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Varied Wednesday

Last week I organized a new V-belt for the ride on mower, left it in the office on Sunday and sent a whatsapp to Samantha with the tongue in cheek message that I expected the nursery to be mown by Wednesday and on arrival we were treated to a sight we haven’t often seen. Mown like a golf course, edges trimmed, shade house raked, really good to see.

Jenny was already fighting with the garden hose, some fittings were missing but got that sorted and off she went to the Arboretum to give the trees some much needed water while Ellie joined her there to attack the grass on the mound behind the bird bath. Cathy, Keith and Rob were off as usual o fight the aliens.

I had prepared to install a shelf in the misting house to give us room for 10 more trays so rolled out the extension lead to do the painful job of drilling holes in the wall to mount brackets made from wood donated by Neil. 1-P1050973

The result was so satisfactory that I got an immediate request for a shelf on the other side as well.


Bottom view


Top view including the thick plastic cover salvaged by Rob on one of his beach combing missions.

Afterwards there was enough time left to replace a riser and a broken sprinkler in the nursery.

After tea we all got stuck in to assemble the Riebeek bench in the parking area by the flower house.


The new flower bed there is coming on nicely, lots of planting done, now for some rain to get it all going.

Then some more planting and plant collecting was done while I carried on with my rebagging and onion weed removal effort. Finally we tried to bring some semblance of order to the Arboretum but this is quite a thankless task as we seem to be the only ones motivated to try and make it into something nice.

Ladyslipper fire break

Our monthly meeting exploring the back of Ladyslipper to see what had come up after the fire was not very popular, only six people took part. I stayed behind to clear some of the outstanding items off my to-do list, just Wednesdays just isn’t enough as the handyman work just piles up.

The walk turned out to be a little more than was expected, Ellie took them to the top by the towers and there was even a rock scramble involved.



In the meantime I secured the new tap by the water drums to a piece of wood, finished rebagging 75 Gasterias, fixed a few things in the greenhouse and measured up for the shelves in the misting house.

In between I also entertained some visitors who were interested in the nursery.

The party returned from the mountain quite late for coffee, munched some cake and dispersed while Ellie and I had some lunch and went to the bird hide to make a more suitable place for the visitors book.



Pretty, isn’t it?

Nymph Trail

At the moment it is heads down getting the nursery in order and propagating/potting stuff so there isn’t anything interesting to blog about our activities on Wednesdays.

I noticed that our weather station had stopped communicating with the internet and that bugged me so much that we just had to go out yesterday to find out what happened and it was also a good opportunity to take another trailer full of Agapanthus and Protea we had potted up at home. Turned out it was the same issue as last time, flat batteries. I really must sort out a power supply for it when I have nothing else to do for Fovs.

We were determined not to get sucked into doing work, difficult to do when there is so much outstanding, and instead enjoyed some of the things we have instigated.

It is a good time of the year to wander around with a lot of spring flowers out so we just strolled along the Nymph Trail doing lots of flower sniffing and figuring out where some of the places we have read about in the recently discovered admin files where located.


First stop though was the misting house where Ellie was quite chuffed to see the Sterculia cuttings sprouting out and some of the seedlings doing really well. We need to expand our capacity there a bit quite soon if we want to propagate more cuttings and seed.

Near the Lilly Pond which we now know is actually Dodds Dam we found some interesting trees.

Canthium inermeAcacia caffra

Canthium inerme and Acacia caffra

We also spotted some fingerlings in the dam so Neil’s efforts have not been in vain. While doing that a large flock of Drongo’s congregated around the bird hide, quite a lovely sight.


The path along the Big Bang back to the parking area now looks great after the mowing and other maintenance for the Open Day, a pleasure to walk it!


It was a whirlwind of activities today with the main focus getting the nursery back in shape again after the sale. Of course the other chores do not stop so Rob and Cathy attended to this month’s section of the hacking program while Jenny looked after the trees in the Arboretum.

In quick succession these were the items on the list which were done:

  • Plaster the chipped off pieces of concrete on the sides of Rob’s 3rd bench.
  • Replace leaking stopcock by the storage drums
  • Add a tap by the storage drums so we can use the piped water for cleaning.
  • Replace clogged sprays in the greenhouse
  • Bag up 50 Clivias and Aloes.
  • Put a tall spray at the corner of the platform.
  • Group all same species in the shade house together
  • Move all larger Proteas to the platform.

To our surprise and delight two chaps from Working for Fire offered to help us and they collected 10 marsh plants from behind the house and then proceeded to dig up the rest of the vibracrete panels in the old spray area. We now have a nice pile to use to replace the rotting pallets in the shade house.

At teatime we discussed what needs to be grown and propagated in the near future as the sale put quite a dent into our stock especially the trees.

Late in the afternoon we still went for a quick collection trip and enjoyed the many plants coming up in the burnt area, amongst them these two:

Morea spathulataSatyrium membranaceum

Morea spathulata and Satyrium membranaceum

Open Day 2016

The alarm went off rather early to be at Van Stadens in time to do all the usual things such as putting the tables out, banners up, organizing stalls etc.

First off were the runners, there were about 120 of them and the comments afterwards were very positive. Perhaps the ideal weather after a week of a lot of wind helped with that.


Jane giving instructions beforehand.

