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69th SUMMER 2011-2012

Cape Green Times No 69


dream Bevan Thomas, Alfa Variegata Nurseries

Coming from an agricultural background and deciding to go study horticulture, I found myself not wet behind the ears, but waterlogged to what exactly it meant to partake in the practice of Horticulture. Through many teachings by those who gave me their time, I grew to understand the true meaning of being a horticulturist. I couldn’t have asked for a more meaningful understanding to life. I wish to thank all my teachers and mentors who have been an amazing inspiration to me. They are Rosy Koopman, the lecturers at CPUT, the staff of Kirstenbosch Retail, Bridget Kitley, Jan Oprins, Graham Whitman, Michael Hendricks and Dirk Zwiegelaar. Dirk and I shared the same dream of horticulture and we walked this path together all the way. One day in 2010 while working at AVN listening to SAFM during lunch, I heard about Greenpop. Within the first 30 seconds of the interview my brain went Greeeeeeeen Pop! I wanted to join these guys on their mission to green undergreened areas… I had to follow my dream. Thanks to the Cape Green Forum of February 2011, the co-founder of Greenpop, Misha Teasdale, introduced himself to me and I immediately knew who he was. I found myself enquiring about when I could start assisting them as a Horticulturist. In less than two weeks my dream had begun, I & AVN started giving of our time and knowledge to Greenpop wherever possible, consulting to people who wanted to acquire knowledge to green their environment and take care of it! What a life enhancing experience it was meeting all these cool folks! One such person is Kelvin Chatake, who took responsibility for the Greenpop holding nursery without prior nursery experience. On my first visit to the nursery it didn’t look like much, lacking a sound structure. Kelvin didn’t hesitate to bombard me with questions; was he doing the right thing or following the right procedure, what should he be doing, how should he be doing it and what is the secret to these

plants? Unfortunately, that day I could only spend an hour at the nursery with this passionate personality. On my second visit, I was blown away with pride to see how Kelvin had completely restructured everything to transform it to a functioning organised nursery. It was like Kelvin was there tending to his newly found children. That day we spent close to five hours in deep conversation, how he had done it, how he had grown to understand the plants he was working with and what more he could do. In a short time Kelvin had converted the unused nursery space into a productive vegetable garden to feed his new friends and himself. In June 2011, Greenpop organised a weekend festival of tree planting in Platbos, just outside Gansbaai and they called it the Greenpop Reforest Fest. Never had I known such a magical forest existed out there. The slogan for the weekend certainly rang true in my mind: 1 forest, 2 days, 100 People, 1000 Trees. This group of 100 consisted mostly of inexperienced spade handlers and virgins to tree planting, but quickly evolved to super planting machines early in the planting day. We moved 1000 trees, one trailer and bakkie a distance of plus minus 500 metres, dug and planted them. For everyone the experience was like none other before! My gratitude stretches boundless to Greenpop and the carers of Platbos, the Krige family. At another Greenpop event a month later, at the end of a planting day in celebration of President Nelson Mandela’s birthday, Misha asked me if I would go to Zambia for them to improve the production management systems of a tree nursery who will be supplying trees for Greenpop’s own Trees for Zambia programme happening in 2012. This programme plans to educate subsistence farmers on growing their own trees from seed, in order to supply the project in the future. Suddenly Greenpop had just taken me 100 steps closer to my dream of practicing horticulture across Africa. In the last few weeks, a fellow landscaper, Danie Steenkamp owner of D.D.S Projects, has joined our team and in December we will both be leaving


P.O. Box 5513, Helderberg, 7135, Cape. Tel: 021 855 0092 e-mail:

for two months to have the Horticultural experience of a lifetime. During July 2012, we will be planting between 5000 & 10 000 trees in the Livingstone area in Zambia at schools, subsistence farming communities, heritage sites and concession areas that have suffered from deforestation. Emphasis will be on education surrounding the environment and sustainable use of trees for people of Zambia. How are we going to do this? With faith, passion, volunteers, companies interested in helping out, and the people of Zambia. So now, as I prepare to leave, finishing off the finer details of my new drainage system and preparing myself for my biggest adventure ever, I take no teachers but I’m sure to find many more along the road through Africa. Through the support of teachers, family, friends (new and old) and my Greenpop family, I am ready for my journey to grow in the practice of horticulture, the life choice I have made. The art of horticulture is one of the oldest practices in the world; through it, man has harnessed the knowledge of food production & it has allowed us to move all over the world. Today there are 7 billion people on our planet and a lot of them are still hungry. I think now is the time for horticulturists to harness our knowledge and do something about it.

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The view expressed are not necessarily those of the CGF. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the contents. The CGF cannot be held responsible for any errors.

