Thursday, 16 September 2010

Two nurseries and a garden

Appropriately for the 'Hibiscus Coast', one of the numerous local garden centres and nurseries in this area of the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal, Joymac Nurseries in Uvongo, specializes in Hibiscus cultivars. We came upon it by chance yesterday, and found it fascinating, with a remarkable collection of cultivars on display and for sale. The owners breed and select their own cultivars, attempting to improve on existing material, selecting especially for good garden worthiness. The names of their own selections are prefixed by  the nursery name, as in the beautifully coloured  'Joymac Silver Pearl' (right). The full range of cultivars can be found on their website.

Almost neighbouring Joymac Nursery is the Stephward Estate, the creation of Stephen van Belkum and Howard Eades, who have developed a tropical fantasy on a five acre site. Peacocks roam among pools and pillars, while parrots squawk in the background; there is a restaurant around a brilliant blue pool and accommodation is available (much more from their website). The gardens contain good collections of Heliconia and bromeliads, and Howard has several shade houses full of a diversity of orchids, Nepenthes and all sorts of interesting things. He imports orchids from Asia for sale through the nursery, but has also set up a lab for growing orchids from seed and has taught himself the techniques needed for this complicated process - impressive for someone who told us that ten years ago he didn't like orchids. We acquired a selection of bromeliads for Adrian's mother's garden, but the plant we all most wanted was not available, a superb specimen of the Jade Vine, Strongylodon macrobotrys. Not easy to propagate, it is greatly sought after round here, for obvious reasons (below).

In the afternoon we visited the garden of Geoff and Lynne Nichols at Southport, surrounding the family home. Situated on a ridge of a stabilised old sand dune, it commands a view of the sea, and like all such views here, enjoys convenient comfortable whale-watching. (The sea at present is thick with Humpback Whales, whose spouts and backs are to be seen constantly, with occasional spectacular breaches; this is true when watching from land, at least: on a marine whale-watching excursion we saw only two dolphins.)

The Nichols's garden is informal, but packed with interesting plants, both native and exotic. It is the mark of a true plantsman (Geoff is now a horticultural and ecological consultant) that a pondweed is valued alongside more conspicuous plants. Potamogeton schweinfurthii (right) is a handsome plant, in its own way, and I would also be happy to grow it. Going round the garden was a huge pleasure, and a good chatter about mutual acquaintances and the indigenous plant mafia over a pot of tea rounded off a splendid afternoon.

Xylotheca kraussiana


  1. John did you know there is a superb specimen of Strongylodon macrobotrys at Cambridge Botanic Garden?

  2. And at Oxford... the more the merrier! Seeing it wild in the Philippines in 1998 was one of the botanical highlights of my life.

  3. The one at Oxford knocked me for six! Looking forward to next May already! Would love to see one in the wild....


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