People throughout the world turn to their gardens and green spaces as a way to recharge and connect with nature. While some may view the start of winter as a goodbye to the beautiful blooms, it’s actually a new start for gardens.
From a Mushroom Meander along the Garden Route, to an exotic tree collection in KwaZulu-Natal and eight metre high aloes in Gauteng, Candide, the free gardening app that connects green lovers across South Africa, has put together a list of ten gardens to visit this winter for their seasonal colour, scent and spectacle.
“Winter gardens are incredibly special and boast unique, magical blooms and bushes that burst into life during the colder months, which many of us aren’t aware of ,” says Candide’s Country Manager, Roné de Bruyn. “Whilst some gardens lose their leaves, this in turn reveals the beautiful textures, colours and contrast of winter plants and trees.
The Johannesburg Botanical Gardens (Gauteng) Although South Africa boasts a wealth of indigenous succulents it only has one indigenous cactus – Rhipsalis baccifera – and you’ll find it the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens. This plant doesn’t look anything like most people’s idea of a cactus. It doesn’t even have proper spikes, just clusters of harmless hairy spines. But it’s definitely worth a visit to the garden to see its juicy white (sometimes pink or red berries) that remind one of mistletoe, which is why it has earned its common name of mistletoe cactus.
Winter also brings an abundance of blooming aloes, strelitzias and orchids to the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens, a sight all the more striking when viewed against the unique backdrop of Highveld grasslands. Visitors can enjoy the Shakespeare, Rose and Herb Gardens, the Hedge Demonstration Garden and the main arboretum, which houses family groupings of plants and trees from South Africa and the rest of the world.
The Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden (Gauteng) Special winter attractions at the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden are the variety of aloe species that grow as high as eight meters, and the flowering Hypoestes Aristata, also known as ribbon bush or purple haze. A nature reserve, the garden has a Geological trail that visitors can enjoy where they’ll be privy to magnificent proteas including the Protea roupelliae, “Silver Mountain Sugarbush”” and Protea welwitchii, “Dwarf Sugarbush.” It’s also home to an abundance of wildlife and about 240 bird species, including the White-bellied Sunbird, Black-chested Prinia and Streaky-headed Seedeater, creating a breathtakingly tranquil destination for the whole family. But it is best known for the breeding pair of Verreaux’s Eagles that nest on the cliffs near the 70m Witpoortjie Waterfall. This magnificent site has natural water flow all year round, a fitting home for the majestic creatures that have inhabited this area for over forty years.
The Free State National Botanical Garden (Free State) You’ll be awestruck by the bright red and orange aloes, fruit from the buffalo thorn and red-berry mistletoe at the Free State National Botanical Garden, which becomes highly colourful in the winter months, in glorious contrast to its natural, tall grassland and woodland. Guests can visit the Succulent Garden or get up close with the treasured Champion Tree, an old wild olive called The Old Man of The Garden, thought to be over 200 years old.
Situated in a valley between picturesque dolerite koppies on the outskirts of Bloemfontein, the garden is designed in the shape of South Africa’s outline, complete with its nine provinces and also boasts masses of yellow-green karee tree flowers and the soft grey-green of kiepersols, or cabbage-trees at this time of year.
Durban Botanic Gardens (KwaZulu-Natal) Durban Botanic Gardens is famed for its exotic tree collection, and many of these are spectacular at this time of year. The kamere gum tree is at its brightest, displaying incredibly vivid colours, the breadfruit and cannonball trees are covered in fruit, the trumpet and petrea trees are in full flower, as is the Vernonia colorata. The oldest surviving palm in the garden is over 145 years old and can be found behind the tea kiosk, be sure to find it after you’ve had a cuppa to warm yourself up.
Africa’s oldest surviving botanic garden is also full of life in the winter, as its African mud turtles breed, herons and spoonbill chicks get ready to leave their nests, and the birdlife flourishes. Founded in 1849 back when the village of Durban had only one brick house, this garden continues to delight visitors with 15 hectares of green tranquillity, and an ideal outing for the whole family.
