Latest News and Developments on the Nursery
Reflections on 2015
We are pleased to report that we had another very successful year in 2015.
It was in particular, a very 'Golden Year' at the RHS Shows !
The Cardiff Show heralds the start of the season and the award of a Gold medal for our display of shade tolerant perennials, combined with lovely weather and record visitor numbers, started the Show season on a very positive note.
Malvern Spring Flower Show continues to be one of our favourite Shows as we can take our dogs (Alice and Bob) with us and have some wonderful walks on the Malvern Hills in the evenings. Our display showing spring flowering plants for a sunny site transitioning to plants that enjoy shade earned us another Gold medal.
The Malvern Show is quickly followed by Chelsea Flower Show (perhaps too quickly for us !) where we produced a woodland display which we did in conjunction with the Momentum charity (see further information down the page). The exhibit featured some figures in willow by Victoria Westaway of Chapel Barns and again brought us a much coveted GOLD medal................phew !
Once again we were put up for the Best in Show at Chelsea (for the third consecutive year) but as yet that title escapes us - and probably always will ! :-)
BBC Gardeners World brought us another Gold medal but also the sad news that this was the last year it would be an RHS Show. On a positive note the Show will be run in 2016 by River Street Events and we look forward to working alongside Stephen Bennett and Bob Sweet again.
The setting of the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is hard to beat - such a wonderful backdrop for the event - plus another gold medal made it one of the highlights of the year. The hot weather during the week certainly increased our consumption of ice cream for the summer !
The Wisley Flower Show is an event we always enjoy and 2015 was no exception. It is a lovely setting and has a very pleasant, relaxed atmosphere. For us it was a very successful and busy Show.
This is quickly followed by the Malvern Autumn Show, which is not one of the easiest Shows for us, as coming so late in the season it stretches our display material to the limit. Many of the shade plants we include in our autumn display have been going strong since the first Show in spring so we were therefore delighted to receive another Gold medal which was a rewarding end to the Show season.
Back at the nursery we continue to increase our plant range and 2015 was the first year we started to sell Cypripedium orchids, which if the number of sales is anything to go by proved a successful choice for us. We plan to increase the range in 2016. Our dwarf and miniature Iris collection continues to expand and we have close to 200 different cultivars available. We have started to source some of the recently bred cultivars from the U.S.A. to extend our range and hope to make these new varieties available in the coming years.
On the domestic front, Alice, our Labrador cross (not a cross Labrador !!) at 12 years, continues to age gracefully and is looked up to by Bob our young Border Collie who is slowly maturing and is a great source of entertainment (and frustration) whilst working at the nursery - bless him !
On the left is Bob trying to look aloof at the comment above !
Below left is Trillium kurabayashii growing in our garden. Plants produced from seed collected from these plants are being offered for sale again this year - they are quickly snapped up by those who know the plant. In the right place - a cool, humus-rich soil in part shade - they are easy to grow and once established will make a lovely display in spring.
In the centre is the beautiful Iris elegantissima with its exquisitely marked lower petals and on the right a wonderful stand of Iris x Peresh, both Iris growing in a raised bed in our polytunnel.
Below left, is one of our dwarf bearded Iris, 'Hocus Pocus' which has an unusual combination of lavender blue standards, copper coloured falls and a bright blue beard. Although not a new cultivar (bred in 1976) it is always popular with our customers and rightly so, being a good 'doer' in the garden.
In the centre is Trollius hondoensis a hardy perennial from Japan. It was in flower this year for a long period of time from the middle of the summer through to autumn producing these stunning, unusual flowers.
On the right is Dianella tasmanica which promoted a lot of interest in our display at Wisley Flower Show in September. Showing off its wonderful metallic purple berries the stock we took for sale flew off the sales tables. At any other time of the year you probably wouldn't look twice at it but in the autumn the insignificant flowers produced earlier in the year give rise to these stunning berries.
While I was potting the winter growing bulbs I came across these exquisitely marked bulbs (below left) belonging to a Moraea sp. - another stunning example of Mother Natures work of art.
