On this day, to create the atmosphere of love and caring for each other, enjoy your picnic in the garden while watching a romantic movie and munching popcorn.

The all inclusive price remains R1995.00 for 2 people for the night.
 
Booking is essential. Please contact Ronald on 082 553 0598 or email [email protected]

PLANTS LOOKING GOOD

Begonia dregei - Dwarf Begonia

Hardy, deciduous perennial with beautiful, small, glossy, semi-succulent leaves that have white spots at times.  It bears masses of white flowers throughout the summer and into early autumn.  It is in winter, when it is leafless, that the beauty of its golden, swollen stems is seen.  It makes a great container plant with something of interest about it all year round.  Plant in semi-shade or shade in those difficult spots where little else grows. It thrives in marshy areas as well.  

Anisodontea ‘Double Hybrid’ - Hybrid Pink Mallow 

This very hardy, evergreen to semi-deciduous, medium-sized, hybrid shrub has soft, thinly textured, lobed leaves.  It bears abundant bright cerise pink, double Hibiscus-like flowers for most of the year.  It is a sight to behold in the garden.  It is so floriferous that it is difficult to find a time to prune it but do prune lightly to encourage it to become more compact.  It attracts masses of insects and butterflies to the garden.  For best results, plant in full sun or semi-shade, in well-drained soil.   

Volkameria [Clerodendrum] glabrum - Smooth Tinderwood 

Very hardy, semi-deciduous, fast-growing, small tree or large shrub with a dense, round crown.  It has shiny, dark-green leaves that are pungent when crushed.  From Dec. to Jun., it bears profuse, dense clusters of white to pinkish flowers that have long stamens.  In some specimens the flowers are wonderfully scented whilst in others the scent can be pungent.  These are followed by tightly packed yellowish-white berries that attract birds to the garden.  An important host plant of moths and butterflies – an absolute must for a butterfly garden.  The flowers also attract a whole host of pollinating insects and the nectar in the flowers is an important food source for bees.  Plant in sun or semi-shade in well-composted soil.        

Searsia [Rhus] pallens - Eastern Kunibush

Hardy, large, evergreen shrub or small tree with attractive ridged bark and bright green trifoliate leaves.  Large sprays of tiny white flowers (male and female flowers on separate plants, therefore only female plants bear fruit) are borne from Feb. to April.  These are followed by bunches of fruit that attract birds to the garden.  Plant in an informal hedge or as a small rugged looking tree.  It looks good planted among boulders. 

Schrebera alata - Wild Jasmine 

Hardy, evergreen, scrambling shrub or small tree that branches low and has a sparse narrow crown.  The decorative grey-brown bark is gently cracked. The dark-green compound leaves have winged main veins and are so glossy that they are almost mirror-like.  Clusters of pretty, scented, waxy, pink and white flowers with tufts of purplish hair are borne from Oct. to Feb., followed by pear-shaped capsules enclosing seeds with papery wings.  The flowers attract tiny insects.  Prune into a standard to create a very decorative tree for a small garden.  It can be planted in clusters for a tiny forest effect.  Plant in sun or semi-shade, in well-drained, well-composted soil. 

Lippia javanica - Fever Tea 

Very hardy, evergreen, erect, small shrub with aromatic leaves.  Small, dense spikes of white flowers are borne in the axils of leaves all year round.  The main attraction of this quite nondescript shrub is the many species of butterfly that are always hovering around it and sipping on the nectar. It has many herbal uses and makes a fragrant cupboard freshener and addition to pot pourri.  When walking in areas where this plant is growing, break a small branch off and rub crushed leaves and stems on arms and legs to repel ticks. It is one of the plants that wildlife chooses not to browse on.  Plant in full sun or semi-shade where it will tolerate a whole range of conditions.     

PLANTS ON SPECIAL – Less 15%

Aspilia mossambicensis - Wild Sunflower 

Hardy, evergreen, shrubby perennial with rather stiff branches. Leaves are roughly hairy above, densely hairy but softer below.  Flowers are borne in lax terminal heads and are golden yellow to orange.  The plant is reminiscent of a jolly, yellow Cosmos and flowers from spring to autumn.  Attracts butterflies and tiny pollinating insects to the garden.   Use in a mixed, colourful border or create pretty floriferous containers. Can tolerate light frost and drought.  Prune regularly to keep tidy and promote flowering.  Plant in compost-rich soil, in full sun or semi-shade. 

