Newsletter 7: May 2024

May 2024

Dear South African Plant Enthusiasts

It has been a very long while since the last Newsletter, so I will try and make this one a good one.

2023 Rainy season we had very good rains and the Spring display in Namaqualand was spectacular.  I “dragged” my friend and fellow Horticulturist Hilda, along on a 2 week jaunt into Namaqualand.  She had not been there for many years and the 2 of us never really got very far every day, because there was always something to stop and look at.  I drove roads which I have never driven before.  Hilda is more nervous of unknown roads and there was always the question – where does the road go to, how long is the road, do you know where you are going?  To all these questions I just shrugged my shoulders and said we are going North or East etc and if the flowers thin out we can turn around.  By the end of 2 weeks, she took over the planning for each day and knew exactly where we were going and at what time we should turn around to be back in time to cook dinner.  We had great fun; we both learnt a lot and I now know some really great roads to go along.

Towards the end of September, we had a rather big storm here in the Western Cape, lots of damage to roads and infrastructure.  The rain and wind were incredible, I do feel sorry for the insurance companies, there were many millions of Rand having to be paid out for damaged cars, flooded houses and trees flattening houses.

My parents were quite badly affected, in Stanford, so I spent a good few weeks mopping up and trying to save plants and the garden.  We did find that some of the indigenous plants did not like the silt that was left behind when the river subsided, sometimes it was 1cm thick.






In October 2023 we were supposed to take part in Rally to Read, but due to the rain and the N2 being washed away at Bot River they had to postpone to February 2024.  Erica and I went on the Rally in February and visited 3 schools and donated books, teaching aids and even some soccer and netball balls for the different schools.  Rod and Rachel Saunders donated to Rally to Read from 2008 and we have continued with the tradition as our children in the rural areas do get forgotten a bit.

A bit about Read Educational Trust

Rally to Read originated in Kwazulu-Natal and supports children in rural and remote schools as well as teachers.  The Rally to Read conducts regular school visits throughout the year to follow up with the teachers and provide support in implementing the school curriculum.

Another pillar of the RTR programme is Technology literacy integration which helps evolve the educational landscape by using both cognitive and technical abilities to evaluate information within the classroom. These resources include laptops, coding kits, screen projectors, USBs, and e-books. Digital storytelling workshops are also organized to equip teachers in innovative ways. This component prepares both the learner and educator for the future where digital literacy is increasingly vital. Through this dual focus, Rally to Read bridges both the literacy and digital divides in disadvantaged communities.

The first Western Cape Rally was in 1999. We worked in 18 schools in the Cederberg area, all the way down to the coast.

Year Region Schools
2002-2003 Robertson/ Mc Gregor 25
2004-2006 Overberg- Riviersoderend, Witsand, Stanford Districts 25
2007 Cederberg 15
2008-2010 Karoo – Ladismith, Carlitzdorp, Oudtshoorn 15
2011 Revisit Overberg schools 22
2012-2014 Koue & Warm Bokkeveld – around Ceres 14
2016-2018 West Coast 8
2019-2021 Cape Winelands: Worcester/Rawsonville/Villiersdorp 12
2022-2024 Overberg, Caledon area. 10

On the Rally Day, we get the most amazing welcome and the children either read -aloud or do a play, which the long-suffering teachers coordinate brilliantly. Resources and learning aids are handed over to the school and thereafter the project rolls out for a 3-year period.

There are currently 11 Rallies, one in Western-Cape, Free State, Mpumalanga, two in Gauteng, three in Kwa-Zulu Natal and Eastern Cape.

Rally to Read relies solely on donations from corporate and individual donors. With the recent commercial budget cuts, things have been a bit tighter. However, the schools continue to be provided with great books and much needed support.

Instagram: @rallytoread

Summer this past year did not seem as hot as the previous year which we were all thankful for.  There were some large fires at the end of January, that burnt many acres/hectares of Fynbos.  Some of the areas needed fire, but others it is a bit soon for some of the plants that were still young to set seed.

Our small cabin in Bainskloof was very lucky again and thanks to the helicopters water bombing the area we came off unscathed.  It was lucky enough to escape the 2012 fire too.


Erica and I went on 2 trips earlier this year, one to Lesotho and Sani Pass in January and did a bit of an explore with Elsa Pooley, it was a wonderful 2 weeks and saw a good few plants, that I have never seen before.  It is always great to learn new things.

Our next was Namibia, she has never been there and was taken with the huge open spaces, but especially the warmth.  It is getting cooler in Cape Town, so Namibia was a treat.  She was the main driver and did very well on 4×4 tracks.  I can say it now, we did not even get a puncture, which is always a very good thing.  There has been very little rain in the central area, and it is very dry, and plants have either finished flowering early or did not even flower.  The roads seem to have deteriorated a fair amount and yet some have been graded and looked after very well.










A little bit of business:

Postage has been a great problem since the SA Post Office have been having financial difficulties.  We are not using them at all as we cannot guarantee that parcels will be delivered to you timeously.  We are now using Royal Mail and Couriers, both are working very well, but are not as cheap as the SA Post Office.  Please “pop” us an email if you need some thoughts on the best way to get your parcel to you, we will do all we can to find the cheapest and most efficient option.

Import conditions/Phytosanitary Certificates – We don’t always know when the “goal posts” change from country to country, so you as the customer do need to help us in this regard by doing a quick bit of research and letting us know what you require, if anything.  We are very happy to get documents, but we just need to know which ones you need and if we can get them for you.

Our staff compliment is just about the same.  Dorothy, Regina and Etinah all went home for a well-deserved holiday and to connect with their families.  Dorothy and Regina both welcomed grandchildren and their smiles got even bigger.

Lucy has joined us during the busy periods to help clean seed and is doing a sterling job.  Kirstin and her family are doing well in Dubai and she is still our bookkeeper and having to deal with a sister (me) who really does not want to understand accounting and is very happy for her to deal with it.

Pat had a heart attack last year and we all held our breath, but with some great nursing care she is back with us and being the calm influence she always is.

Max supervising the washing

Nina has welcomed a new addition to her family, Max brings great joy and a bit of frustration to their household, 6 months and he is already standing so the house has to be baby-proofed.

Kenneth (Pat’s husband) an honorary member of the staff is still doing most of our errands, fetch this, do that, which is great.  As well as helping us make a lot of our pictures smaller so we can add a few more and it doesn’t slow the website down too much.

It is hopefully Erica’s last year with us, we are holding thumbs she can get into Onderstepoort to study Veterinary Nursing; this will be a step to Veterinary Sciences and she has worked really hard to get there.  She is still for the moment packing orders and doing bits and pieces of admin.




The number of animals has changed by 1, we added another cat, my total weakness.  They are all happy and still join us in the office.  The dogs are very frustrating as soon as I move out of the office, they follow me, and it is continually opening and closing doors to let them in our out.  They do also greet our walk-in customers with intense delight, which is a bit embarrassing at times as some customers are not used to dogs.  We do also have to deal with cats in boxes and on paper files.

We are always happy to see pictures of plants you have grown from our seeds.

Until our next Newsletter, happy Growing

From all of us here at Silverhill

Back: Nina, Dorothy, Pat, Lucy, Erica, Kenneth Front: Regina, Ondine