The central photograph shows Wachendorfia paniculata, a low growing plant from the winter rainfall areas of South Africa in flower during early spring in our frost-free greenhouse. It really does raise the spirits to see many of the colourful South African bulbs in flower during some of England most miserable months, in the protected environment of our greenhouse and polytunnel.
Last but not least is a picture of one of our very important members of staff ....... our 'Slug Control Officer' !!
NEWS for 2015 -
CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW - We are delighted to be exhibiting at this years Chelsea Flower Show in conjunction with the charity Momentum. This wonderful charity
supports children and the families of children, undergoing treatment for cancer.
Our display will consist of shade tolerant plants in a woodland setting with a Momentum family consisting of willow-work figures made by Victoria Westaway. We are thrilled and excited about this venture and will work hard to make the event as successful as possible for all concerned.
Reflections on 2014
A year of mixed emotions and success for us at Tale Valley Nursery.
We had a very sad start to the year with the loss of our faithful Border Collie, Max. He developed a tumour deep inside his spinal cord which was inoperable and we had to have him put to sleep in January. At less than 7 years old his life was much too short for a dog who loved life so much and showed so much enthusiasm for everything and everyone he came across - two legs or four he thought they were wonderful ! For those of you who have, or had the experience of owning a dog you will appreciate the big hole he has left in our lives.
On a more cheerful note we were presented with the RHS Farrer trophy for our Alpine House display at Chelsea in 2013. As this was the first year we exhibited at Chelsea it is something we are very proud of.
The RHS Shows at Cardiff and Malvern went well with Gold medals being awarded at each plus brisk sales to go with the awards.
Roy Lancaster paid us a visit in April to write an article for the RHS Garden magazine which will be out in spring 2014. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with Roy plus Philip and Tim from the Garden magazine.
This year at Chelsea Flower Show we exhibited shade plants in a woodland setting. The display received many favourable comments and we were very pleased to be awarded another Chelsea Gold medal.
BBC Gardeners World meant a different type of display consisting of Rhodohypoxis and xRhodoxis in a naturalistic setting. As this was the first time we had exhibited this type of display we were very pleased to be awarded a Gold medal. Once again people seemed to enjoy the exhibit and their favourable comments were very much appreciated.
At Hampton Court Palace Flower Show we displayed two exhibits (gluttons for punishments that we are !!) - late shade tolerant plants in the main Floral marquee and our National Collection of Rhodohypoxis and xRhodoxis in the Plant Heritage marquee. It was hard, tiring work but worth it when we were awarded a Gold medal for BOTH displays !!
August and September led first to the Shrewsbury Show, which we always enjoy mainly because of some wonderful friends we stay with, followed by the Wisley flower Show. The latter is one of our favourite events due to the lovely location and relaxed atmosphere. Once again we are very lucky to stay with some lovely friends who spoil us rotten and make our life so much easier.
August was also highlighted by the addition of a new member to the family - Bob a black and white Border Collie puppy. As we write this he is approaching 8 months old and has much to learn ! Bless him.
The rest of the year was spent propagating and potting in preparation for the 2015 season. We have also made good progress erecting stock-proof / rabbit-proof fencing around our nursery extension and hope to erect our shade structure for our shade display plants early in 2015 - weather and time permitting, along with the construction of more raised beds for our Iris stock plants. So much to do and such little time .......
Below left, is a photo of our dear Max who we will never forget and on the right our exhibit at Cardiff Flower Show.
Below left is a photo of our display at BBC Gardeners World and on the right the new addition to our family, Bob, giving his advice at the Nursery in August 2014..
Reflections on 2013
2013 proved to be a successful and enjoyable year for us.
Despite the bitterly cold weather in March plant sales were busy in February and March which made a good start to the new year. At the Cardiff Flower Show, the first RHS Show of the season, we were awarded a Gold medal for our Alpine House display. This exhibit has taken a few attempts to' fine-tune' but we seem to have finally got the formula right. Another Gold medal followed at Malvern for our woodland / shade display which we always enjoy creating.
