Monday, 1 July 2013

Happy Birthday Kirstenbosch

Part of the succulent collection at Kirstenbosch.
Today marks the hundredth anniversary of the founding of Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town, one of the great gardens of the world and for me, like many others, an excursion to Kirstenbosch is the highlight of a visit to Cape Town. The garden proper covers 200 ha on the slope of Table Mountain, and with the exception of a few historic trees, grows only indigenous South African plants. It blends seamlessly into the fynbos and forest of the mountain, making it a very special and beautiful place.


The garden and native fynbos blend almost indistinguishably, here with a grove of Leucadendron argenteum straddling the boundary.
To mark the occasion a fine commemorative book, Kirstenbosch, the most beautiful garden in Africa, has been written by Brian J Huntley, the former CEO of the South African National Biodiversity Institute, who is particularly well-placed to do so. Published in Cape Town by Struik, it is beautifully produced and well worth acquiring, not only for the pictures (in which the South African sun is only ever beaming wonderfully down) but for the genuinely informative and interesting text. The Kirstenbosch estate dates to the earliest days of Dutch settlement at the Cape, and one of its interesting features is part of the hedge planted in 1660 to demarcate the colony’s border. It was later owned by Cecil Rhodes’ and was left to the South African Government at his death; the history of how, through the persistence of Harold Pearson, the National Botanical Garden was founded in 1913 and its development since, through to the very different days of multicultural South Africa, is fully told.

Camphor trees (Cinnamomum camphora) planted to shade the road through Cecil Rhodes's estate in the 1890s.

Strelitzia reginae 'Mandela's Gold', named to commemorate a visit to Kirstenbosch by President Mandela in 1996.

For me the great interest in Kirstenbosch lies in the diversity of its plant collection, mostly displayed to great horticultural effect in the garden, whose beauty is enhanced by its position on the slope of Table Mountain with occasional views across the city to the sea. These pictures were taken in September 2010 and give only a hint of the diversity and spectacle of Kirstenbosch in spring. One has to hope that its fame and beauty can be preserved for its next century, and beyond.

A spectacular Lampranthus hybrid.

Protea cynaroides

4 comments:

  1. What a grand tribute for a grand Garden! Thanks for alerting us to this fatidic event. Kirstenbosch jostles alongside Kew and Edinburgh for top spot in my heart for botanic gardens: like picking out one's favorite child or dessert. It wins top prize for scenic placement at any rate: long may SANBI's crown jewel flourish!

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  2. Wonderful report, John ... many thanks.

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  3. Nice blog post and terrific photos. Hope you don't mind I have shared this to my facebook page http://www.facebook.com/thegardendesignco

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  4. I hope to visit there someday! OMG, WOW!

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