The end of the year is approaching fast, where does the time go? The Cape Green Forum held a wonderful year end function, a walk around the Cavalli Wine & Stud Farm and then dinner at Somerbosch. It was well attended, 90 people in total, and a great time was had by all. It started at Somerbosch Wine Farm, where we parked, then a short walk through the vineyards to the Cavalli Estate, refreshments at the viewing site before walking the estate with Keith Kirsten and Ray Hudson. Wow..... what a place! No expense has been spared! The lines are clean and classical with the eyes continuously being drawn to the magnificent mountains in the background. It was great to identify many plants from our local growers thriving in their environment. Thanks to Keith for making the site visit possible and to Ray for coming out, once again, to take the CGF around an estate. Back at the Somerbosch Bistro, the tables looked very festive with little plants for each person wrapped in red paper from Nonke Plants and beautiful Dipladenias on the tables from Shadowlands as lucky chair give aways. During the evening there were some great lucky draws, thanks to Arnelia Proteas, Reliance, New Plants and Starke Ayres Garden Centre. The committee and members of the Cape Green Forum presented

Warwick Bayer with a trophy to thank him for his contribution to the industry in the Cape. They also gave me a wonderful gift voucher, to thank me for my contribution....thanks you all, I will really enjoy spending it! It was a wonderful relaxed evening - good food and company. Thanks to the sponsors who contributed to the cost for members please see them below. We have set our dates for the Trade Days in 2012, they are 22nd February and 22nd August - easy to remember! Many thanks to those who replied to the survey, there are some good ideas for the new year. Once again membership is due at the beginning of the year, still great value for money, only R410 for an individual and R1500 for a company. It looks like this will be the last printed newsletter, in the survey 94% responded that they would rather have an e-newsletter, so we’ll lessening our carbon footprint and reducing costs. Advertising should become cheaper and we’ll be able to use full colour pics, which are all great pluses. If you wish to continue to receive the newsletters, PLEASE make sure that I have your correct email address. Wishing you all a wonderful festive season, enjoy your holiday (if you get one), drive safely and we look forward to seeing you rested, refreshed and revived in 2012! Di Irish

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Albert Einstein

TO ALL OF MY FRIENDS OF THE CAPE GREEN FORUM I am so delighted with the award you have given me, acknowledging a contribution to our Industry. It is so much more, knowing that this comes from voluntary nominations from many of you. The little trophy is a polished steel Wild Fig growing on rock with an etched glass backing, personalized with my name and then mounted on polished wood – a very special work of art. It seems a lifetime has passed since I qualified as a Horticulturist in 1990 and then started my nursery in 1994; I’ve enjoyed such generous support by so many through this time – and I do look forward to close work and contact with you for many more years. This award is treasured; with a huge thank you. Warwick


Trade Days 22 FEBRUARY AND 22 AUGUST 2012 We’ve just managed to book the Paul Roos Gymnasium hall in Stellenbosch for February. We’ll add on a marquee to increase floor space. This beautiful venue in the heart of the winelands, with oaks and mountains all around, provides a perfect central venue for our Trade Day. Info should reach you by mid December, via email. As usual, members get first choice and a 20% discount. Please contact Di 082 376 0377, if you’re interested and not on my mailing list.

Ray Hudson, Nick Stodel and Keith Kirsten at Somerbosch Bistro


Eradication of Kikuyu grass whilst trying to rehabilitate nature is proving to be quite a feat. Often you have to make the choice whether to just kill everything with herbicide, try to remove the grass from inside the indigenous plants by hand, or just give up. As giving up is not normally part of a green industry business owner’s make-up (there would have been no nurseries had it been) it has to be one of the other. Removing Kikuyu by hand proves to be futile mostly, so the only thing that remains is Glyphosate. Ever reliable Glyphosate. This kills everything (save for resistant ryegrass which seems to rather use it as fertilizer!) including the plants you are trying to help. Luckily it breaks down quickly and does not seem to kill anything but the plants it was sprayed on. The fish in my dam below the wetland can vouch for this. The spraying of Glyphosate (Roundup/Clearout etc.) has sometimes led to plants being wrapped up or screened in some way to protect them, or being removed beforehand. (Leading to the Kikuyu breaking up and not being killed by the poison.) Painting the Kikuyu with herbicide by hand is sometimes an option, but is mostly just a pain in the back waiting to happen… Many times we therefore had to just spray everything in the areas where this horrible Kenyan alien popped up and start again from scratch. Don’t get me wrong, Kikuyu is a wonderful lawn-grass and fodder plant, but once it escapes from confinement – and it will – it simply takes over. Since moving the nursery to Klapmuts in 2007/8 we have been rehabilitating the stream that runs through our property, as well as some adjacent areas. Among other challenges the control of weeds is probably the most problematic especially that of Kikuyu grass. As almost all the nursery’s runoff flows down this stream we decided to rehabilitate

