NEWSLETTER 6: June 2022

Dear Silverhill Family,

It has been a very long time since our last newsletter and I apologise.

In a world of huge climate change pressure, over harvesting of our natural resources, global spread of invasive species and unstoppable urban sprawl…how do we move forward, into the future, responsibly and restoratively?

Does Silverhill Seeds have a conservation ethos?

The Cape Florist Region is one of the hottest biodiversity hotspots in the world! There are more species on Table Mountain than there are in the entire United Kingdom, and we have a 69% endemism rate.

Suffice to say, we have an INCREDIBLE flora, and they are under EXTREME pressure.

To this end, Silverhill Seeds is a MISSION with a BUSINESS, not a business with a mission!

  • We work very closely with our local, provincial, and national conservation authorities on several matters.
  • CapeNature and Silverhill are partnering, not only to bring all our permits up to date, but to support them, as much as we can, in facilitating compliance and sustainability within the South African seed harvesting/selling sector.
  • Silverhill Staff regularly go out to meet with our seed partners/suppliers to train them on ethical and sustainable seed harvesting protocols and techniques.
  • We work closely with the City of Cape Town’s Biodiversity Department and The South African National Biodiversity Institute to correctly funnel, guide, train, and supply upcoming restoration projects around the country.
  • We are also one of a very few seed suppliers in the country that records original locality data for all our collections. This is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL for all ecological restoration work as genetics must never be contaminated.
  • Our internal seed processing operations are simple but very carefully monitored to ensure the highest quality seeds. No contamination, infection or mixing up of seed is tolerated. This is to ensure that the end user is guaranteed of the best possible product….no matter the end use.
  • We work closely with growers all of over the world to monitor and develop better germination rates. This is in an effort to get our plants growing ALL OVER THE WORLD SUCCESSFULLY as EX SITU CONSERVATION collections – in light of climate, social, invasive, and developmental pressure – this seems to be the best way of conserving our species.
  • Have you ever read the story of Erica verticillata? EX SITU CONSERVATION saved this species from extinction. Every collector, gardener, grower…has a conservation role to play.
  • Due to the fact that Silverhill has been in this business for over 30 years and has built a credible and ethical reputation…we have been approached by the South Africa National Parks: Richtersveld to support their initiative to flood the market with cultivated but rare succulent seeds to undercut the illegal trade, which has hammered our wild populations pushing them to the brink of extinction.
  • Founders, Rod and Rachell Saunders wrote The Saunders’ Field Guide to Gladiolii of South Africa book to support their love, learning, growing and conservation of the genus.

So, Silverhill moves forward, into the future, to conserve, educate and leave a lasting, positive legacy!

Our new website ……………. 

Our new website was wonderful. We could add pictures and we thought it was going to revolutionize customer ordering and dealing with orders from the seed room side but the functionality did not work as we thought it would.  After much thought, we decided we needed to fix it, again. This has been a lengthy process. We thank all our customers, new and old, for the patience they have shown, as well as all the great ideas and suggestions, which we have tried our best to implement.  It has been a long “slog”, but all of us here have learnt a lot and we do hope that the new website, when it is launched, will be a whole lot easier to use.  We are having to load all the pictures again (as this was a big part of the site being so slow) so please, be patient as we add the pictures again.

Do we even mention postage

This has been a huge headache for you and us.  The SA Post Office is in financial trouble (has been for about 12 years now) and parcels are sometimes waiting over a month just to get onto a flight out of SA.  Western Cape parcels are flown to Zurich – when they get onto a flight – and then sent on from there. Our local Post Offices here in Cape Town are trying to avoid the offices in Johannesburg as the backlogs there are enormous.

Reliable Remail is sometimes taking about as long as the SA Post Office but parcels are arriving none the less, safe and sound, at their destinations.  These parcels are couriered to the UK by a company called RemailIt and then posted using Royal Mail, with no tracking.  We are given no tracking number when the parcels leave our office, but we can find out when they were “injected” into Royal Mail system. No other tracking is available for this option.

DHL/Fedex/TNT/Aramex are all great and fast ways of sending parcels, but can be expensive.  These modes of transport often require Phytosanitary Certificates and Import Permits.

Phytosanitary Certificates

Please let us know if you want/need a Phytosanitary Certificate (Phyto). We can supply a Phyto at a cost of USD35.   Please could you, as the customer, check what the import requirements in your country are, at the time of ordering, as we cannot keep abreast of every country’s requirements as they change regularly.

Sometimes an Import Permit is needed or an extra declaration or even separate seed testing and all these requirements take time and may have added costs.  We really try to get these certificates as painlessly and quickly as possible.  The Department of Agriculture is a “law unto itself” as most government departments worldwide, but we send emails to try and move them along if things are a bit slow.

Other News

Silverhill is well settled into our new office space.  Sometimes small, and a bit chaotic but wonderful for all to be together.  The seeds have an airconditioned room and are kept cool during our hot summer days.  The store room is a refuge for dogs, cats and humans too when it gets very hot in the evenings. I found my mattress on the floor occupied by Erica (my daughter) at 1 am on particularly hot night.  Erica is hoping to enroll for Veterinary Science next year, meanwhile I have roped her into packing orders and getting them ready for posting. Bradley (my son) is diamond diving in Alexander Bay, which has been the worst year ever due to all the rain in the Summer Rainfall areas This means the Orange River is flowing a lot faster and bringing much more silt down.  The silt is pushing over 70km into the ocean at the mouth of the Orange River.

Julia is still playing Supermom with 3 boys, juggling extra murals as of course siblings don’t usually choose the same extramural. At work Phytosanitary Certificates are her specialty – certainly not by choice!  Cleaning seeds that arrive are also an important part of the everyday work, and that falls into Julia’s lap, after working at the Millennium Seed Bank at Kirstenbosch.  Regina and Dorothy have learnt a lot from Julia and are going from strength to strength in making sure your seed is clean.

We have decided that we need a Mother-Stock garden and Julia is sowing seed for us to work towards that goal.  She has a small greenhouse at home and does it from there, we will then plant the plants on the open piece of ground outside the office so we can harvest seeds or plant material as we need it.

Pat has her daughter, son-in-law and their 2 year old living with them so she and Kenneth, her husband, are full time grandparents to a very feisty little boy. Jenny is quietly getting on with things and filling her little garden with even more pots and plants.  Kirstin is still doing a fantastic job with the bookkeeping, Islay (Kirstin’s daughter) is now nearly 6 and is doing Teddies, gymnastics, ballet and cycling with Kirstin to all her extra murals.

Dorothy has been mainly packing orders, but sometimes is called to clean seeds when we have a big batch.  When packing orders she works slowly and precisely and the seed envelopes are readable and neat.  Regina is our star seed cleaner, but also ends up making us tea and coffee most days.  Very often Julia, Kirstin and I offer tea, we put the kettle on and then get side-tracked and forget. Regina then gets up and completes the process.

Happy Autumn/Spring to everyone and here is hoping the growing season is fantastic.

Ondine, Julia, Pat, Jenny, Kirstin, Dorothy and Regina