Posted on

Van Stadens 2013.05.29

Needed to be a bit earlier today as Jenny’s helper was working for us today. It didn’t quite work out that way as Jenny’s meeting only started at ten and she needed him till then. I had to prepare the brush cutter anyway and then it turned out that the new blade didn’t fit so we couldn’t do the planned cutting of the first bike track.

Of to the arboretum which looked stunning in the early morning light, everything still in order except a small tree in “The Gem” had fallen over because it was no longer supported by the chicken wire and needed to be trimmed.IMGP2613 “Mark’s marsh” also looked good.




To our amazement Tony turned up for a tour of the arboretum and he was full of praise and showed interest in what we are doing. After he left we carried on trimming shrubs, digging over and removing old wire till it was time for tea. We also fixed last week’s leak, it must have been the glue because this time it went ever so smoothly.

We delivered the new planting bags, had our coffee and with our helper returned to the arboretum and I got him to clear around “The Gem”. I could barely keep ahead of him cutting away the vegetation while he followed digging over. Ellie in the meantime busied herself behind “Niel’s nookie” doing pretty much the same including getting rid of another Bohemia.

We are pretty chuffed with the result. Of course not finished yet.


We rewarded ourselves with a leisurely stroll along the path and this is what we saw:


The Sterculia near “Bob’s burial” is in full flower, a sight to behold.


Our freshly planted little Aloes in “The Gem”


The impressive Albizia overhead


The Leucodendrons along our “Rudi’s Ramble” are getting pretty tall.

Finally, on the way out we made our usual stop at the first circle where Ellie did some more weeding while I tried to get my head around this upgrade of the entrance. Fourteen massive strelizias, fifteen scraggly coral trees, haphazard rockeries, remnants of an entrance gate, it will take more than a few willing volunteers to make it something special.

Posted on

Van Stadens 2013.05.22

No pics today, too busy for that.

The day started of with a meeting with Goodman, mainly to get permission for the biking trails which he was quite happy with and to meet the new students. It remains to be seen whether the students will be a help or will take up even more of the staff’s time.

We also discussed the flower house and he is well aware of the situation. The person doing it is not very knowledgeable but Tony is supposed to check up. It will also be one of the things the students will do.

Jenny joined us and we decided that the best way to deal with the scraggly ericas and proteas near the entrance is to do a controlled burn. At our next meet we’ll work at the first circle to take down some more strelizias and at some stage we must also do something about the keurbooms and Podylaryias there.

Off to the arboretum, connect hosepipe and switch on tap. No immediate leaks. I start on digging holes for the gateposts while Ellie does some more clearing of the fence. After a while I check for water and sure enough there is another leak a bit further on and I dig it out and it is the usual ripped out sprinkler issue. The meeting took quite a bit of time so before we know it teatime arrives.

Kirk is there, he returned the chainsaw and has donated a new chain. Comes in handy because I take it along to cut some branches in “The Gem” (our new name for the arboretums greenhouse). I dig the hole for the second post and Ellie makes good progress clearing.

After lunch we take the ladder along, I put the top post across the entrance and secure it, put a hook on the nookie door and take all the rusty chicken wire off the one side. It looks very clean now but I wonder how I’m going to justify buying new wire.

I prepare a peace of pipe with joins to repair the leak but when we put on glue it sets in no time and I cannot slide the join in place so grrr, next time better. I blame the old glue.

We clear out all the old rotten wood from the bottom section, put it in the trailer and generally clean up. Ellie is nearly finished preparing the beds, I fashion some kind of rockery, she plants some bulbs in it and we return the ladder to the Fovs room, phew, an intense day.

Next week we will have one of the workers helping us as Jenny won’t be there. We plan to get him started on the biking trail with the brush cutter, hope the saw fits.

Posted on

Van Stadens 2013.05.15

Been a bit slack lately, I think I missed the last three trips, two of those were walks and only one was a ‘work in the arboretum’ Wednesday.

It was Rob’s first day this year that he employed two helpers to remove Podalyrias which have resprouted and he needed the broad pick so the first thing we did was to find him and deliver the pick.

Last week we fixed a leak just beyond the tap, encasing the leaking joint in concrete hadn’t worked so instead we had put in a new join and it was fine this time.

IMGP2532We also had uncovered a break in the pipe near the old shade house and we put a new piece in so we can test it next time around when the glue has set and discover the next break. We will get there one day. While I prepared the join Ellie filled in the previous hole and then dug out the two remaining slabs to be taken to the nursery.

We also had made a start last time to remove the chicken wire roof off the old shade house so we continued with that. It was a lot of snipping especially because we wanted to preserve the wire so we can reuse it to protect trees and bulbs from marauding porcupines.

At lunchtime we got some aloes in the nursery and proceeded to plant them in the beds.


Ellie got playful with some rocks and planted the small aloes amongst them while I raked some paths and removed some old shade cloth.