Gymnosporia harveyana - Black Forest Spike-thorn 

Hardy, evergreen, spiny shrub that is densely leafy and has long, slender, straight spines.  The beautiful, glossy, dark-green foliage is a distinctive feature of this plant.  From Oct. to May it bears clusters of small, white flowers that attract insects.  These are followed by white berries on slender stalks. From Nov. to Jun. the berries turn ruby-red and adorn the tree. When these split, birds are attracted to the food source.  As it is either in flower or fruit all year round it is a great addition to a wildlife garden.  It has many uses – it can be pruned to form a small tree, trimmed into a formal hedge, left as an informal hedge or planted in a security barrier.  It also makes a beautiful container and accent plant.  This stunning plant grows in deep or filtered shade.  Plant in compost-rich, well-drained soil and give it moderate water. 

Melinus repens - Natal Red Top 

Very hardy, semi-deciduous, perennial grass with beautiful plumes of pink and white, fluffy seeds from Sep. to Jun.  This is the grass you see along the roadsides shining in the sun.  The seeds attract seed-eating birds.  It is a good soil stabiliser interplanted with other perennial grasses or groundcovers.  Use this as a lovely addition to a grassland garden or mass-plant for a beautiful show.  Plant in sun or semi-shade.  Prune back to about 5cm above ground level each winter.

Artemesia afra - Wild Wormwood 

This hardy evergreen, fast growing soft shrub with aromatic, feathery silvery leaves. which are used extensively as a medicine.  The hard, rigid spines are almost always single.  Dense clusters of nodding of creamy white flowers at the tips of the stems are borne from Mar. to May.  Plant in well-drained soil in a herb garden in a container or in a mixed border in full sun and prune to keep in shape.  It is one of our most important medicinal plants that can be used in many ways to treat the following.  A tea made with the leaves relieves congestion and few leaves twisted and inserted in your nose will help clear sinus.  The list of medicinal uses goes on and on.  The tea is bitter, and the addition of honey makes it more palatable.

GARDENING TIP

Water

February is World Wetlands month.  Wetlands are essential to the health and sustainability of our planet’s water resources, so it is fitting that we are at least reminded of this annually.  Very few people are fortunate enough to have a wetland on their property, but that does not mean that we cannot be a valuable part of helping the earth to soak up precious water and add it to the water table.  This in turn helps our gardens to survive and even thrive in long dry periods, as there is underground water accessible to these plants.

Have a look at some of our website articles dealing with water in the garden.

Guide to Water Conservation Garden Display | Random Harvest News
Creating a small pond in your garden | Random Harvest News
Indigenous Trees for Pools - Wholesale and Retail Plant Nursery | Random Harvest News

Water is also essential for attracting birds and other wildlife to the garden. It is important to make this water accessible to creatures and also to choose the right indigenous plants to plant in and around the pond.

In the pond as they assist with keeping the water healthy and clear. They provide oxygen, food, refuge and places to breed.  Nymphaea nouchalli, Aponogeton distachyos and Nymphoides indica all have leaves that float on the surface, shading the water and cooling it down, as well as reducing the rate of evaporation. Vallisneria sp. is a fully  submerged plant that provides refuge for fish and oxygenates the water.

Around the edges of water features and around bird baths plant a variety of plants that are different heights and have different water requirements.  Include reeds and sedges here and you will naturally create refuge for shy birds and other creatures, as well as space for dragonflies to roost and also hunt from. Some species you could consider are:

Large : Cyperus papyrus, Typha capensis
Medium: Cyperus textilis, C, alternifolius, Schoenoplectus corymbosus, juncus kraussi
Small: Cyperus prolifer, Cyperus alternifolius nana, Juncus effusus, Berula erecta, C. laevigatus

Trees and tall shrubs – choose what will be appropriate for the soil and position and what is in proportion to the rest of the garden.  These taller plants provide refuge for bathing birds and shy wildlife that comes to a bird bath or water feature to drink.  Choose plants with appropriate water requirements for your soil,

Open flat areas near a water feature or bird bath can be sculpted to gently direct rainwater towards them, reducing the need to fill them in the rainy season.  Shorter grasses and gravel and low growing plants will all help to break the force of a downpour and slow water down so that much of it can be soaked up into the ground.  There are many birds and some other creatures that prefer a shallow, open area of access to water in order to drink or bathe. 

