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Dear Indigenous Enthusiast,
Who would ever have thought we would see South Africa in this predicament and see our roads totally deserted?
It makes me wonder if people will appreciate the traffic when things get back to normal.
Having said this, I think this is a great time for reconnecting with our families, our homes and our gardens – instead of being immersed in our normally frantic lives.
Take time to just sit in the garden you have worked so hard to create and breathe and relax. Listen to the rustling of insects in amongst the plants and listen to the birds. I am amazed at how clear the bird sounds are without all the peripheral noise that goes on in our lives.
Am I not the lucky one to be locked down in as beautiful a place as Random Harvest.
I am able to sit and watch the sky and all the glorious cloud patterns, look for birds and insects to observe and enjoy having the time to chat to the essential staff I have on hand to keep the plants watered.
I have housed them in the cottages and they are having a great time with lots of space and little luxuries around them. This, instead of the millions of people who are confined to a shack in the informal settlements. My heart goes out to them – I am sure these three weeks will seem like an eternity.
We are missing our visitors to Random Harvest, in the tea garden, retail and the wholesale nursery. I hope you have been enjoying the little glimpses into our space that we’ve been sharing with you on our Facebook (Hyperlink Please) page. We’ll also be sharing some fun activities to do with the children or grandchildren around the Easter weekend.
All the events have been cancelled for April. I will reorganise dates for Bruce Stead’s Landscape Design Course and I think we should still have the Easter Egg Hunt for the kids, even though Easter will be long gone.
I will also re-confirm the topics for the coffee morning.
Luckily before lockdown we had two really big orders through the Wholesale.
One to the Zoutpansberg and one to Grahamstown.
This was a blessing as we are going to have quite hard times until business can resume.
We had to cover our irrigation dam with a tarpaulin.
After all our hard work and before we could fit the tarpaulin properly, we had a down pour which broke all the cables, so we have to start all over again from the beginning once we open.
Another job that had to be deferred is the completion of our new shade house.
Happy and his assistant worked really hard to sew the covers.
I am so grateful to him as this is not an easy job and I would have had to do it myself.
Well one thing for sure, when we open again, we will have lots to keep us busy.
Our customers have been quite happy to sanitise on arrival and we will continue to offer this service once we open again.
Luckily, we managed to get a supply.
We had the IPPS (International Plant Propagators Society) visit this month and were really proud to show them around the nursery and share ideas with them.
Maybe now is a good opportunity to let your creative juices flow to plan a succulent corner in your garden.
With a bit of research, you could create a sunny corner of beautiful contrasts of colour and form. Include rocks, pebbles and bits of drift wood.
The birds and butterflies will utilise this space to warm themselves up in. Remember to add a little water in the form of natural dips in rocks, a grindstone or any other shallow container. The edges of a container can be artistically hidden with pebbles and plants.
Here are some tips to get you started
This is a reminder of just how beautiful our indigenous plants are
Kniphofia pauciflora - Dainty Poker is a hardy, evergreen, rare little perennial that is extinct in the wild as Durban has been built over its habitat.
Everything about this plant is dainty.
From the narrow, grey-green, grass-like leaves to its spikes of dainty, pretty, yellow, tubular flowers that nod cheerfully in the slightest of breezes.
It enjoys moist conditions and is ideal around small water features in full sun.
Bulbine natalensis – Broad-leaved Bulbine
The bright green rosette of soft succulent leaves and tall spikes of yellow flower will brighten up a bed in shade or semi shade.
The densely packed spikes of yellow star-shaped flowers are carried on long (up to 60cm) graceful flowering stems and will flower throughout the year.
The flowers are pollen and nectar-rich and attract birds and insects to the garden.
Looks good in a rockery and makes a beautiful container plant.
Delosperma echinatum - Pickle Plant
An unusual succulent plant with small white hair-like water vesicles (tiny bladder) on the leaves which glisten in the sun.
Added to the glistening beauty of the leaves it bears masses of small yellow glistening flowers.
Plant in full sun or light shade in a succulent garden, rockery or create a beautiful container.
Pterodiscus ngamicus is a very easy to grow caudex forming plant.
The swollen stem looks like a miniature baobab topped with a crown of bright green leaves.
It bears tubular flowers that vary in colour from pinkish to yellow or dark red.
The true beauty of this plant is the swollen stems which can be planted decoratively in a rockery or grouped together to make an exceptional container plant.
This small bulbous plant bears unusually large scarlet flowers that emerge from its fan of bright green flat leaves.
The brilliant red flowers with a darker red centre appear from December to April.
Aloe dyeri – Dyer’s Aloe
A large beautiful robust, stemless spotted Aloe that thrives in shady areas.
It forms groups of large rosettes spotted or striped, bright green leaves.
In autumn and early winter, it bears tall, branched spikes of delicate brick-red flowers.
Plant in a rockery, in amongst grasses or create a magnificent container plant that looks good all year round.
Kalanchoe sexangularis - Kalkoentjies (A)
The folded succulent leaves of this plant turn ruby-red in winter when they also flower with tall spikes of yellow flowers.
The contrast of the red and yellow make a gorgeous focal plant in a sunny part of the garden.
If planted in semi-shade only the margins of the leaves turn red.
An easy plant that requires little care and can be used en masse.
Maybe on a pavement or other area that does not get much attention.
The added bonus is the tiny insects that are attracted to the flowers which in turn attract the birds.
The grassland has been changing on a daily basis with the grasses growing taller and thicker.
