Random Harvest Newsletter Archive

Random Harvest Newsletter - December 2017

Posted On: Friday, December 1, 2017

Dear Indigenous Enthusiast

As we draw to a close on 2017 I look back on a truly epic year. So much has happened, good and bad, but we have come out stronger and learned so much. I love that we end the year in summer here in South Africa, with the dawn chorus and verdant green all around us.

What a Christmas gift. This holiday season I do hope you give yourself the gift of a little (better yet a lot of) time in the garden. It is a great way to replenish the soul for a busy 2018.

Christmas tree for the birds

Our Christmas tree for the birds is almost ready. 

This tree is normally a hit with both our customers and the birds. 

The birds themselves are like decorations and become so tame it is amazing.

This year I decided to do some alien vegetation clearing and cut down a Black Wattle from next door to use as a tree. 

Here we are painting it with Linseed Oil to preserve it for the next 6 weeks


In the shop

Our renovations in the reception, shop and patio area will be complete by the time you receive this newsletter. I love the new look of our reception, so much cleaner and brighter.

We have stock of some lovely items in our shop. They would make interesting and unconventional Christmas gifts. Here are a few that I thought you might like to know about:

Wooden carvings by “Life from the roots” are small pieces of décor that I think are just beautiful. To hang them in a window or where they can catch your eye could really beautify any space you choose to place them.

Our Indigenous Plant Guide has proved so popular, and a really valuable resource to regular plant buyers and landscapers alike. It is a 164-page long catalogue of the plants we have grown over the years and packed with information on our South African Indigenous plants.

I have heard Comfrey Cream called a First Aid Kit in a Jar! Well, it is a fitting description as this amazing ointment / cream has over 40 listed ailments that it can help to ease, from skin complaints to muscle sprains and even varicose veins!

In the Nursery

Our retail nursery is looking great at the moment. Despite the heat that we have had, the plants are amazingly resilient, and are thriving.

We were going to take down the arid garden (dry garden) display in order to replace it with the children’s Christmas Creature garden, but it is looking so amazing I didn’t have the heart to remove it.

You can read more about drought tolerant gardens and landscaping on our website.


We have recently added an article that details how we put our 5 Cameo Gardens together, and it gives some useful tips for creating your own tiny garden.

Please come and have a look at them for yourselves when visiting the nursery.

They are situated opposite the gazebo.

You don’t even have to search for the plants used if you would like to create your own garden…we have placed them right near the gardens for you!



Our information evening held earlier this month was a great success, and I really enjoyed chatting to our guests over dinner. We have had such positive feedback that we will definitely be hosting another evening of this kind in the near future.
As soon as a date is confirmed, it will be advertised. Please let us know if you would like us to put your name down for this.


While on the topic of our cottages, you may notice our display table for them, when you visit the nursery over the weekend. Please take a brochure for yourself and a few to pass one on to your friends too.


We still have availability over December if you need accommodation for your holiday guests. You can read some recent reviews on our website if you click here. (Link to cottages reviews on the internet).


I don’t know about winding down for the end of the year…we seem busier than ever, bringing you some great happenings at Random Harvest.

6 December 2017 - Coffee Morning (Topic – Alien invaders in and around Johannesburg)

Time: 10h30 – 12h00
What to bring: Your questions, a notebook and we’d love you to bring a friend!
Join us for a cup of coffee and an informal chat about identifying and removing alien invaders in and around Johannesburg.


Wednesday 5 January 2018 – Coffee Morning (Topic – Grasses and grassland meadow gardening)



We’ll talk about grasses and other flowering plants to include in a Grassland Garden.
Time: 10h30 – 12h00 (There will be a pre-coffee walk in the grassland at 08h30 until 10h00 for those interested. )
What to bring: Your questions, a notebook and we’d love you to bring a friend! If you join us for the pre-coffee grassland walk, please bring a hat and walking shoes as well. Sunscreen recommended.Join us for a cup of coffee and an informal chat about this popular topic

Bird Walks

Andre Marx will be taking two bird walks in December, which, given how much birdlife we have seen recently, will be a real treat. Andres’ depth of knowledge about the birds, their behaviour and their habits, makes this a most worthwhile activity.
Date: 23rd December and 30th December, 2017,
Cost: including Buffet breakfast and welcome tea and biscuits. R145.00

To avoid disappointment, remember to book early as these walks are very popular.