Mauritzfontein (Northern Cape) According to Mauritzfontein landscaper Arthur Mennigke the vygies and old Camel thorn trees (Vachelia erioloba) are a sight to behold at this time of year as the vygies brighten up the coldest days and the trees form beautiful stark contrasts against the clear, blue winter skies of the Nama Karoo. The aloes bring large amounts of sunbirds to the garden including, whited bellied, southern double collared and dusky sunbirds, as well as red eyed bulbul and mousebirds. Colourful, hanging, bell-shaped flowers of Naval’s wort (Cotyledon orbiculata) also flower in winter and can be found in abundance throughout the garden. Mauritzfontein boasts four garden landscapes – green, succulent, woodland and vegetable – and can only be viewed by appointment.
Babylonstoren (Western Cape) In winter time, citrus fruits including bright yellow lemons and blood oranges take centre stage on the Babylonstoren farm and also in the garden. Find your way to the citrus block in the garden and take your pick from a variety of unusual lemons, limes, oranges, naartjies, nules and grapefruits.
Visitors will be delighted to discover that the Puff Adder, a shaded walk named for its shape as it meanders for 70 metres along a stream emanating in the Simonsberg, is exhibiting a display of rocks and stones this winter that are typical of the South African landscape. The collection includes 19 of the geological groups that define the farm and surrounding regions. With this collection, Babylonstoren celebrates their importance in agriculture and ornamental gardens, as well as their role in shaping our history. Each stone has been carefully examined, its every curve explored, before being selected by a panel of experts for the collection. It is a celebration of nature’s artistry and something for the whole family to view and enjoy.
Harold Porter National Botanical Garden (Western Cape) Harold Porter National Botanical Garden will brighten up your winter days as the hillsides come alive with colour. Scents of the fynbos and nearby ocean fill the air while the landscape is a sight to behold, dotted with yellows and ivories from the sickle-leaf conebush, as well as the pinks, reds and oranges of pincushions, proteas and pagodas. Pack a picnic and visit the garden’s famous waterfalls and amber pools, or try spotting the tiny arum lily reed frog that lives in arum lilies found in ditches and watercourses. These plants are also a favoured food for the nocturnal porcupine. Located in Betty’s Bay, in the heart of the Cape Fynbos region with almost 200 hectares of pristine natural fynbos, it’s an ideal opportunity to head outdoors, explore mountain slopes, deep gorges, flats, marshes and dunes.
Garden Route Botanical Garden (Western Cape) The Mushroom Meander trail, at this 19-hectare winter wonderland, is in full force at this time of year, offering exhilarating walks where colourful and intricately shaped mushrooms cover the rehabilitated indigenous forest. Cyptotrama chrysopelea, commonly known as “Golden cointop,” is a small, bright golden yellow, dry cap stalk mushroom that visitors can observe growing on wood. Tiny but gorgeous, this brightly colored fungus is well worth a close look. So too is Schizophyllum commune, a mushroom that resembles the undulating waves of tightly packed corals or loose Chinese fans. The little white mushroom is easily distinguished by its small gills, which appear to be split lengthwise. This unique feature has led to its common name, the “Split gill” or sometimes “Common split gill.” It’s incredibly beautiful and if you think dating is complicated in the human world, be glad you’re not this mushroom. Humans have two basic biological sexes and six or more gender options, this one has to choose from over 28,000 different sexes!
Situated at the base of the Outeniqua Mountains in George, Garden Route Botanical Garden is the only un-irrigated garden in the world and boasts immense floral diversity, a huge range of insects and birds, and has more frog species in its wetland than the entire United Kingdom.
The Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden (Western Cape) During the winter months the Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden in Stellenbosch, home to 60 of the artists’ sculptures, comes to life with surges of colour unique to this season. Although planted to give year-round colour, it peaks from July to September, when its many buchus and ericas are in fragrant flower. On the pink ‘heather hill’, a selection of ericas, buchus, Pelargonium betulinum (birch-leaved pelargoniums) and Diastella proteoides (Flats’ silkypuffs) are seen. Unusual varieties of erica were sourced from Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden: every available cultivar of Erica verticillata, extinct in the wild, is planted along one edge of the lake. Flushes of fiery orange and red Aloes are also not to be missed.
Sunny winter days are perfect for walking through the garden. Make yourself at home in their recently renovated Old Storeroom and enjoy a barista-made coffee or tea, with a selection of home-made cakes in front of a roaring fire. Visits to the garden are by appointment only and guided tours are available with advance booking.
If you don’t already have Candide, download the free community gardening app, available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. For more information visit www.candide.co.za email firstname.lastname@example.org