I must say the grassland has been amazing this season.
But this could pose a problem with the lockdown and only a skeleton staff staying at Random Harvest as there could be a chance, albeit a slim one, of fire.
As insurance we cut firebreaks which, in retrospect, may not have been necessary as the grass is still green underneath.
What amazed me is that we got over 100 bales of grass which we use to make compost. It goes to show how much grass there is in such a small area. No wonder grasslands can support such vast numbers and variety of wildlife.
The Gladiolus crassifolius have been blooming in the grassland. You see these delicate spikes of flowers above the grass and you would be forgiven for not thinking they are not too spectacular.
Take a little walk and look at them closely and see the intricate markings. Then one can really appreciate their true beauty.
I have never seen the Vernonia oligacephala (bicoloured-leaved Vernonia) bloom as they have this year.
They started blooming well before the first rains and incredibly, are still blooming now.
I was also excited as I have managed to grow some of them from seed.
Hold thumbs they survive the winter and grow well in plant bags.
We are seeing beautiful spider webs in amongst the grasses. The dew caught on them sparkles like diamonds in the grassland
If you ever wondered at just how intricate and fascinating nature is.
Just take time to look closely at your indigenous plants and see the life they support.
Think of this flower of a Buddleja saligna (False Olive).
The tree gives us shade to sit under.
The wood is incredibly durable and can be used for building.
Then look at the flowers and see the host of wildlife they support.
It is all about the right plants in the right place.
The grasses are just teeming with butterflies at the moment.
This Eyed Pansy is just one of the many species we are seeing.
The grassland at Random Harvest is such an opportunity to teach children about nature and all its intricacies.
Jeff teaches the children that live on the farm.
When lockdown is over why not bring the children along and take them for a walk and show them some of the tiny creatures and birds that inhabit this space.
With the last big downpour of rain we had, this huge Acacia karroo (Sweet Thorn) split.
It was quite sad but I was amazed that it lasted as long as it did as it was growing all off centre.
It is always sad when one sees such a big tree that is reduced to a small heap of firewood and twigs.
What is also surprising is just how quickly the bracket fungi start growing and fruiting on the wood.
With all the moisture around there have been a few different species. They are always fascinating to watch as they fruit and die. Some persist on the wood for long periods of time.
An exciting bird that visited the dam was a Dabchick (Little Grebe).
He only arrives on the dam every few years.
As small as they are they are really cheeky.
I amused the children by playing the call off my Roberts App and “lo and behold” this tiny bird comes racing out to attack us.
It’s always such a joy to watch them.
I was really happy to see the birds returning after I disturbed the dam whilst cleaning and thinning out the Papyrus.
The Purple Heron has also been frequenting the dam again.
I don’t see him that often as the place that the Papyrus floated to, hides my view from in amongst the trees and he is normally just out of view behind the Papyrus.
I am always happy when I see the Cormorants drying their wings on the tree stumps.
This indicates that the fish population is healthy as they only visit for a quick meal.
This pair of Egyptian Geese arrived at the dam with their three chicks.
They didn’t nest on the farm but must have arrived here on foot.
Normally Egyptian Geese are really bad parents but these two have been amazing.
See how they swim on either side of their chicks, really protective parents.
I thought I would share this picture with you as I loved the reflections created by the Dabchick paddling by.
The Guinea Fowl have had lots of babies this year with new clutches coming out almost every month and almost all the babies surviving.
I think they had managed to bring them up as the grass is so thick it is difficult for predators to get them.
Woodpeckers are notoriously difficult to photograph but Ronald, with much patience, managed to get this picture of this female Cardinal Woodpecker.
We often hear them but seldom find them.
Now is the time when the leaves start dropping that the opportunities to watch them multiply.
I loved this picture of a Cape Longclaw singing his heart out. Now that we have mowed firebreaks, I am sure we will be seeing a lot more of them.
How lucky was Jeffrey to get this beautiful picture of a Zitting Cisticola? If you look at the barbed wire in relation to the size of the bird you can see just how tiny they are.
Normally you just see them bobbing up and down and displaying over the top of the grasses. You never get an opportunity to photograph them so this picture is very special to me.
This Karoo Thrush decided to visit in my house and make a meal of Abby’s food.
It is always a privilege when the birds feel so comfortable that they fly in and out of the house at will.
I am also proud of Abby as she is a Terrier and I have managed to teach her not to hunt birds.
Plants can be weird and wonderful! This germinating Marula seed looks like an alien from outer space.
I loved this combination of plants growing in the semi shade. The purple of the Plectranthus and orange of the Crocosmia make a wonderful display and really brighten up the garden.
The hedge of the small Wild Dagga (Leonotis hybrid ‘Simba’) is looking simply stunning at the moment.
This wonderful plant blooms almost all year round and attracts both birds and insects.
I was so happy to see the Marula worms out in numbers this year.
As I walked out of the conference room they were on and around the big Schotia brachypetala (Weeping Boerbean).
What I was even happier about is that the tree has been treated a few times for Shot hole borer and the worms were thriving.
This just goes to prove that PSHB Fungicide is truly environmentally friendly and I can happily use it to protect the trees of Random Harvest.
A last picture to remind you of how beautiful Random Harvest is and to remind me of how lucky I am to live here.
My hope is that this lockdown encourages us to look at the world through different eyes and hopefully encourage us to be a more constructive rather than destructive species.
Maybe see ourselves as part of nature not at war with nature and in the process, we live a richer life.
Hope to see you soon.
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