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Dear Indigenous Enthusiast,
Sorry I missed the last newsletter I had a horrible virus that took me ages to get over and set me back. Enough of that. I can't believe I am sitting writing the newsletter and it is RAINING!!
It has been so terribly dry that even the veld flowers have not started but I am sure after this lovely rain that I won't recognise the veld in a week's time. Unbelievable as it may seem - it rained last night and a whole lot of seeds germinated and popped up their heads this morning.
You certainly know it is spring (however dry it may have been) from the celebration of nature going on here at Random Harvest. You can hear the birdsong above the noise of everyday business on the farm.
The butterflies, other insects, frogs and many spiders, to name but a few, have woken from winter with a flourish, and are busy making the most of spring.
The plants are blooming beautifully and this spring seems to be particularly colourful. Could it be a response to the dry weather? Perhaps the plants know to set as much seed as possible to assure their survival into the future.
In the Nursery
Peoples' plants garden
Happy Heritage Day to all of you we didn't see on the 24th. We hope you enjoyed the day and celebrated being part of this wonderful country in some way. It was a very busy day for us, and it makes me so proud to be growing a part of our natural heritage.
We planted a medicinal and edible plants garden to showcase some of the fascinating plants that are an integral part of the cultural heritage of this country.
When next you visit us be sure to take a walk to see the garden. There is a little brochure available on the uses of the plants in the garden. It makes for interesting reading and I learned a lot while researching these plants.
Rainwater Harvesting Garden
One of our older displays, the Rainwater Harvesting Garden, is looking lovely.
I was amazed at how well the plants in the depression are doing.
This area was put in to illustrate how one can slow water down and spread it out (with the gravel in front of the depression as well as plants around the depression), and then give it an opportunity to soak into the ground.
This is achieved by creating the depression that includes a layer of gravel for water to filter through, and plants that can take periodic flooding are planted inside the depression.
Just look at how beautiful they are together.
Less "thirsty" plants, that don't require as much water are planted around the depression and in raised areas that have good drainage plants that can tolerate dry conditions are planted.
Upcoming displays and events.
Bird Walk on the 16th November.
Andre Marx has kindly agreed to do another bird walk before the end of the year.
The details are:
When: 16th November at 6h30 for 7h00
There will be homemade rusks and coffee to set you up for the walk. After the walk treat yourself to a hearty sunrise breakfast of Bacon, eggs, sausage, grilled tomato, toast and homemade jam served with tea or coffee. (If you are vegetarian please let David know and we will accommodate you)
Book with David on 082-553-0598 (payment secures your booking)
Our bird list now stands at 145 species.
Andre wrote the following about the last walk we had.
"20 eager birders left just before 7am in beautiful weather during the latest bird walk. A total of 58 species were seen in 2.5 hours and this total included a number of migrants; such as Barn Swallow, White-rumped Swift and Willow Warbler.
Good views were had of Bar-throated Apalis and Black-headed Oriole as well as a very obliging Bokmakierie that sat in the open on a stump calling for some time for all to see. A displaying African Pipit was in the grassland area together with a pair of African Stonechats and Cape Longclaw, the latter voted as the star bird of the day by most in the group.
Other interesting birds seen were Cardinal Woodpecker, both Tawny-flanked and Black-chested Prinia and African Grey Hornbill. Not all birds were in full breeding plumage but it is clear that summer has now arrived and singing and displaying birds are to be seen with breeding in full swing for most species!"
Cottage garden display
We are busy changing our wildlife garden into a colourful cottage garden. Organising and doing this display is proving to be a huge learning curve for us. I hope when it is complete (hopefully by the end of this month) it will be worth a visit and inspire you to plant up a colourful indigenous plant bed which will not only be a riot of colour but full of life as well.
I always seem to be doing displays of Trees and Wildlife gardens, so hope to remedy this with the displays we are busy setting up on hedges. There will be plants for a formal hedge as well as for large, medium and small hedges.
I am hoping this will be helpful as most people need screening in their gardens. I will endeavour to show that indigenous plants can be used very effectively for different sizes and styles of hedges.
Final garden design course for this year.
Lindsay Gray from The School of Garden Design will be back in November to offer the final weekend course for the year from Friday 15th November at our nursery.
The course covers concepts such as:
Our nursery will be abuzz with birdsong and summer colour - the ideal environment in which to learn more about gardening and garden design.
Contact Lindsay for prices. Tel : 082 44 99 237 email : [email protected] website : www.schoolofgardendesign.com
Frog Night at Chrissiemeer
I thought I would let you know about this Frog Night at Chrissiemeer which could be both educational and a lot of fun.
The details are as follows:
Frog night on 7th December 2013
Presented by: Matotoland eco-tourism association
The program is as follows
12:00 Registration at primary school
There will be stalls - pancakes, jaffles, books, etc.