Domestic Gardener Training

Lindsay Gray’s Gardening Courses will resume in 2018. Please consult our website for details. The dates are as follows

Domestic Gardener Training Friday, 19 January
Easy Steps to Designing your Garden Saturday, 20 January 08h30 – 12h30
Easy Steps to Planting your Garden Saturday, 20 January 13h30 – 16h30
For further information contact Lindsay Gray on email : [email protected]
Web : www.schoolofgardendesign.com or Cell : 0824499237

For The Kids


Spot the creature in the tree – prize of a Christmas treat for the birds
Our Children’s Christmas Creature Garden is all ready for kids to come and see how many creatures they can spot and identify in this garden. Once done, they can collect their prize of a Christmas treat for the birds from reception. Please ask for assistance from our Random Harvest Team.

Garden Safari

Garden safari – Tuesday, 12th December 2017
Time: 10h30 – 12h00
Cost: R80.00 per child, includes a juice, fun worksheet and plant seedling to take home.
Ages: From 5 years upwards.
A Garden Safari is an expedition into the garden, to discover the wonder of what is living there, including the ever-popular bugs in their hiding places.
Bring hats and slap on loads of sunscreen.
Booking: Essential – Call 082 553 0598 or email [email protected]

Plant a Succulent Garden

Plant a succulent garden – Thursday, 21 December 2017
10h30 – 12h00
Cost: R80.00 per child, includes a juice and the succulent garden that they have planted up which they can take home with them.

Plant a miniature succulent garden with succulents, pebbles, wood and found items. You are welcome to bring a few of your own special things that you want to include (container about A3 size in area).

Bring hats and slap on loads of sunscreen.

Booking: Essential – Call 082 553 0598 or email [email protected]

WOSA Conference 2018

Although not on our premises, I thought I would mention this important botanical event. The WOSA (Wild Orchids of Southern Africa) conference takes place in Dullstroom, in January 2018. Please follow this link for more details (https://wildorchids.co.za/html/conferences/wosa-conferences/3rd-conference-2018/118-3rd-conference-2018).

Plants Looking Good
(For more detailed information click on the hyperlinks.)

Terminalia phanerophlebia - Lebombo Clusterleaf (E); Lebombotrosblaar (A)

I just love this upright tree. At the tips of the spiral of beautiful olive-green leaves, spikes of white flowers are carried, like a cluster of pure white candles.

This tree looks mystical in the dusk, especially in winter when the leaves become a dark Khaki-green colour before they drop off in spring to be replaced by fresh new growth. Hyperlink

Gunnera perpensa - River Pumpkin (E); Rivierpampoen (A)
This very hardy, marsh plant has beautiful, huge, blue-green, rounded leaves that are carried on quite a long stem. Its tiny, brown flowers are clustered close together on a long, unusual spike.

A wonderful plant to grow in shallow water, along streams or in marshy areas. Remember it is deciduous in winter.

Barleria prionites subsp. delagoensis - Delagoa Bay Barleria (E)
This beautiful clear apricot flowered Barleria is a new release for us. It is both hardy and drought resistant and grows well in semi shade or sun. A pretty shrublet with bright green leaves to try in your garden.

Justicia betonica – Paper Plume
Another unusual new release is this plant which has absolutely beautiful spikes of white to the palest of green, long lasting, papery bracts with either dark purple or dark green veins. The velvety flowers are white with pink ridges or spots and carried above the bracts. Plant in a grassland or woodland garden in sun or semi shade. With its tiny green leaves that clasp the stem and papery bracts it adds texture to a garden bed.