The cyclist had a smaller turnout than before, there are a lot of events lately and our tracks are too easy for the average riders even though for the toughies there was the possibility to go ride at Woodridge. Still, it brings in more potential customers.

Pre-nine o’clock we had our usual early customers but our wheelbarrow drivers were not there yet so we had a good reason to stick to the official opening times.


Soon though we had a steady stream of people coming in which was different from previous years as then we had definite peaks and valleys. Our stall holders were very happy with their turnover as well.


Ellie’s usual persistence had paid off and for the first time in 26 years we had a councillor, Mr Bongani,  visiting us and giving a speech. This was a welcome boost for the staff.


To mark the special occasion we got Mr. Bongani to plant a Scotia in front of the conference center.


All in all we can look back on our most successful Open Day yet. It will be quite a job to replace all the plants sold but we are all motivated to do even better next year.

The day before

Tomorrow is the big day and now is the time for the cut flowers. We went to the mountain to collect some P. cynaroides but the flowering season is late this year and there was also some evidence that illegal picking has taken place. We still managed to get a nice variety of of Leucodendrons as well.

Back at the nursery the others had collected mainly Leucospermum so now it was time to make pretty posies.


Heunis lent a hand as well and proudly shows off her handiwork together with Jenny.


When all was done we had a colourful collection in the greenhouse in the trough we made specially for the occasion.


We still moved some more Proteas and got most of the furniture ready.


Preparations Take 2

Our monthly meeting was totally focused on the preparation for the Open Day and thanks to the excellent turnout and everybody pitching in by teatime all plants were sorted, dots were painted, name signs put in their places etc.

For a while we have been concerned about plants disappearing so as a deterrent we put a gate at the entrance.


I gave Neil a hand with this before disappearing to the Arboretum as the paths were getting rather overgrown. It took me the whole morning with the brush cutter so I missed out on all the fun and even was too late for coffee.

Thanks to the hard work by the team there was time to go for a stroll and see some of the pretty plants and sights.


The Paranomus are growing nicely


Of course we can’t leave the Pelargonium out.


The skies looked rather threatening.


A subject you’ll see many times until the Open Day is done and dusted. The preparations have been going on for a bit and now they have started in earnest by getting stuck in at the nursery with sorting and weeding and spotting.

In the meantime we are still bringing in plants from home and the shade house is now full to bursting at the seams.


We are already making  good use of the weed guard we acquired the other day. We put a strip on the platform under the Proteas and it looks very good and almost professional. Whilst moving the plants from the nursery to the platform we also pull out the weeds and put paint spots on for the pricing so this section is almost finished except for the signs.


Moving the Proteas has opened some sections in the nursery so we also put some weed guard there too and started sorting out there as well.

Somehow we managed to spend half an hour in the Arboretum as well just to relax, we saw some nice Babanias, Pelargonium grossularoides and Veltheima brachteata there.


Pity we get so few “workers” as conditions were ideal to pull out weeds after the recent good rains.


It was tempting to postpone our weekly Wednesday workday to the next day as bergwinds with temperatures of over 36 were forecast but there were too many things to attend to.

First of all our weather station had stopped communicating since our last visit on Friday and, believe it or not, it was our kettle tripping the earth leakage rather than some programming bug. Perhaps we should go solar at some stage.

As we arrived Rob told us that there was some problem with the water supply as the sprinkler had only run for a short while. Our first reaction was “not again!” but a simple check with thumb on tap revealed that the pressure was very low. Jenny had also arrived to water the trees in arboretum, it is by now quite a job with all the newly planted trees especially with hosepipes and low pressure.

I preferred to do some weeding in the shade while Ellie went on a hike along the pipeline to see if she could find anything and, sure enough, she found quite a fountain on Neville’s property where the pipe had been gnawed through by what only could have been a porcupine.


The only positives were that it provided some welcome relief from the heat and it made a nice rainbow.

We decided to try the repair only when Jenny had finished so after lunch we trekked back armed with the necessary tools and a join. By now it has become routine and it was fixed in no time.


In between Ellie and Rob cut down some undesirables on the islands in the Tilapia dam where the trees need some breathing space and they also found that one of the Cyclopia seeds has germinated and already half a meter tall. On wading back they also saw a large Tilapia so some are not only surviving but thriving.


We have found that quite a few people have driven into the Arboretum which is not too good for the things we’ve planted so we have made it a little more difficult by putting a wire across the entrance.

Back in the nursery we put on the sprinklers again to give everything a good soaking and survived the temperature dropping from 37 to 20 degrees within half an hour, quite extraordinary.

To top it all off, on the way home we had a flat trailer tire with hardly any load, lucky it wasn’t on Friday when we carried the big roll.


One of the issues for the Friends of Van Stadens is that we get very little feedback about the usefulness of the various things we do at the Reserve, be it laying on a trail, putting up a bench, clearing aliens etc.

Therefore it was very good to see on the hiking club’s Facebook page how they had enjoyed Sunday’s outing and had made use of the various facilities.

They started out doing the entire trail making use of the Link Trail we’ve laid on and, after the Forest Walk section turned into the Nymph Trail.


Here they walk along our newly opened up Drongo Trail to the bird hide.


The hide itself and it’s situation with an all-round view was much admired.


And here they had a relaxing braai afterward using the braai area we were instrumental in providing.

Good to see.