ON THE FARM

What a joy it has been to see the water gushing down the furrows that bring the water from roofs and paving around the office to replenish the water in the dam.  It is also amazing to see the dam back to its true beauty after how dry and dreary it has looked during the dry period when none of the plants were growing.

The birds and waterlilies are loving the wet weather and Jeffrey and I are revelling in the beauty all around us as well.

It is amazing how quickly the grassland resurrects after a few good showers of rain.

Jeffrey went on a hunt for the orchids and much to our delight they are busy shooting again.  We check every day for the flowers to peep up over the grasses.

The grasses themselves are looking absolutely beautiful and it is worth a visit to the grassland just to look at the variety of grasses flowering.

Speaking of the grassland, we were privileged that Fritz Van Oudtshoorn, a grass specialist, visited us and took us into the grassland.  We learnt a huge amount about the grasses from him.  I must also say he was impressed with how we have restored the Random Harvest grassland.  

Jeffrey and I are very proud of what we have achieved in the grassland.

The one and only bullfrog at Random Harvest this year decided to take up residence in a pond in the retail nursery.  

I was worried he was going to leave and try and cross the road to the grassland on the pavement so decided to relocate him to the dam where it is much safer.  It is also perfect habitat for him.  He seemed happy enough, but I think a bit too young to breed.  

The Spotted Eagle Owl is still outside my bedroom window and almost every morning I hear his wonderful call and feel like the luckiest person in the world.

Talking of a privileged life, this dove decided to pay a visit one evening.  After gingerly walking in it settled down and ate its dinner from Abbys food dish.  I spent a few minutes sitting quietly and enjoying the moment.

The Paradise Flycatcher nests are all full of tiny babies.  Hopefully this next generation will also make their way back to Random Harvest on their yearly migration.

There are quite a lot of butterflies around at the moment.  I loved this picture… it makes me think of a ballet of the butterflies.

I thought I would share a short video of a Citrus Swallowtail butterfly on a Scabiosa flower with you.  I loved it – these short videos make you look at nature a little differently.  HYPERLINK

There are many wonderful flowers in the nursery.  This beautiful Clematis villosa, a grassland plant found on our ridges, is in flower.  It is one of the plants I have been battling to grow in packets for many years.  Some of the grassland plants are difficult to grow as they have a big root system. 

 These beautiful blooms have an enticing scent.  Hopefully, with Mikes help we may have gotten it right – Hold thumbs.

The Eucomis comosa (Slender Pineapple Flower) are in full bloom.  As you can see from the picture the insects are happy as well.

This bulbous plant is easy to grow and will come up every year gracing your garden with these gorgeous flowers.  They also make great, long lasting cut flowers.

The unusual Catophractes alexandri (Trumpet Thorn) seem to send out its beautiful white flowers after each 10 or 15mm of rain.

It is hardy and drought resistant and a joy in the garden.

After all the rain my staff have been weeding the grassland helping to keep out all those pernicious alien invaders.  It is due to their hard work that the grassland is so beautiful.

I thought I would share these two interesting pictures of spiders seen in the nursery.  Astri Leroy kindly identified them for me.

Her reply was ‘Platyoides walteri, a scorpion spider, so called for the weird scorpion-like way it folds its legs. The other is the egg-sac "nest" of a rain spider, most likely the very common Palystes superciliosus.

Of course, the venom of both is considered harmless to humans’.

One of the many visiting children fell instantly in love with Ronald, as we all are, and for that Saturday morning he had a new job looking after his little admirer.

Enjoy the marvellous balmy weather and your garden, as I do mine.

Sincerely

Linda

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