Grewia occidentalis - Cross-berry (E); Kruisbessie (A)
An all-time favourite of the birds is the cross-berry, which bears delicious edible fruits. Add to this the beautiful pink flowers with clusters of prominent yellow stamens and you have a gorgeous and useful large shrub for screening or use in a bushclump. It needs regular pruning to keep it in shape and to the size you want.

Bauhinia natalensis - Dainty Bauhinia (E); Fynbauhinia (A)
A most beautiful hedge can be created with this floriferous medium sized shrub. It bears masses of beautiful white flowers with purplish lines to guide the insects in to pollinate the plant.

It is not only a great garden plant but grows well in containers as well.

Nymphaea nouchali - Blue Waterlily (E); Blouwaterlelie (A)

Anyone who has a pond no matter how small should have one of these beautiful plants floating in it. It flowers profusely with gorgeous blue flowers that attract masses of insects. Insects also use the leaves to perch on when they need to take a drink.

This free flowering waterplant has a wonderful pollination mechanism which you can observe going on in your pond.

Wildlife Gardening Tip

The skinks and lizards at Random Harvest seem to just get fatter and fatter! This is probably testament to the fact that we have very few predators and take pains not to use chemicals that will affect our wildlife and their well-being. Here is some additional information on making your garden lizard and skink friendly. (link to article on website).



On The Farm


The rain has been totally amazing. It is funny how the whole atmosphere of the farm changes after rain. The grassland, in particular, looks fantastic. I so enjoy taking Abby for a run in the mornings in the grassland. I was happy to hear the Francolin but, needless to say, I left my camera at home. I tried to take a picture with my phone but that was a disaster.

There have been lots of interesting bird sightings. The Lapwings are breeding and of course getting cheeky with it. You want to watch them dive-bombing Abby. I can’t help but laugh at her consternation.

This Wattled Lapwing is sitting on her nest quite happily in amongst the grazing cows.
I tried really hard to get a picture of the Crowned Lapwing babies, without success.

Luckily Jeff either was luckier than me or, as I suspect, more patient than I am and got this charming picture to share with you.

The other morning Jeff and I saw 5 Black-headed Heron foraging in the same area. I think this is highly unusual as they are normally quite solitary. Not sure what they were feeding on. Although I got a picture of all 5 they were too far away so chose to share this one with you.

The birds have been busy in the garden as well. We have seen many more Groundscraper Thrush this year than ever before. They strut around on the lawns as if they own the place. Every time I hear a bit of a strange call to try and identify – it is invariably the Groundscraper Thrush.

The Puffback is displaying much better for his wife. This is another bird that we are seeing more frequently now than ever before. I think he is exciting and especially beautiful when he puffs up his feathers to display.

The Pintailed Whydah is back in breeding plumage and he and his lazy mate are once again feasting on the seeds in the nursery. What for, I don’t know, as they are brood parasites and don’t need the energy to bring their babies up. They rely on unsuspecting others to do the hard work of bringing up the babies.

The Thick-billed Weavers are frequenting the area around the pond in my mom’s garden more and more often. Another great addition to our bird list which currently has 158 species identified here on Random Harvest.

This picture of the Red-Winged Starlings foraging on a pathway distinctively shows the differences between the male and female.

Here are some pictures of other interesting creatures we have seen.

I loved this picture of a beautiful wasp that Jeffrey took. Wasps have such an important role to play in nature and people are mostly just afraid of them and want to kill them. There are very few that will sting you and then only if they feel threatened. I think they need some consideration from us and appreciation for the important role they play in insect-control and pollination.

I loved this picture of a Praying Mantis that had just caught a beetle. If you look carefully at his wings you will see they look exactly like leaves. Amazing camouflage. Look a little closer and you will see tiny flies on his body. I can only think they are also coming for their share of the beetle.

I couldn’t resist sharing this beautiful picture of a Hoverfly on a Euphorbia sp. that Heather took.

