Random Harvest Newsletter Archive

Random Harvest Newsletter - November 2023

Posted On: Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Dear Indigenous Enthusiast, 

I am not sure if it is old age catching up on me, but time just seems to fly, of course it could be that time flies when you are having fun.  We always have fun here at Random Harvest.

Scilla natalensis

Although we are going through a dry time the plants are growing, blooming and budding and just generally looking beautiful.  The exquisite misty blue of the Blue Squill (Scilla natalensis) is gorgeous and the insects are happy visiting them.  What a bountiful time of year it is.


Having Adrian working in the retail nursery now gives us the opportunity to upgrade the displays which I have been wanting to do for ages and just never seemed to have the time.

He is busy building a new display for the bird feeders, and I am super excited, I think it is going to look great.

This is the time of the year when we are frantically busy planting seeds.  Paul and Mercy are so organised that it is a pleasure going to the seed section.  Most importantly the seeds are germinating and growing.  This means a waterfall of work for the people at my gate who do the transplanting into plug trays.  It is amazing that after 33 years in the nursery I am still in awe of each tiny seed germinating, we certainly live on a miraculous planet.

It is amazing to see the grasses germinating under our solar panels.  This has become a really useful space to grow plants.  I am now pleased that I endured all the stress of designing and building the solar stands high enough so we could work under them.


Distributing the food parcels through Jeffrey’s church has worked very well.  It is much more controlled and with the assistance of the pastor we have identified people who are truly in need.  We have also arranged to have the people collected from their shacks to collect the food which we can then do in an orderly fashion.

I want to thank everyone who brought nonperishable food to the nursery and in particular the generous donors who support this initiative month after month.  I am truly grateful for their unwavering support.

People think I am weird as the best gift anyone can give me is food for the parcels.  Together we are filling a desperate need, and it makes me feel blessed to be able to do this with your generosity, which is humbling -Thank you once again from the bottom of my heart.

If you are able to assist, these are our banking details
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



The Paradise Flycatchers gave me a heart attack this year.  Normally I hear them in the garden from 10th October.  This year I was met with silence, and I was so worried that they had deserted us. Jeffrey and Ronald kept telling me they saw them – I was sceptical - but to my immense relief they started their cheerful calls in the garden on the 16th, 

Join us for a bird walk and share the joy of watching these miraculous little creatures with us.

The dates are as follows:

Date: Saturday 4th November with Chris Hines

Time: 6h30 for 7h00

Date: Saturday 9th December 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 


Clem, who supplies Random Harvest with the delicious raw honey we sell in the shop, has agreed to give a talk on bees.

These hard little workers that are so important to the health of the planet and to the provision of food for humanity are under stress from overuse of pesticides and changes in the environment.

He will share the secrets of the lives of bees and how you can help preserve them as well as interesting facts and the uses of honey – it is a very interesting talk and subject.

Date:  Saturday 25th November  
Time: 10h00
Cost: R50.00 including coffee and homemade cookies (a donation of nonperishable food for our food parcel drive would be greatly appreciated.)
Booking is essential - please contact Ronald on [email protected] Tel. No. 082-553-0598 


Join us for a book signing by Jean-Francois who will be showcasing his new book: African Psychoactive Plants and be presenting a talk on his research at Random Harvest.

Date: Saturday 11th of November 2023 from 9h30 until 12h30

This fascinating subject is based on Psychoactive plant use research which has been gaining momentum over the last century around the world, particularly in the Americas. 

Despite this, psychoactive plant use has been a neglected field of research in Africa that has resulted in a huge gap in the ethnobotanical study of these fascinating plants. This 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 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. Juice will be provided.


Please remember to bring a few non-perishable food items for our food parcels.

I thought we should change the upcoming topic slightly as we have had no rain, and the grassland is looking dry and crispy.  I thought we could talk about how the grassland ecosystem works and how to create a beautiful little replica of this miraculous environment in your own garden.

We can reschedule the walk after we have had some rain and the grassland comes back into its own

Date: Wednesday 1st November 2023 at 10h30
Topic: A talk on grasslands and grassland gardening.

Date: Wednesday 6th December 2023 at 10h30
Topic: Conserving water in the garden

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.)


Lindsays final course this year is Practical Gardener Training        
Date: 1st December - 8:30am to 3:30pm
A practical course for either new 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.