Talk and slide show - Jerry Theron
17:30 Drive out with own vehicles to pan
19:30 Supper at Lake Chrissie Lodge
Price: R180 pp and Children 3-10 years R80 each
Bookings: Marietjie Blignaut - 082 929 1219 / [email protected] (Only 100 people can be accommodated, please book in advance)
Or contact Jean Rathbone for more information - 082 640 5650
Plants that are looking good at the moment
Dodonea angustifolia (Sand Olive) - It is appropriate that we should show how lovely this plant looks in seed as it is a lovely hedging plant for both formal and informal hedges.
Phygelius capensis (Cape Fuchsia) - Plant this graceful perennial in semi-shade or sun in a mixed border, cottage garden or next to a pond. A rewarding plant that requires little care.
Carissa bispinosa (Forest Num Num) - I am always amazed as this lovely shade loving neat plant flushes with beautiful white flowers in spring but then instead of the berries all appearing at the same time they form and ripen over the whole summer. Plants are an endless fascination.
Combretum bracteosum (Hiccup Nut) - This robust large deciduous creeper is covered with these magnificent red flowers in spring. It also has interesting and attractive foliage. It is a large creeper if allowed to run wild but can be pruned and kept as a beautiful shrub as well. It also makes a beautiful container plant if pruned fairly regularly and also flowers well in a container.
Bulbine abyssinica (Bulbine abyssinica) - I love this cheerful plant which if you dead-head it regularly will keep on flowering for many months with its cheerful spikes of flowers. It is an easy and rewarding plant that has many uses in a garden or as a container plant.
Geranium incanum (Carpet Geranium) - We have not had this lovely free-flowering ground cover in stock for some time. One of the most beautiful and unusual things I have seen is this delicate plant floating on a pond although the roots were in dry soil. Amazing!
In the shop
Wildflowers of the Magaliesburg - now is the time to treat yourself to one of these informative and interesting books if you enjoy walking in the veld and seeing all the wonderful plants. After this lovely rain the flowers will be amazing in the veld and knowing their names makes it all that much more personal and interesting. The price is R250.00 and from this small sum you will derive years of pleasure.
Trees of South Africa by Braam van Wyk - This ever popular book has been updated and is now brimming with information and wonderful pictures of trees. Price R450.00 and well worth it for the wealth of information it contains.
Bushmens Candles by Charles Craib - This magnificent book was Charles' last book published just before he died. I was fortunate enough to get my copies signed by him. This is a limited edition book and this will probably be your last chance to get a copy. Price R800.00. This book I am sure is an investment and over time will become very valuable.
Joy Machine Project Products - This Christmas think of how much joy you will be able to give to both the receiver of the gift and the person who made it. These beautiful gifts are hand embroidered by the ladies in Groot Marico and this project gives them both skills and income. Feel good about the gifts you give knowing you are helping others. I love this and it is a whole lot better than imported mass produced, poor quality products.
We have award winning olive oil and other products from Marbrin Farm in the Cape. All their olives are organically grown and simply delicious.
Khoisan Salt from the Western Cape hand harvests their salt (helping local communities) and does not add any artificial chemicals or anti-caking agents.
What I love besides the great quality of the salt is that they are committed to maintaining a low impact on the environment and a portion of their sales goes to Birdlife S.A.'s Seabird Division.
We are now also stocking Sweet Angels Gourmet Fudge. For those of you with a sweet tooth, this is hand made and really delicious.
We will be getting in some inexpensive gifts for Christmas which are natural, handmade (hopefully helping those less fortunate than ourselves) and unusual with nothing that is sourced from too far away thus reducing their environmental impact.
Herb Afrique - These natural skincare products are fabulous especially their powder deodorant. I have been using it for 2 months and love it as do my customers who have also tried it. The best part is that it is not harmful to your health, as with most deodorants which contain aluminium.
Their Skin Resque is perfect at this time of year when we have to contend with Mozzie bites. It is also really good for other skin itches and sores.
Enough of the commercial stuff - there have been amazing things happening on the farm in the last 6 weeks which I want to share with you.
On The Farm
The farm is just bursting with life and the birds are very, very busy and vocal.
The Weavers mob the feeding table so that the poor Pin Tailed Whydah is wearing himself out trying to keep it for himself.
His bad luck that there are just too many Masked Weavers and Red Bishops (who are just changing colour) for him to handle.
The Masked Weavers have also gone crazy building nests like this poor chap who is on his fourth nest so far this season.
There seems to be no making the females happy this year.
The other Masked Weaver thought that if he had a built in larder the females would look on him with favour.
He is still busy constructing his nest around the suet feeder. He has thought of the food but what about space for the babies?
The Erythrina's (Coral trees) have been magnificent this year.
This is the view out of my office window. Am I not the luckiest person in the whole world? Not only was it beautiful but the amount of birds and insects feasting on the nectar was amazing. Except for the cheeky Weavers who make holes in the bottom of the flowers to get to the nectar without doing the job of pollinating the flower - which is the whole point of producing nectar.
To my great excitement the pink Erythrina lysistemon bloomed for the first time this year. Although it is a really pretty shade of dusky pink it is not as striking as the crimson-flowered form. Hopefully the pink one will set seed and then the seeds grow true otherwise I will have to wait until they are a little bigger and grow some from cuttings.