When looked at closely the intricacy of these tiny creatures, from the protuberant eyes to the tiny hairs is nothing short of miraculous.



How cute is this baby Hare hiding in amongst the packets in the nursery? I am so lucky that the wildlife chooses to live in harmony with us here at Random Harvest.

I thought I should share some pictures of plants that are looking amazing on the farm at the moment.

The seed heads of the Boophone disticha (Fan-leaved Boophone) are looking beautiful. I just need to catch them before they are up and rolling away in order to collect the seeds that are held at the tip of each long stem. This is a mechanism for distribution of their seeds.


The Crassula falcata (Propeller Plant) are blooming with their brilliant scarlet flowers at the moment. Hopefully next year we should have some for sale.

The Crinum species have been blooming one after the other and one more beautiful than the other as well.

From the spidery flowered Crinum buphanoides (Sand Lily) to the more blowsy flowers of Crinum macowanii (River Lily) which grows in between the grasses.

Of course we must talk about our own, bright pink local Crinum graminicola (Grass Vlei Lily). Because of all the development in Gauteng this plant is now becoming extremely rare due to habitat loss.

I am happy and privileged to have a few colonies of them growing on the farm. We were fortunate to be asked to do a plant rescue on a mining site and found the ones that now grow happily here at Random Harvest.

Another beautiful grassland bulb is the Ammocharis coranica (Ground Lilly). Our grasslands so amazingly diverse and beautiful with the multitude of bulbs and other wild flowers. It is really sad that they are not protected more but fall victim to unbridled development.

Another stunningly beautiful grassland plant is the Erythrina zeyheri (Plough breaker). This plant with its gorgeous spikes of bright scarlet flowers is actually an underground tree. It has a huge woody tuber which is said to be able to break a plough. Hence the common name.

The Philenoptera violacea (Apple Leaf) is a quintessential bushveld tree that grows extremely well here in Gauteng. It is a wonderful small to medium sized tree that will attract a whole host of wildlife to the garden.

This is one of my favourite trees, and I think it is hugely under-utilised in people’s gardens.

Although it flowers for a brief period only, it is a sight to behold at this time of year, with its large bunches of pinky mauve flowers. The large, brittle, compound leaves give this tree its name, as, when they are crushed, they sound just like the crunch of an apple being bitten into.

I am happy to report, after sharing the pictures of the strange flowers of the Kigelia africana (Sausage tree) that they are bearing lots of their even stranger sausage shaped fruits. Take note of how weird it is how the fruits emerge from the flowers.

I spend my life trying to make this farm as wildlife and bird friendly as I can and then have to spend an equal amount of time trying to fool them into leaving some seeds for us to grow. Talk about a double edged sword.

My mom made these little net caps to put over the seed heads of the Scadoxus puniceus (Paint Brush). They have incredibly tempting red seeds for the birds to come and eat and help distribute the seeds. Unfortunately, I need some of the seeds to sow, so I have to deprive the birds of their bounty.

I thought I would share a few pretty combinations of indigenous plants. The yellow flowers are Linum africanum (African Flax) and the bright blue ones are Anchusa capensis (Cape Forget-me-not).

Both about the same size and make a lovely combination for a flower bed.


I get mad when I hear people say how dull indigenous plants are, so I thought I would dispel this myth with this picture of a riot of colour in the nursery. 

A loyal customer of ours has created an amazing indigenous garden. He sent me this beautiful picture of breeding Green Hoopoe in his garden.

What a privilege having these amazing birds in your garden and it goes to show the added benefit of having an indigenous garden. A true inspiration.


I really do live a charmed and wonderful life.

The other day I was working on my verandah and a Paradise Flycatcher male flew so close to me his tail actually brushed my cheek.

It was a heart-stoppingly beautiful moment.


Enjoy the rain and the changes it makes in your garden.

Hope to see you soon.



Cell 079-872-8975
email [email protected]

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