Weeds Dirk Zwiegelaar, Alfa Variegata Nurseries

the destroyed wetland/stream in order to prevent any fertilizer from flowing into the irrigation dam at the bottom as this would slowly poison the water and kill the Tilapia fish we introduced there. The initial cover of very old Kikuyu and well established Port-jackson trees was also not my idea of what a farm should look like… We started controlling Kikuyu (or rather trying to) in December 2007 and still it keeps coming back! We began by grazing it with cows to eat down the initial thickness of almost a meter, then spraying after it grew actively again, subsequently we burnt it three times in a row to get rid of the excess dead material, then sprayed again and so on and so on. Every time after we burned there would be millions of Port-jackson seedlings germinating which luckily also die from Glyphosate when they are still young. Eventually it seemed that the grass was under control and we started planting. Some areas remained clean of kikuyu and once the desired vegetation completely covered an area all other weeds were also suppressed. There are however areas where the kikuyu appears again and again, mostly right in-between the newly established sedges, where even a selective herbicide for grasses does only damage! Luckily the soil seems to contain an almost inexhaustible supply of seed of the plants that used to occur here – even after more than fifty years of being covered by Kikuyu something always grows back. It is however a huge frustration to be forced quite regularly to kill off portions of beautifully established Juncus; Isolepis; Ficinia; Cyperus; Mariscus; Grammatotheca or whatever is growing there in order to fight this recurring enemy.

Christmas BEETLES

We are all too familiar with that loud, incessant and sometimes deafening drone of the cicadas pulsing through the air during the warm summer months. We call them Christmas beetles, which is a misnomer as they are bugs not beetles, they belong to the same group of insects as aphids, leafhoppers and spittlebugs. Most of a cicada’s life cycle is spend underground where as nymphs, they feed on tree roots juices. They emerge, after going through many developmental stages, outside on the tree trunk. After mating, the female deposits her eggs in the bark of the tree, they hatch after about six weeks, then the newborn nymphs drop

After four years we slowly seem to be winning the battle on the areas where we first started, but newer areas are still regularly infested. Does Kikuyu produce seed? I heard it does not, but how then does it suddenly appear in areas where it has never been before? If anyone has the answer please tell me…? Other weeds also seem to have an almost bottomless supply of seed in the soil because of previous farming with horses and cattle and the only solution I’ve found is to first spray them and then suppress them by not disturbing the soil and by mulching with either organic material or by living plants. Some hand-weeding is a must however. Typha capensis (bulrush) is also a tough cookie to control, but at least the cut-off plants can be used as very effective mulch in the veggie field. We simply lay it in-between the rows and it breaks down quite slowly – preventing most weed-seeds from germinating. The decomposition in turn releases the nutrients taken up from the water in the wetland back into the soil where it belongs. I would therefore advise anyone who considers rehabilitating a stream; wetland; or any area for that matter, to either have a lot of perseverance and patience, or to leave it to someone who does. Rehabilitation takes time and a lot of aftercare to be really successful. It can however be done without too much financial input, and the rewards are amazing! From the almost sterile monotony of Kikuyu and Port-jackson we now have areas where birds nest, frogs multiply, and even the resident tortoises don’t want to leave! Diversity attracts more diversity… PS: If anyone is or knows of an expert on indigenous sedges (Ficinia; Juncus; Cyperus) please let me know. We have a lot of beautiful but still unidentified species which I would like to produce but cannot market without names!

to the ground, burrows and starts another cycle. Most cicadas go through a life cycle that lasts from two to five years. How do these small insects produce that deafening sound and for what purpose? Well, the interesting thing about these noisy bugs is that only the males call. The guessed attract females! Each species has its own distinctive call and only attracts females of its own kind even though similar species may co-exist. The male contracts and relaxes the muscles attached to his tymbals, the sound producing organs. The tymbals vibrate rapidly and produce pulses of sound, which is amplified by the almost hollow abdomen and enlarged chambers derived from the tracheae, they serve as a resonance chamber. The male can change the volume, making it difficult for humans to pinpoint the origin of the sound.

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Cape Green Times No 69


Che Snell

Ché was born in Johannesburg, but moved to Somerset West where she completed her schooling at Hottentots Holland High School. She then spent a year in Australia as an exchange student and came back and did a BA degree part time. Her first job was working for Barclays Bank, but counting other peoples money didn’t suit, so she moved on to computers and IT for a few years, and from there into label printers and labels. That was nearly 17 years ago. Almost 10 years ago Ché went on her own. Her dad was her inspiration - he always believed she could go it alone, but sadly he died before she took the plunge. Having a bad experience with a control freak micro manager at her last job, also definitely kick started her into do something for herself. Ché says: “I have been very lucky in the last ten years. Sure there are day to day challenges, but I have a good relationship with my suppliers and also believe I have a good relationship with my customers. I try to give the best service I can and be totally honest with my clients even when there is a problem, because I think if I go one step further than my opposition, and just give this service, then when things do go wrong (and they do) the client will be more understanding and patient.” She indicates that a shortage of time and trying to keep everyone happy at the