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


On Saturday 25th November we would like to invite our wholesale customers to attend the last get together for the year.  We will spend the morning exploring the often-unseen plant collections and rare plants dotted on the farm. 

We will have a guided walk and chat through the gardens, pointing out special plants along the way and then visit the propagation and growing areas where the rare plant collections are kept. 

This is a chance to view some plants that are seldom seen in cultivation. We will have a limited selection of these rare species available for sale on the day.

A mini High Tea will then be served for you to enjoy.

Please let us know if you can attend this interesting morning – Book your space with Sarie on 082-553-0791 or email [email protected]


Jeffrey and the staff in the nursery have been working really hard at improving the quality of our plants which are now looking beautiful.

The variety we grow is vast and you will be spoilt for choice when deciding what to plant and where.  Remember that there are knowledgeable people in our nursery to assist you with advice and choices of what to plant where.


As usual at this time of year we lay out a little trail to teach children about an aspect of ecology.

This year it will be all about lizards and skinks.  The children will collect stickers at various stations where they learn about these fascinating creatures and how to protect them.

When they are done, they will come back to reception to collect their Christmas Gift.  

The children love these activities, and we look forward to seeing them and teaching them about the environment.


This time my staff and I decided not to write about the accommodation, but let our guests share their experience with you.

Reviewed: 24 October 2023
Three days of tranquility (10) 

Liked · The peace and quiet - and the space. The food was great and friendly staff. A chance to slow down and find perspective.
Disliked · I didn't dislike anything. It was far from the city and that's what I came for.

Reviewed: 20 October 2023
Home away from home (10)
Liked · Loved the surroundings. Staff friendly
Disliked · Just bit far out

Reviewed: 19 October 2023
Pleasant (8)
Liked · Cleanliness, friendly David, big bed, comfortable pillows. Unfortunately, because I was there for work, I spent only one day

Reviewed: 4 October 2023
My stay was peaceful. (10)
Liked · The breakfast was delicious! Loved it! The environment is peaceful. It was my second time going there, and RHC did not disappoint. I ended up extending my stay (again).

Did you know that you can purchase a B&B voucher as a gift for someone special 
or just to spoil yourself in the future?


Spend some quality time in a peaceful, beautiful setting by bringing friends and family along to Random Harvest during the holidays, where you can enjoy a meal, a picnic or a high tea. 

There are also wonderful walks where you can bird watch, enjoy nature, sit and chat in the gardens or just relax and breathe and let the stresses of the past year drain away.

If you wish to enjoy high tea or a picnic it is necessary to book.  Call Ronald on Tel. No. 082-553-0598 or email  [email protected]


When thinking of what gifts to give the people you love this Christmas, why not think of giving a gift that will benefit the environment and encourage wildlife and biodiversity?  The better the ecology of your garden is and the more sustainable it is, the more peaceful it will be.  What better gift can you give than a dose of peace each time you walk in the garden.

Here are a few suggestions.  
Beastie boxes R240.00 for the large one and R180.00 for the smaller one
Bee islands - R250.00
Bee hotels – From R212.00
Soil EM – R140.50
Gift Voucher for Indigenous Plants and compost
Vermicast fertiliser - R61.50
Bird feeders – From R135.00
Calabash feeders – R370.00
Bird food – From R15.50


Scilla natalensis [bauerii]  ‘Dwarf’ - Blue Squill (E); Blouslangkop (A)
Very hardy, deciduous, small bulbous plant that makes many side bulbs.  It has attractive grey-green foliage with purplish undersides.  The massed spikes of clear blue flowers are exceptionally beautiful, and it blooms on and off for most of the summer.  It also makes a wonderful container plant.  Plant in full sun or semi shade amongst short grasses or in clumps to make a show when flowering.  Ideal plant for rockeries and containers.   Size 25cm

Gardenia species are perfect to use as Christmas Trees, as they can then go on to adorn your garden or veranda.

These are hardy dense evergreen or semi-deciduous shrubs or small trees.  They are beautiful when pruned up into a single stemmed small tree but are equally beautiful left as a spreading large shrub if you have a big enough garden.   It has interesting rigid branching patterns. 

The most spectacular feature of these plants are the beautiful, large, sweetly scented, trumpet-shaped flowers that seem to glow in low light and are borne from Feb. to Aug.  They are pollinated by moths and butterflies.  Once pollinated the flowers turn a creamy yellow and fall off.  Although each flower is short lived new ones are continuously opening.  When in flower this plant is truly spectacular.  The flowers are followed by lovely large, interesting fruits.  Plant as a single specimen, as a screening plant or great container plant. 