Chelsea Flower Show is the pinnacle of an exhibitors year (if you have had the privilege of being accepted to exhibit) and this year we applied and were accepted. This was our first year at 'The Show' and were surprised and delighted (to put it mildly!!) to be awarded a GOLD medal for our Alpine house and shady border display. We enjoyed the whole experience despite the unseasonable cold weather and long, tiring days. The Show was proceeded with the BBC filming at the nursery followed by TV coverage during the show week. Another new experience for us !
Further Gold medals were awarded at BBC Gardener's World - woodland display, Hampton Court - alpine house and finally at Malvern Autumn flower Show - woodland display highlighting the beautiful genus Cyclamen. All in all 2013 will be a hard act to follow regarding RHS awards.
The Wisley Flower Show in September is always an enjoyable experience for us. The setting in the lovely RHS Wisley Garden makes a wonderful backdrop and the atmosphere is always relaxed and friendly. We are also very lucky to be able to stay with some lovely friends in Guildford which makes life so much more pleasurable than camping in the back of a transit van as we have had to do in the past. Nearly forgot to mention - we were awarded 'Best in Show' at Wisley !
Our plant range continues to develop in particular the Dwarf Bearded Iris. We have extended the number of raised beds where we grow the Iris stock plants and hope to have a greater variety for sale throughout the years.
The National Collection of Rhodohypoxis and xRhodoxis continues to be developed and we traveled to South Africa in December to extend our studies of the species. This trip was made possible by grant aids from the Alpine Garden Society and Plant Heritage - Devon Group, for which we are very grateful.
As we move into 2014 our plans for winter outside projects are being hampered by the continuous rain and waterlogged ground. We are praying for some drier weather so we can get some of the work done before the sale / Show season starts again. Fingers crossed.
Above show two of our Gold medal winning displays for 2013 - on the left at Cardiff Flower Show
and on the right Chelsea Flower Show.
2011 proved to be a very busy and surprisingly progressive year for us here at Tale Valley Nursery. From March onwards it was non-stop and I am afraid we had no spare time to update this page, much to our regret. I must admit I find nothing more frustrating than logging-on to a web site only to find that it has not been updated since the year dot ! However, I have now found how difficult it is to juggle so many different jobs (despite what they say not all women can do six jobs at once - at least this one can’t !) and I feel empathy towards those people unable to update their web sites on a regular basis, finding myself in their shoes. So please accept my apologies for our lack of time and energy needed to refresh this section of the web site. Sometimes the needs of plants and people (plus animals !) come before me and the computer.
I am pleased to say that the people’s love of plants and their gardens seemed to have over-come the ‘doom and gloom’ that the media insisted on throwing at us in 2011. Trade was very brisk at all our plant sales and Shows, including a wonderful response to our mail order catalogue of winter growing South African (and other) bulbs and we would like to say a big THANK YOU to all our customers, established and new, for supporting us.
At the end of the season we had contractors at the nursery to add finishing touches to the leveling of the site enabling us to construct more standing-out areas for the plants during the summer months. We like to get everything out of the polytunnel for the summer if possible, where extremes of heat are less likely and good air-flow around the plants is greatly beneficial. Chris has also been busy building raised beds for some of the stock plants including Colchicums and dwarf Iris. The shade tunnel we erected in 2010 became invaluable as our range of shade and woodland plants continues to grow and we are now at a stage where we are already running out of room for this type of plant. At the end of the autumn period we cover the shade tunnel with a polythene cover to prevent many of the shade plants becoming sodden in their pots while dormant over the winter period. It will be removed in the spring before it gets too hot.
We try to get as many of the alpine and bulbous plants that are vulnerable to excessive wet into the polytunnel during late autumn before the worst of the winter wet. This job always takes longer than expected but is well worth doing due to the amount of rain we are liable to get in this part of 'sunny Devon' !
We wish all our customers past and present a Very Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!
Below is an example of some of the plants we will have available in 2013 -
Above from left to right Geranium transversale laciniata, Roscoea ‘Vanilla’, Primula auricular ‘Brazil’ and Sempervivums ‘Bronco and Green Ice’. Below from left to right Sempervivum ciliosum, Mandragora officinarum, Paeonia corsica and Asphodelus acaulis.
At Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2012 we were given an award for the Best Exhibit in the Plant Heritage marquee for an exhibit of our National Collection of Rhodohypoxis and xRhodoxis - see below left. We were also awarded a Gold medal for our display at BBC Gardeners World - below right.
March has been a very busy month with work on the nursery plus plant sales to attend as well as dealing with our ever increasing mail order sales for Rhodohypoxis etc.
We have had a better, smoother surface applied to the pathways around the nursery and you have no idea what a difference it has made. I can now walk around without worrying about twisting an ankle and push trolley loads of plants without the risk of them leaping off in a suicidal attempt. Bliss !
We had an enquiry from a gentleman about purchasing Cyrtanthus bulbs (syn. Vallota) which he had been looking for for some time. We were able to supply him and below is a section of the e-mail he sent after receiving them.
Dear Chris and Lorraine, Thank you for sending the Vallota bulbs, which are in first class condition. We have them potted up and are looking after them like a new born baby! We have been looking for Vallota Speciosa bulbs for some time. We thought we had found one in Holland, but after being told initially that they had some, we had an e mail a few weeks later telling us they had not got any after all !!. We carried on our search and found Tale Valley Nursery. You had Vallota bulbs, our search was over, you could not have been more helpful. The bulbs were soon on their way to us and they arrived in perfect condition, together with planting and growing advice. We are delighted. Thank you Tale Valley Nursery. Best Wishes John and Rosemary.
OH, NO ! It's Snowdrop Season !!
On 5th February we visited Colesbourne Park for their Snowdrop Day. It is a lovely setting with well signed woodland paths and large banks of snowdrops consisting of over 200 different varieties plus other plants of winter interest. The quaint Estate church is also worth a visit and there is a pleasant walk along the edge of the Blue lake; and yes, it really is blue - well, blue-green ! There are many other bulbs in the gardens to see, one particular one that caught our eye was a selection of Eranthis called 'Lightning'. It is of a softer yellow that the species E. hyemalis.
Sir Henry Elwes, Lady Carolyn Elwes and Dr. John Grimshaw were all on hand to answer any questions if required. All very friendly and approachable.
We were tempted by and bought, four new Galanthus for our collection. We swore a couple of years ago that we would NOT get infected by the Galanthus addiction but there are signs that we are weakening and from what we gather there is no known cure .......at the moment.
.............Drift of snowdrops..............................The 'Blue Lake' ............and Eranthis 'Lightning' at Colesbourne Park.
Above left - Galanthus 'Magnet' at Colesbourne, middle Galanthus 'Lapwing' and
right Hamamelis x intermedia 'Barmstedt Gold' the last two at Ashwood Nursery .
The following day we attended an illustrated lecture by Rod Leeds on 'Snowdrops' at Ashwood Nursery which we found very enjoyable and informative. Again we acquired a couple more Snowdrops !
John Massey kindly allowed those attending the lecture to look around his private garden which we found very inspiring. It is open on certain days throughout the year to raise money for charity and is well worth a visit. The garden looks like it has been designed to have interest throughout the year and when we were there there was plenty to see as well as Snowdrops including Hamamelis and Viburnums, filling the air with their spicy, slightly exotic scents. The nursery is also worth a visit, all so neat, tidy, clean and well maintained. Very refreshing. As for the tea room........lots of delicious freshly prepared food to choose from.
On the 10th February Chris attended a Snowdrop day at the Garden House, in Devon. Three lectures, a good lunch, Snowdrop sales and a garden walk rounded off the day. Needless to say our collection increased by a further three Snowdrops !! Will it ever stop ??!!
February 12th saw our first plant sale of the year at the Caerleon Alpine Garden Society Show in South Wales. It was a lovely sunny day and well attended.
Our next sale is the Spring Plant Fair at Totnes Civic Centre on 27th February.
Below are a few of the plants we have in flower at the moment brightening up the rain laden days of mid February.