As usual we ran out of time, even more so because on the way out we still wanted to do some weeding in the ‘Brunsvigia patch’ in the first circle. Even though the soil is nice and friable after the rain it was still quite a job to dig the large tufts of grass out, it looks a whole lot better though.

IMGP2523The setting sun made for some beautiful light on the Ericas which we admired before setting off for home.

Posted on

Van Stadens 24.04.2013

Unseasonal, that’s the best word to describe the weather today. The heat got a bit unbearable at times and we did our best to stay out of the sun.

First thing we did was to check the pond, still full so all leaks were fixed and some buck spoor around it so we were happy about that. Then we connected the hosepipe to the irrigation system and located the next leak only 3 meters from the one we fixed last time. Not sure if we had caused it ourselves when we traced the pipe last year but it looked very much caused by a pick. Throughout the day we first dug around the leak, put a patch on and poured some concrete around it so next time we will be able to find the next leak.

It was shady around what we call ”Bob’s burial” so that was a good spot to work, something we wanted to do for quite a while already so rocks were dug up, plants trimmed and/or relocated and we are quite pleased with the result:


Looks messy on the photo though, much better in real time. There are some lovely Boophane growing on that rockery.


Next I walked the paths armed with secateurs to trim invading shrubs and branches, everything is nice and clear now, while Ellie attacked the remnants of the anthill on Merika’s Mound and I lent a hand digging up the rocks so that bit also got a make-over:


Again, the photo does not do it justice. We need more specimens to plant there, time to raid the nursery.

We ended off in the arboretum by doing some weeding such as Bryophillums and other unwanted weeds before relocating to the circle by the entrance where we tackled a small section of flower bed totally overgrown with kikuya grass. It made a big difference but far from perfect yet.

Ended off with a chat to Goodman, important to keep keep good relations and also for him to keep track of what we are doing. Sounds like he is quite serious about the spring festival so watch this space.

Posted on

Van Stadens 2013.04.17

Quite unusual today as we had no set plan of action, usually we know what we want to achieve on a particular day. On the way we got a mayday call from Jenny as both her an Rob did not have keys to the room so it was important that we opened up. This prompted us to stay around at the nursery and while Ellie dug up some more slabs I put another layer of plastic down and I am glad to say that the entire shade house floor is now covered.

After early tea we disappeared to the arboretum and proceeded to prepare for the “pond”, Ellie raking all potential leak hazards away while I had a final check of the plastic and still put some patches on suspicious looking spots. We then put it in place, filled it with water and voila:

2013-04-17 15.55.50

It was still the same level when we left and we already saw a robin visiting it so hopefully next time we will see some buck spoor.

We then proceeded with our pet hobby, fixing pipes but I was in too much of a hurry and did not prepare the pipes well enough so when it came to gluing the pipes did not line up and I could not move the join in place. During lunch I got another piece of pipe and this time it worked out ok, we’ll see next time where the next leak will be.

In the meantime Ellie collected some rocks to put around the Sterculia to discourage porcupines from chewing it again and also looked for more thorny creepers to be dug out. I think we will be at that for some time to come because every time when we think we had them all we discover another one. It was quite a job to dig out the stump of a major creeper, I managed just before lunch.

After a leisurely lunch at the Fovs room we returned, Jenny and Rob joined us to water the trees, Rob discovered a Bohemia which also had to be dug out and I removed some more stumps from the beginning of “Rudi’s Ramble”

Lastly we weeded the rockery by the bench which really meant digging up the rocks and make them more visible whilst taking some grass out. It got Ellie’s stamp of approval:

2013-04-17 15.56.23

It was good to still have a cup of coffee with the spray on watering the rockery while the cold front approached.

Posted on

Van Stadens 10.04.2013

Cold and raining today, autumn is definitely here. We were in two minds whether to go or not but windguru showed that the rain would taper off so I thought it would be a good opportunity to retrieve a piece of old water pipe from Gibson’s farm.

On arrival Ellie went to see Goodman with her suggestions for improving the look of the entrance to the reserve (he liked them a lot) while I went on to the FOVS room to put the refurbished drawers back and deliver the petrol for the brush cutter. To my surprise Jenny and Rob were already busy in the potting shed re-potting stuff from the weekend.

Off we went, parked at the arboretum and walked along the pipe line to Gibson. We were very happy that the line looks in very good condition and our hard work earlier digging it in better has paid off. We found the pipe easily and, as luck had it, there was a loose piece just the right length so I didn’t even have to use my hacksaw and we carried it back between us.

It took longer though than we had thought so we were late for tea with the others but a hot cup of coffee was most welcome as we were quite wet.

We then decided rather than going to the arboretum to do some more levelling and digging out of vibracrete panels by the shade house. It took many more wheelbarrows of soil than I expected and ended up digging quite a hole to provide soil. The fun part though was using the car as a steamroller, low range 4×4 and up and down to compact the soil. Worked a treat.