Three species are: 
Gardenia cornuta - Tonga Gardenia (E); Tongakatjiepiering (A)
Gardenia thunbergia - Forest Gardenia (E); Witkatjiepiering (A)
Gardenia volkensii - Bushveld Gardenia (E); Bosveldkatjiepiering (A)

Thunbergia neglecta 
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. Size: up to 1m

Syzygium pondoense – Pondo Water Wood (E)  
This very rare, small tree is evergreen and hardy.  It branches low and can be used as a shrub.  The bark ages to a beautiful, mottled grey.  The leaves are a shiny dark green above and lighter below further accentuating the mottled look of this tree.  The new leaves are red making this a wonderful foliage plant.  Showy, fluffy white flowers that attract insects are borne from Sept. to Feb.  These are followed by large attractive red-purple fruits which are much sought after by birds.  Plant in shade or semi-shade and water regularly.   Size up to 3m     S.A. No. 558.1

Chironia palustris - Cerise stars (E); Bitterwortel (A)
Very hardy, deciduous, erect grassland plant that has dainty bluish-green leaves and stems and forms clumps from a woody rootstock.  It bears soft pink star-shaped flowers along the stems in early summer which look marvellous in amongst shorter grasses.  It grows in a normally irrigated bed as well as marshy areas where it is spectacular interplanted with other smaller wetland species.  Plant in full sun.  Size: .8 to 1m


Ledebouria [=Drimiopsis maculata] petiolata - Spotted Leaved Drimiopsis (E)
This hardy, deciduous, shade-loving, bulbous plant has beautiful, small, arrow-shaped leaves marked with dark purple spots. (Maculata = spotted/blotched). The spikes of greenish-white, Hyacinth-type flowers appear from Sept. to Apr. and are pretty but quite inconspicuous.  It multiplies easily by producing side bulbs.  This is a very attractive garden and container subject for deep, dark shade, amongst trees roots where it thrives.  The soil should be well-composted and fairly well-drained. Size: up to 25cm

Strophanthus speciosus - Forest Poison Rope (E); Bosgiftou (A)
A semi-hardy, evergreen small tree, shrub or climber with greenish bark that has raised white dots. The leaves are leathery and, like the rest of the plant, contain a poisonous, watery sap. The flowers, borne from Sept. to Dec., are striking. They have long spidery tepals that are creamy yellow to orange, with a brighter orange marking towards the centre of the flower. The greenish yellow, two-horned fruit that develops after flowering becomes brown, and splits to release seeds attached to silky hairs that assist with dispersing them by wind.
An interesting container plant, that can be grown as a woody climber or planted and pruned up to remain a small tree or large shrub. It requires well-composted soil, moderate watering and plant in a semi-shade to shady position.    Please note that if it is not pruned it can become a huge robust climber that can reach 10m if supported.

Senecio rhomboideus - Fleshy-leaved Daisy 
Extremely hardy, deciduous, succulent shrublet with large, toothed, pale green, fleshy, diamond-shaped leaves.  It bears sprays of yellow flowers on long stalks throughout summer.  The flowers attract a whole host of tiny insects to the garden which are a great food source for the birds.  It has an elongated tuber which can be exposed to make an interesting and beautiful container plant.  Useful and interesting plant in rockeries or in a mixed succulent bed.  Plant in full sun in well-drained soil. Size: Up to 30cm

GARDENING TIP OF THE MONTH – Retaining soil moisture

I thought seeing as though it is so dry, we should look at retaining soil moisture.  Water is an essential component of healthy soil, for both plants as well as soil micro-organisms.

They use water from the soil in the process of making their own food (photosynthesis) and are only able to take up nutrients from the soil when they are dissolved in the water droplets around the roots.  Micro-organisms in the soil are also dependent on at least some soil moisture to carry out their activities. A healthy soil micro-life means healthier plants.

As gardeners, it can be a challenge to keep the soil moist enough for a healthy garden when it is as hot and dry as it is here, at the moment. 

Here are some top tips that we employ in an eco-garden that will go a long way to retaining as much precious moisture in the soil as possible.