On the left is Gymnospermum albertii, centre Romulea mazenconiana and on the right Gymnospermum darwasicum.
Happy New Year !
Winter started early for us in Devon this year. We don't normally get much very cold weather until after Christmas but this year it caught us by surprise by starting in November with a bang, going down to -5.4C in the polytunnel and much colder outside. Although temperatures were as cold as last year, -18C, we hope that a lot of the plants in the garden will have been better protected by the insulation of snow we had for well over a week - another strange surprise for this part of Devon. The snow cover on top of the polytunnel certainly helped to prevent the temperature from going below -10.4 unlike last year when it plummeted to -12.5C.
We noticed, one morning when we were walking the dogs, that the pink glow that one often sees at dawn and dusk looked particularly beautiful reflecting off the snowy landscape.See below in the picture on the left, although this photograph does not do it justice.This atmospheric phenomenon is apparently known as the Belt of Venus or Venus's Girdle. Often, the glow is separated from the horizon by a dark layer, the Earth's shadows or "dark segment". The light rose -pink colour is due to back scattering of reddened light from the rising or setting Sun. By all accounts a very similar effect can be seen during a total solar eclipse.
After a while the novelty of the snow soon wore off - it is exhausting knocking snow off the top of a shade tunnel to prevent it from collapsing !...............but at least the dogs enjoyed the snow if no-one else did - you can see Alice, below centre, digging in the snow where she heard ( or thought she heard !) something under the snow.
During December Strumaria truncata came into flower (below right) adding a touch of colour to the glasshouse along with Lachenalia bulbifera 'George' , which has been in flower for weeks, the sweetly scented Masonia jasminiflora and Tulbaghia alliacea which flowered for the first time surprising us with a lovely scent.
Looking back on 2010 some of the highlights for us consisted of the following -
Our first attempt at exhibiting non-formal displays at Malvern Spring, Axe Vale
and Wisley (see News and Events, Show Results). This type of display offered different challenges to those previously undertaken and the results of Silver Gilt, Large Gold and Best in Show, respectively, were very pleasing. What is perhaps more rewarding, was the large number of favourable and encouraging comments from the general public. The formal displays we exhibited at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and Malvern Autumn both received Gold Medals which also gave us a buzz.
The shade tunnel is another highlight of 2010 and is now up and ready for plants to be moved into in the spring. The fact that we erected it ourselves is particularly satisfying and this facility will enable us to increase both our range of the shade loving plants and also release some room in our existing polytunnel for the sun lovers.
Work starts on the shade tunnel in July (see below). Max helping Chris with covering the tunnel....and then the snow came !!
At last, another dry spell in April meant that we were able to get a digger on to the nursery site to finish the leveling for the new shade tunnel and future standing-out ground. Gravel was also applied for the tunnel floor and the surfacing of the surrounding paths finished along with tidying up of a retaining bank. See left hand photograph below. The digger driver and his son, Mo and Barry Locke, did a wonderful job - they can be highly recommended.
The Spring Malvern Show in May, Axe Vale Show in June and Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in July meant that time had to be devoted in preparing for these and the tunnel was put on hold again.
Now the 'Hampton Court ' experience is over we are busy potting our autumn / winter growing bulbs. However, we have also managed to resume work on the shade tunnel and on finishing the end framework have started to put the 'hot-spot' tape onto the metal hoops prior to putting the netting on.
Sales and Shows at RHS Rosemoor, Wisley and the Malvern Autumn Show in September are also in our minds and what with these, all the potting and tunnel work keep us constantly busy.
8th MARCH 2010
We have now had over a week with no rain, plenty of sunshine and wind and the ground is dry enough to get a digger onto the nursery site to fine-tune the levels and surface the area of the new shade tunnel. However, things don't always go according to plan, do they?! We were hoping for the work to start next week (weather permitting - which according to the met. office forecast the chances looked good) but the contractor has just telephoned to say that he is running behind schedule due to the wet / freezing weather earlier in the year and he now can't get to us for at least another three weeks.........ahhhh! .........By then it will probably have rained again and the ground will be too sticky and wet to get the digger on site without causing too much damage to the soil structure....again.
