From the Archives: Newsletter July 2005

May 2005

Dear Plant Lovers

We have succumbed to pressure and have printed a catalogue again!  Yes, we said that we were not going to print one this year, but it seems that there are arguments both for and against a printed catalogue.  Not printing one saved us money, but we have noticed that our customer base has changed.  Many of our old customers who ordered regularly previously have not ordered this year, and we feel it may be due to the necessity for Internet access.  We had many moans and complaints, and we have realised that on the whole, gardeners do not like computers, and they like to read proper catalogues printed on paper!  So we have had one printed in a hurry, unfortunately without a colour cover this year, and hopefully it will make everyone happier again.  This catalogue will be something of a litmus test and will determine our future policy.   One option may be to print a catalogue each year, but to charge a small fee for it to lessen the cost of printing.  Your comments would be helpful – do you want a catalogue each year, and would you be prepared to pay for it?

Due to the rapid turnover of seeds, we suggest that you decide which seeds you want, and then before placing the order, please check the website to see which new species have been added to stock, and which species are sold out. This will mean that you are less likely to order out of stock seeds.  Our website has been revamped and it is extremely fast and even simpler to use than before.

Working from home is a real pleasure and as we have mentioned before in a previous newsletter, we should never have moved in the first place!  We have modified our house slightly, we installed 2 telephone numbers (one business and one private) and we make sure that the business does not invade our privacy to the same extent anymore.  We try to limit our working hours as it is very easy to just keep on working late into the night.

Those of you who have phoned this year may have spoken to Denise, our new staff member.  She is an old friend from the Mountain Club and has taken over from Frances.

Darkie, Ondine, Cherrie and Rachel’s mother are all still with us, and we hope that they prefer our garden to the bullet proof vest factory!

Rod celebrated (or mourned) his 60th birthday earlier this year with several botanical friends.  Luckily he still feels as fit as ever, but creaks more as he plods up the hills!  He has taken the plunge and is in the process of acquiring a digital camera.  Those of you who visit our website will have noticed that we have added many photos to the site.  This is an ongoing process, and will continue until we reach the end of the slide collection.

Now to comment on the weather, a matter of great interest to all gardeners.  The rainy season in the SW Cape started with a “bang” this year.  We had a “black south-easter” together with a cold front which dumped 125mm (5 inches) of rain on Cape Town overnight.  The towns further east (Hermanus and Bredasdorp areas), received a devastating 450mm (18 inches) over 2 days, together with lightning and thunder.  Normally the south east wind brings fair cool weather to the SW Cape – a black south-easter is rare and brings heavy rain and violent storms.  This was over a month ago and several areas are still 1m under water!  The damage caused was immense – erosion of farms, huge washaways in the roads, many people homeless and many towns cut off for several weeks.  Ironically our dams are still only 29% full – of course the rain did not fall in the catchment areas!  Since this initial rain, we have had fairly regular falls in Cape Town, and as we write this, it is blowing from the north west and threatening to rain. Hopefully it will come in the night.  To conserve water we have installed a 5000 liter rainwater tank which catches water off about 50% of our roof, to supplement the grey water from the house. Wash day is now “bucket day” as we cart water from the washing machine to as many plants as possible.  We have our name on a waiting list to sink a borehole and that may help our water problems in the garden.  Namaqualand has also had early rain this season, so it looks as though there may be flowers this year.  This obviously depends on the rain for the rest of the season.

The Vanrhynsdorp area produced a spectacular flush flowering of Brunsvigia bosmaniae this autumn.  There were literally thousands of bulbs all flowering at once in April, yet 60km away in Nieuwoudtville, hardly any of the large Amaryllids flowered at all. Such is the fickleness of flower displays.  However it was a superb year for Strumaria watermeyeri which we found north and south of Nieuwoudtville, plus Crinum variabile was magnificent in the river beds.  Two weeks later all the Amaryllids had gone, and Nieuwoudtville was a blaze of colour  – this time it was Oxalis in yellows, pinks and whites, plus white Polyxena maughanii by the millions.  In a week we are heading for the Richtersveld which has also had rain, and it will be interesting to see what we find there.  The Nieuwoudtville area is famed for its spring flowers, but the display in autumn can be just as spectacular, depending on the rain.

Best wishes to you all for a happy and successful gardening year,