The Erythrina acanothocarpa (Tamboekiedoring) have also bloomed really well this year. Hopefully I can save a few seeds from the horrible little wasp grub that eats all of them. I love the wasp but wish it would leave a few seeds for me to grow. It would be great to have a few of these beautiful plants to sell but the grubs manage to eat all of the seeds each year. This year I tried to cover the flowers with mesh so maybe will get a few seeds.
The Erythrina latissima (Broad-leaved Coral Tree) also bloomed beautifully this year. They have bloomed previously but not provided one seed. This year William climbed on the ladder (lucky he is so tall) and pollinated the flowers by hand. Hopefully he was successful and we have masses of seeds to plant.
The Sterculia murex (Lowveld Chestnut) bloomed beautifully this year so hopefully we get some seed to grow.
How lovely the flowers lying on the ground look just like elves hats. Who said that there weren't any fairies at Random Harvest?
The frogs are back as you can see from this one who has appeared in our wildlife pond much to my delight.
They are also getting very vocal and there is a Raucous Toad outside my bedroom window. Although it is very loud it is a great serenade when you are in bed.
The butterflies have also been appearing in numbers especially in the butterfly display garden to which they are attracted.
Heather took this picture of an Eyed Pansy on a Scabiosa in the garden.
If you have Scabiosa in your garden you are sure to have butterflies which find them irresistible.
Can you imagine my excitement when I saw this Hedgehog?
I have not seen a hedgehog for at least 15 years.
What a privilege!
He just came walking casually through the bottom gate.
We will now have to redouble our efforts of patrolling the grassland before cutting as I would hate to harm him.
Now there will be 3 people walking in front of the tractor instead of just one to chase any wildlife that the mower could kill or damage.
Indigenous plants always have a surprise in store for you I think this is why I love them so much.
Whether it is an interesting wildlife observation or a feature of them you only just noticed for the first time.
This year the Ochna serrulata (Mickey Mouse Bush) were covered in flowers and for the first time I noticed what a fabulous perfume they exude. I just had to sit next to the plants drinking in the lovely perfume.
The other plant that was a mass of flowers was the Brachylaena discolour (Coast Silver Oak).
I have a few planted in my windbreak and what a sight they were - you could see them from far off as you can see from the picture.
Not only were they ablaze with flowers but also bursting with life.
Every insect you can imagine was feasting on the pollen. It was an interesting few weeks visiting them to check what was visiting.
The Greyia sutherlandii (Natal Bottlebrush) were also full of their beautiful scarlet flowers and of course the nectar was just dripping out of them.
This proved irresistible to the sunbirds and every other nectar loving insect in the vicinity.
This bounty closely followed the Greyia radlkoferi (Woolly Beacon Tree) that bloomed in midwinter also offering up its bounty of nectar.
Although the specimen in the picture is not great I just loved the atmosphere created in this picture of it flowering against the rondawel.
If you travel down to KwaZulu Natal at this time of the year you will see these trees aflame on the slopes of the Drakensberg especially if you brave the road through Oliviershoek pass where they are abundant.
The Acacias have looked splendid this spring in particular the Acacia caffra (Common Hook Thorn) with its bright green leaves and white flowers.
This is such a rugged but at the same time graceful tree that I am always surprised that more people don't plant them in their gardens.
They are tough, attract wildlife and a nice medium sized tree.
Even its rough bark plays host to many different insects which in turn attract Green Hoopoes and Woodpeckers to the garden where they probe under the bark in the hopes of a tasty morsel.
Back to the birds. How unique is this Black Collared Barbet nesting in the stump of a tree less than a meter above the ground? They are really unconcerned about the people walking around.
Take a closer look at the not so great picture and you will see the wonderful bracket fungi on the decomposing wood.
The cheerful calls of the Paradise Flycatchers are all over the garden. I love to be able to sit and listen to their wonderful call and catch glimpses of the flashes of orange very busy in the garden.
They normally come back on the 12th October but this year were a day early. Happiness.
The Diederik Cuckoo started calling about 2 weeks ago. I was overjoyed to hear the soooo sad! Black Cuckoo in the garden 2 mornings ago. I am now just waiting for the Piet-my-vrou and we will have our full complement of Cuckoos back in the garden.
I was surprised to see the Karroo Thrush (I think - I always get confused between him and the Olive Thrush) feeding on the suet feeder. He is always hopping around picking up the crumps dropped by the other birds but this is the first time I have actually seen him on the feeder.
The birds can really start to cost me money. This dove found herself a convenient place to lay her eggs out of the weather in my compost house. This is all very well but she used my step ladder as a platform. I had to get another ladder as we were busy using it. Cheeky!
Finally Frans, Yolam and I have been going to French Patisserie and cooking classes and having the time of our lives. There are a few new things on the menu of the tea garden already but we are hoping to do some nice, exciting things in the future.
Enjoy the rain and the burst of life it will bring with it.
email [email protected]
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 Sundays
Cottages 072-562-3396 : Nursery 082-553-0598
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