Never mind, no point on dwelling on the problem, at least the snowdrops are looking wonderful and the hellebores too. Other plants are also beginning to poke their little noses above the ground / compost in an effort to cheer us up. Below are a few examples of plants growing in a raised bed in our polytunnel - from left to right - Corydalis schanginii subsp. schanginii which comes from Central Asia mountains. Muscari macrocarpum (with the most wonderful, sweet fragrance) found in eastern Crete, Samos, the Amorgos Isles and southwest Turkistan and last but not least the curious rather than beautiful Mandragora officinarum, originating from N.Italy and W Yugoslavia, commonly known as Mandrake. According to the Harry Potter books, ' whenever unearthed, the root of the Mandrake screams. The scream of a mature Mandrake when it is unearthed will kill any person who hears it, but a young Mandrake's screams will usually only knock a person out for several hours'...... Must remember to do a 'Risk Assessment' before I dig up our mandrake and wear ear-defenders. Better still, I'll get Chris to do it - or maybe just leave it alone !!
Goodness knows what happened to 2009, it just seemed to fly by with no time to update this section of the web site.
However, we have had our instructions from a good friend, Judy, to 'get our act together' ! So here goes.
Work ceased on the erection of the shade tunnel in autumn 2008 due to weather conditions and the heavy clay soil we have. We managed to concrete the 'ground tubes' in on one side just before the rain filled up the holes on the other side. The very cold frosty and snowy weather then arrived in 2008 / 2009 and put a stop to further progress during the winter months.
However, before the very bad weather stopped us completely we managed to erect a water storage tank in late 2008 ready to hold the water from the bore hole we had drilled in early spring 2009.
The spring of 2009 arrived and general nursery work consisting of potting, propagation, irrigation etc. was given priority over the shade tunnel, so things went on hold until the autumn of 2009 when we could start again. This time we managed to finish concreting in the rest of the 'ground tubes' and erect the framework before the snow arrived at the beginning of January. However, it is now the end of January and we have been waiting for the ground to dry out sufficiently to get a digger onto the site to do some leveling before we can do any more work.
A few weeks ago the nursery site looked like this ........................very pretty but difficult to do any ground work.
Even the compost was frozen so no potting could be done either.
At least we had the plants illustrated below, to cheer us up over the autumn and winter months and we hope to be able to start releasing them for sale later this year.
...Crocus goulimyi 'Mani White'..............Massonia jasminiflora...................Ornithogalum fimbriatum
............Asphodelus acaulis.........................Polyxena odorata...............................Massonia depressa
This December 2008 we were fortunate enough to visit the Drakensburg Mountains in South Africa. Some of our experiences and plants we saw are described in the Travel Log below.
FROM WITSIESHOEK TO THE SENTINEL.
After arriving in South Africa we spent a couple of relaxing days before traveling to the Witsieshoek Mountain Resort in the Drakensberg Mountains which was to serve as a base for our trip to the Sentinel Peak and the top of the Amphitheatre plateau above the Royal National Park.
We arrived in the early afternoon and settled in. The Amphitheatre and Sentinel Peak could be clearly seen from our room as there was relatively little cloud about to impede the view. As we found on many days during our visit, the cloud in the Drakensberg area tends to build up later in the day and this is then accompanied by heavy rain and tremendous thunderstorms, which luckily don't last long.
We had a few hours to spare so decided to take a short walk in the valley behind the resort. It was on the short grass area just outside our room that we found our first Rhodohypoxis. This was the mainly white flowered R. baurii var. platypetala which is generally found in dry, short grass areas. Two species of orchid, Disa pulchra and D. stachyoides also grew in this area along with Trifolium burchellianum, several species of Helichrysum and Watsonia lepida ( below centre).
From left to right, Ledebouria sp. with Rhodohypoxis,.Watsonia lepida and Eulophia foliosa.