After lunch Rob and Jenny left and we then filled the hole with soil from one of the compost bins behind the potting shed, not quite enough to fill the hole entirely but a good start.

Ended off with a walk through the arboretum where we found that the “pond’s” lining has a leak and removed some Bryophyllums and other nasty’s.

Posted on

Van Stadens 2013.04.03

Busy busy today, not even time for pictures so a quick summary of what got done is in order.

On arrival Ellie noticed Goodman was in his office so she gate-crashed a meeting he had there with Tony and another to discuss a few things such as the cross, the arboretum, the specimen tags etc. while I went to the Fovs room to load up the brush cutter. Good to hear they really like the specimen name tags.

We then drove to the arboretum where Rob was busy clearing Bohemia’s by the Xhosa huts and. while Ellie went and said hello, I got going with mowing all the paths. Amazing how much better it looks with just a bit of grass cut.

We then connected the hosepipe to the rest of the old sprinkler network to locate the next leak which we found pretty quickly. Over time we want to fix it but absolutely low priority.

After the rains it was really lovely to do a bit of gardening in the moist soil so we cleared a lot of grass out of the rockery by the tap and did some replanting.

After tea we planted another pole with an arrow to indicate the path through the arboretum and Ellie removed a whole lot of Bryophyllum by the Albizia, apparently they also liked the rain, while I raked and trimmed the path through forest glade.

After lunch we stayed in the nursery to dig up more slabs by the shade house and do some levelling. We got quite far but not quite enough yet.

Lastly we returned to the arboretum to varnish the new sign

Posted on

Van Stadens 2013.03.27

Strange weather today, not all that hot in the morning but very humid and in the afternoon extremely hot and not humid at all.

The aim was to plant our sign, first collected some rocks to put around the pole to prevent our keen friend with the tractor to mow our sign to oblivion, then dug a hole, mixed some concrete and that was that, perhaps we will get a few more walkers through the arboretum. We will keep an eye out for an increase in litter Smile


We also tried out the new connection to the tap, still not happy, too leaky so back to the drawing board. I hung the spray in a tree and the birds loved it.

Of course we also had to play a bit and for no reason made a connection to the rest of the old irrigation system and concreted a leak a bit further on. We’ll switch it on next week and see where the next gusher will be.

Went early to lunch to collect the remaining cycads in the nursery, all 17 of them, shook the soil off them in the shade house and after lunch planted them in the cycad section of the arboretum. It is great to be able now to get a hosepipe there so we could water our plantlings, hopefully they’ll take and then we’ll have more than 30 cycads there.

Lastly we carried the pick and a pole 1km down the River Walk to plant the first of our distance markers. It was boiling hot between the proteas and even after such a short walk we were quite dehydrated so the cup of coffee back at the FOVS room was most welcome.

On the way out a quick check in the flower house showed that our pamphlets must be quite popular, again there were none left. The new labels there look good but the jury is still out whether the staff will make it work.

Posted on

Van Stadens 2013.03.06

Pillar, bench and islands in the dam

We were keen to finally finish the water supply in the arboretum but, as we hadn’t managed on the previous two occasions, Ellie was keen to repaint the footsteps on the Link Trail so she did that first while I did some ‘gardening’ on the trail clearing some particularly overgrown stretches between the Proteas in the beginning and then an even more overgrown section on the far side of the bridge.

It took longer than anticipated so we had no time to do anything else before coffee time. After coffee though we made swift progress with the plumbing and the top section of our pillar housing the tap and finished by lunchtime.

After lunch, although very hot, we carried on with the bench and managed to collect suitably large rocks to make into a relatively comfortable seat.


It may not look like much but we are very content with it.

The pesky stopper at the end of the pipe kept popping off so we plan to glue it on soon.

IMGP2168Rob and Jenny had planted the trees on the islands in the dam so I waded across to take a pic:

Posted on

Van Stadens gorge hike–02-03-2013

A disappointing turnout meant that only eight stalwarts turned up. We drove down in two cars, parked at the lower bridge and soon found ourselves under the impressive upper bridge. There was plenty of water in the river and we saw some small fish.


The alien infestation is quite bad with many wattles growing on the side of the river and seedlings in the riverbed so we were quite pleases to spot our first of quite a few Sterculias. There were lots of succulents and other small plants growing on the rockfaces.


Neil and I couldn’t help ourselves and had a nice swim in this massive pool.


Close to where the Van Stadens side kloof joins the main gorge Jenny, Rob and Merike decided to turn back whilst the rest of the party (Neil, Mark, Susan, Ellie took up my challenge to climb out on a ridge leading back into the reserve. Some found it quite steep but everyone enjoyed the fine views on the way up and definitely a route to be repeated. We were quite glad though to have arranged to be picked up at the lookout picnic site and returned to the office for some well deserved coffee and cake.


Afterwards we still had enough energy to work on our new shade house, dig out poles and slabs, level the ground and move some plants from the greenhouse into the shade house. We also tested the new sprinkler arrangement and it worked very well.