  • Include a good amount of organic matter (compost) in your soil. This will absorb and retain moisture as well as creating airspaces in the soil, equally important for healthy soil.
  • Cover bare soil with mulch. This has a two-fold benefit: firstly, it traps moisture in the soil and secondly, it helps to regulate the temperature of the soil, acting like an insulating blanket against extreme hot or cold.
  • Create opportunities for maximum absorption of water into the soil. This can be done through three ways:
  • Slow water down so that it has less chance of eroding soil out of the garden. Create uneven surfaces – bumps, furrows and plant cover at different heights all go a long way to prevent water from rushing out of our gardens and down the nearest storm water drain. The longer water is around, the more chance it has of being soaked up.
  • Spreading water out reduces its capacity to wash our gardens away, and means that it can be absorbed over a greater surface area. If you have a slopes in your garden, create flat “layers” or steps so that the water can spread out. Create spaces where water can pool to be absorbed by the soil before it runs away from where it has fallen. Creating the slightest depressions in a lawn or in flower beds will allow this to happen. Water gushing out of downpipes off of a roof can fall onto a bed of rocks that has a geotextile under it, and this will not only reduce erosion, but will allow a wide area over which water can be absorbed into the soil.
  • Let water soak into the soil. This can be a challenge in paved areas, so consider placing drainage spaces, such as loose pebbles in selected areas instead of solid pavers, grates over soil that has a piece of geotextile under the grate and garden beds positioned to take up as much of the water run-off from paving as possible. Create areas where water can pool and soak into the soil long after the rain has stopped, or watering time is over.
  • There are synthetic gels and other hygroscopic substances that can be added to the soil which hold on to water and release it into the plants slowly over time. In areas of extreme drought stress this can be a lifesaver for plants as well as soil life.

For more ideas, have a look at our Rain water conservation garden blog from some years ago. Guide to Water Conservation Garden Display | Random Harvest News


I am so excited - the Albizia adianthifolia (Flat-crown Albizia) in the nursery bloomed for the first time.  I removed a Jacaranda and as soon as the Albizia had space and no competition it started growing fast and this year it has graced us with these magnificent blooms – Wow!

Talking of blooms, the Combretum bracteosum (Hiccup Nut) are in full flower with their gorgeous crimson flowers.  Not only does it have beautiful flowers, but the foliage is also a lovely feature.

The Ploegbrekers (Erythrina zeyheri) in the burnt area are all popping up with their magnificent scarlet flowers (there are a lot of red flowers around at the moment).  I am hoping they give us lots and lots of seed this year.

I was so amazed at this beautiful Boophane disticha (Gifbol) blooming in Jeffries grass garden.  It is our first Boophane flower.

The Craibia zimmermannii (Sand peawood) are in full magnificent bloom in the garden.  They also have their attendant insect and bird species that appreciate this indigenous garden so much. 

With it being so dry – we have had just about no rain – the grassland is dry and crispy and still looks like winter.  

Despite this, there are many flowers bravely blooming above the dry grass, although not just not in their normal abundance.  I am just praying that the rain that is forecast comes and pours on Random Harvest.

Luckily the resources of the grassland are underground, making the plants extremely drought resistant, in some cases more so than succulents.

As dry as it is, the Milkweed (Gomphocarpus fruticosus) are blooming profusely in the grassland.  They have a generous offering of pollen and nectar which helps support the many insect species that live in the grassland.  

They in turn offer the means of survival to the tiny predators, like this praying Mantis, that live on the Milkweed as well.

I have a Spotted Eagle Owl in the White Stinkwood outside my bedroom window.  It is just amazing to wake up in the night and hear his gently haunting call.

I have been puzzling as to why there are very few birds at the dam.  Our resident Moorhens have, very sadly, left as well.  Luckily, I have Mike, the consummate scientist working here, he thinks it is because the dam is getting too hot, and the UV rays are extreme.  

We decided with Jeff to put some of our Indigenous willows that we have in big baskets into the dam to help shade it a bit and give the fish and birds a little relief from the extreme heat.  Here’s hoping it works as well as we think it will.

One good thing is that the desert garden Paul created is loving this weather and thriving.

As I sit here writing the cheerful calls of the Paradise Flycatchers are filling the garden.  I have so many wonderful experiences in this indigenous garden, I feel truly blessed.

Here’s hoping we are drenched with rain in the next week….…perhaps even before you get to read this newsletter!



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