The walk down the valley soon revealed more species of interest. The large white flowered Anemone fanninii which reaches heights of up to 2 metres grew in large colonies in damp folds in the grassland. Unfortunately the flowers were now past their best. In complete contrast Dipcadii marlothii with its small delicate pale green flowers was well camouflaged where it grew in the grass areas adjacent to the path. We find species in this genus delightful to grow and some will appear in our future catalogues.
The leaves of a Eucomis were evident but unfortunately it seemed we were too early to see this in flower. There were also numerous Scilla which grew on the damp banks that adjoined the footpath. Throughout our trip we saw several Scilla but found their identification difficult as they didn’t seem to key out with our references. This one was possibly Scilla dracomontanum. The orchid Eulophia foliosa (above right) grows on the grass slopes here at an altitude of about 2200 metres which is near the top of its range. The dull pale green flowers hang gracefully down and are honey-scented.
A small waterfall proved to be the perfect habitat for Moraea huttonii this tall bright yellow flowering plant related to the Iris, likes moist sites and can be found at altitudes up to 2400 metres.
With time running out and a long day ahead of us tomorrow we decided to return back to the resort by the same route. It is surprising but usually the case, that one always sees different plants when viewing the area from another direction. The first of these was Gladiolus longicollis. This has pale cream flowers speckled with purple which open in the late afternoon and is generally found to be solitary. The Gladiolus are firm favourites of ours and are included in many of our highlights during this visit to the Drakensberg and our previous trip to the Western Cape.
From left to right, Brunsvigia grandiflora, Rhodohypoxis baurii var. confecta
and Dierama dracomontana.
Glancing at the upper slopes we saw a shade of pink not reminiscent of other plants we had seen, so a scramble up the rocks was required. At times like this the thoughts of snakes lying in the grass go to the back of the mind. The effort was well worth it as the plant turned out to be Brunsvigia grandiflora (above left) , this is one of the Tumbleweeds so called as when ripe, the seed-heads become detached and are blown around the countryside until they find a place to rest.
We arrived back at our room to catch up on our notes and later went out to eat. It was during our evening meal that the mist drifted down and the sound of thunderstorms could be heard in the distance. We sat in the lounge to catch a weather forecast and although this was in African it was evident that the weather was on the turn, possibly for the worst.
We woke at 0500 am the following morning to look out onto a cold and misty scene with very poor visibility. It looked as if our hopes of getting onto the escarpment were not to be fulfilled. However during our breakfast at 0700 am there were signs that the cloud was lifting and we decided that even if the weather was not good enough to go up to the top we would follow the route along its lower path.
We arrived at the Sentinel car-park to be greeted by tens of thousands of Rhodohypoxis baurii var. confecta (above middle) growing on the grass slopes alongside the path. This plant is generally considered to be pink in colour but the plants in this area are of every shade from white to red and also included bi-coloured forms. This sight was our highlight of the trip so far and seeing these plants in the wild fulfilled one of our ambitions.
The Guide books state that the walk from the car-park to the chain ladder should take about one and a half hours, it was soon obvious that this time does not allow for botanising! Although the low cloud impeded the views of the area it did little to spoil our day.
The next plant of note was Dierama dracomontana (above right) commonly known as the Wand Flower or Angels Tears with its deep pink flowers moving in the breeze making taking a good photograph a mere impossibility. More rosettes of Eucomis became evident and in some cases there were signs of the flower spikes beginning to push themselves up. As we continued to walk on their numbers became greater and soon they could be seen in full flower. There was some confusion as to the species but we believed these plants to be Eucomis autumnalis (below right). These plants showed considerable variation in both leaf and flower colour and it was evident that there is still plenty of scope for new forms to be introduced into cultivation. The nodding orange-red flowers of Glumicalyx goseloides could be found in damp sheltered pockets at the base of rocks. Helichrysum were represented by the yellow flowering H. aureum and H. oreophilum and around every corner new plants were to be found. The yellow flowering bulbous Cyrtanthus flanaganii and C. stenanthus were both plants which were relatively new to us and as we got higher the strong growing Moraea alticola (below left) were to be seen, firstly in small numbers but soon in large drifts.
