Monday, 11 October 2010

A visit to one of the world’s most magnificent gardens

A visit to one of the world’s most magnificent gardens.

(A place of historical interest.)

Written by Rosemary Kahn, Photographs by Deidi Gee

On the Eastern slope of the famous and majestic Table Mountain in Cape Town, there is a wonderful garden called Kirstenbosch. It is of world class botanical interest, open to all, cherished by thousands and the proud winner of many gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show!

Although it is mid-winter here, it is a warm and sunny day, with the bluest of skies and no wind.  A perfect day for a walk .

The first curator of Kirstenbosch, Professor Harold Pearson, who trained at Kew, let the Garden develop naturally, to fit in with its surroundings, without formal landscape planning.  As always, I visit the Dell and Colonel Bird’s Bath first, built by him in 1811, in the shape of a bird, over a crystal clear spring. It is my favourite spot.  Here, on the steep slopes surrounding the spring, in the dappled shade of Tree Ferns, the famous Cycads, planted by Prof. Pearson grow, making this the heart of the Garden. It is hard to describe its beauty. There is a small cave and a waterfall and I sit for a while on a wooden bench, and listen to the sound of the water rushing over flat stepping stones.  It pools below the waterfall, overflows and becomes a stream which runs right through the Garden,  and eventually joins the Liesbeeck River.

I take the mountain pathway out of the Dell, and look towards the peak of Castle Rock as it stands guard over this area.  Here above the Dell,  the  Proteas are in bloom  and I watch several Cape sugarbirds collecting nectar. Winter is their breeding season.

Table Mountain, clothed in “green velvet”, with little streams forming silver ribbons in between its many folds and crevices, is a perfect back drop for the winter garden. I look down on a sea of red hot pokers and vast carpets of pink, white, orange and  yellow oxalis. Behind me are tall Silver trees, named for their leaves covered in silver hairs.

I pause in wonder, at the sight of the Great Lawn  below, with its sparkling lily pond and make my way to the Sundial at its upper end.  I reach it just before a group of school children, on a nature study outing. I brought many children here, during my teaching years, and just for fun, I read aloud the inscription on the dial.

                        Horas Signo                      I indicate the hours

                        Umbra Movente                By shadow moving

                        Flores Gigno                     I bring forth the flowers

                        Luce Fovente                    By sunlight nurtured.

I point out the time. The children check their watches to see if the sundial is correct!

I walk on down to the Avenue of old Oaks, their gnarled leafless branches waiting for Spring.  I look towards the mountain once more and  hear again, my three year old daughter’s words, as we stood beneath these trees, over 40 years ago.

“Mummy,” she said, clasping my hand to make sure she had my full attention. “This place is full of angels!”

And so it is.

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