same time can be challenging. Sometimes it involves long hours and weekend work. Conversely there is the upside of being your own boss, your time is your own, things can be fitted in between customer calls without having to ask permission from anyone. Plus there are no Friday afternoon sales meetings with small minded bosses!! Asked about the benefits of being a “one-man” show, Ché replied: “I get to make the final decisions, I don’t have to ask permission to do anything, all decisions lie with me, this is a great advantage when it comes to negotiating and sorting out problems with both suppliers and customers.” But she says it can also be lonely sometimes, when in doubt, there’s no one to bounce decisions off, she sometimes “sleeps on it” before making a final decision. Ché is very happy working for herself, she has an established customer base that is still growing. Some of my customers have been buying from her for many years, she values their trust, their loyal business and the relationships that have developed with them over the years. Ché would like to get her hubby, Mike, more involved in the local and routine business, so that she has more time (he is supposed to be retired!) And she would like to expand past the Western and East-

I first met Plectranthus on a ‘botaniz- Your new gardening love affair - Plectranthus ing’ trip in the subtropical forest of Natal’s south coast. Our little expedition passed by a small waterfall and there, magically, G.J.Brits, breeder was a seductive blue-tubular-flowered herthe main breeding focus (although Ernst baceous plant, something like the sky, a also collected and introduced some specsmall plant with rounded soft leaves and tacular white forms of Plectranthus). Howcontrasting, large, elegant flowers. This was ever, I was soon lucky to be able to breed a the unforgettable Plectranthus hilliardiae of pleasing pink form. the Umtamvuna forest, a plant that immediately messaged “…take me, I’m a pot plant The main problem though was to create bigger flowers, these had to be perched on waiting to be born”. Back in Kirstenbosch National Botanic Gar- top of a relatively compact plant! The comden (in 1989 I was working on a Proteaceae bination of my first love, P. hilliardiae, and seed germination project there) it transpired another large-flowered species, P. saccatus, that Ernst van Jaarsveld, the evergreen “Mr proved to be part of the answer. The other Indigenous” knew Plectranthus (mint fam- successful tactic was to polyploidise (douily) intimately – and had indeed studied and bling the plant’s chromosome set) in promcollected Plectranthus extensively over the ising hybrids – the polyploids yielded even years. Ernst identified and suggested many larger flowers and restored seed fertility lost species to me that he had established at in hybridization. Recombining the small Kirstenbosch – as certainly the largest and stature of P. hilliardiae with the vigour and most valuable Plectranthus collection in large flower size of P. saccatus, through seexistence. Indeed Ernst also tested many lection, eventually resulted in the plant despecies as pot and garden plants and then sign we were looking for. published his findings in the popular ‘The But fascination with Plectranthus did not Plectranthus handbook’ (1987). stop with better flowers, I am passionate For me as a practising plant breeder the about beautiful leaves and this is what so lure of Plectranthus was irresistible and I be- much of the newly-bred plants are about. gan to select and hybridize some species as The leaves of Plectranthus in general (pera hobby project. The ‘heavenly blues’ were haps due to their adaptation to shade in the


ern Cape and into the rest of SA, while continuously giving the best service and advice she can to her clients. On a personal note, she has been married to Mike and is a step granny! She goes to gym regularly - at 5h00 in the morning! She enjoys wine tasting, reading and the good fun cooking classes that Di and Lindy from the CGF go to as well. She would like more time to play her guitar, and more time and money to travel overseas more, saying that the big wide world has so much to teach us. And visiting other countries makes one value what one has here in SA. Finally Ché said: “Working for myself has definitely been worth the challenge. I love it - ups and downs and all that goes with it!” wild) and also in the newly-bred cultivars, are a joy in their own right: glossy, sensuous to feel, beautifully coloured undersides (often purple) and elegant shapes, these leaf characters are more the rule than the exception. To me Plectranthus has just become the completely enjoyable flowering plant – plants worthy of passion. Of course there are the technical advantages too: as lovers of semi-shade their uses in a balanced garden are obvious . They are also quite tolerant to drought. They propagate easily from cuttings. They do not become weeds. They are indigenous, a constant reminder of the glories of the country’s floral kingdom! The new series of improved Plectranthus come in a range of rich colours, they are floriferous, they beg to be tried out – or maybe, they just trumpet a bouquet of good quality and pleasure – jazz it up! About the Author: Dr Gert Brits is married to Cecilia. He was trained and studied in genetics, botany and floriculture and has an interest in the arts and photography. He was formerly in charge of the Proteaceae development program of the horticultural research institute and in that capacity released about 33 new cutflower cultivars.

Newsletter 69