From left to right, Moraea alticola, the Chain ladder and Eucomis autumnalis.
The path continued to snake its way along the base of the basalt cliffs until eventually we came across the Chain ladder (above middle). We had read about this quick route to the top of the plateau, had seen several pictures and now faced the reality of climbing it. The ladder is about 100 feet long and was erected in 1930 by the Natal Provincial Administration to provide a quick, alternative route to the Buttress Gulley. The weather was still cloudy but we decided to climb the ladder to see what further plants we could find.
The top of the plateau is fairly flat with the exception of the Crow's Nest at 3154m which lies in front of Mont Aux Sources which at 3282 metres is the highest point in this area of the Drakensberg. Standing at the top of the chain ladder we could see the Elands River falls plummeting over the top of the cliffs although the view beyond this was unfortunately impeded by the low cloud which kept swirling around.
We headed towards the top of the Amphitheatre and Tugela Falls to be greeted by the diminutive Rhodohypoxis rubella.This plant was probably top of our list of those we wanted to find on our visit and another dream was now fulfilled. It has been in cultivation in Britain in the past but now seems to have been lost. Here it was to be found growing in small pools and in seasonally flooded silt patches. Although of limited horticultural value due to its small size this plant in its natural habitat will be a memory we shall always hold dear.
The area also contained Geum capense and a Kniphofia sp. which grew alongside streams and two small Moraea, M. alpina and M. modesta and as one climbed the Buttress slopes several cushion forming Helichysum sp. We stood at the top of the Tugela Falls but were unable to look out over the Royal Natal National Park below due to the continued cloud cover so we turned and headed back to Witsieshoek this time via the Butress Gulley well satisfied with the plants we had seen during the day.
........................The Crow's Nest 3154m........................................Rhodohypoxis rubella..........................
Having recovered from our tiring but pleasurable experience at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show life continues to whiz along and we are back to work with our noses to the proverbial grindstone. Propagation by division and cutting of some material continues in readiness for next years plant sales.
The Habranthus and the Caloscordum neriniflorum are flowering well and setting seed which we will collect and sow next spring. The Eucomis are also looking good and the Acis (syn. Leucojum) autumnalis is coming into flower. The Acis rosea is just poking its dainty nose above the surface of the soil showing great promise of things to come.
We are in the process of erecting a shade structure over an area where we will incorporate some stock beds for direct planting of some of our ever increasing range of shade plants and bulbs.
We have also arranged for someone to finish leveling the nursery site and have ordered a 30m X 9m shade tunnel which is being delivered on Tuesday 29th July....... another exciting project to look forward to and worry about! ....Life is never dull around here.
16/05/2008: New Website Launched
We are pleased to announce that we have launched the new Tale Valley Nursery Website.
Using this site, you will be able to find out more information about Tale Valley Nursery, read our latest news, view a list of all shows which we will be attending, as well as being able to see our product catalogue - you can also download a printable mail order form.
If you wish to make any comments about our new website, please visit our Contact Page and send us a message. We look forward to hearing from you, and hope you enjoy the new Tale Valley Nursery Website.
Winter 2006 and Spring 2007
Clearing part of the nursery site during the winter of 2006 before the work of leveling could start in preparation for erecting the first polytunnel.
In the spring if 2007, when the ground was dry, leveling was carried out for the polytunnel. At the same time we installed a drainage system to collect the rainwater from the outside of the tunnel and any surplus irrigation water from inside the tunnel. (Alice, our Labrador X (mongrel - but don't tell her I used that 'm' word !) supervised the leveling and drainage operations - someone had to !) This water will then be collected and recycled for irrigation use. A deer and rabbit proof fence was also erected around the area of the tunnel to protect our valuable plants from the appropriate pests - of which we have plenty.
In December 2007 we adopted Max, a Collie X, so Alice would have some company. He is going through his 'teenage phase' and 'Mad Max ' seems more appropriate!
Max on arrival cuddling into his soft toys for comfort .............it doesn't take long for him to settle in and start playing 'tuggy' with Alice.
Alice and Max relaxing during a hard days work on the nursery !!