A walk on the wild side...

Garden News (UK) - - About Now -

I was lucky enough to visit South Africa a cou­ple of weeks ago. Ini­tially I was work­ing, but for the sec­ond half of my trip I was shown around by friends I’ve made over the years at the Chelsea Flower Show where they’ve de­signed and con­structed the Kirsten­bosch/South Africa ex­hibit.

It’s one of the high­lights of the show and the pub­lic flock to see it – a com­pletely un­fa­mil­iar flora set in an imag­i­na­tively de­signed and per­fectly ex­e­cuted se ing that rep­re­sents sev­eral of the typ­i­cal land­scapes of this as­tound­ing coun­try.

The Kirsten­bosch Na­tional Botan­i­cal Gar­den is one of the top 10 botan­i­cal gar­dens in the world. Not only does it show­case a huge va­ri­ety of indige­nous plants, but it must have the most spec­tac­u­lar of all back­drops – Ta­ble Moun­tain al­ter­nately lit by bril­liant sun­shine, then swathed in cloud.

You can imag­ine your­self see­ing such plants for the first time, king proteas with red pe­tals and ex­tra­or­di­nary pro­trud­ing sta­mens and stig­mas, stre­litzia with their as­ton­ish­ing flow­ers like vividly coloured crested cranes’ heads. Here we saw the yel­low-flow­ered vari­ant of this psy­che­delic flower named after the hero of South Africa, Nel­son Man­dela. There were other stre­litzias, too, some big­ger than the tallest banana plants.

We took a walk on the wild side, too, ac­com­pa­nied by Keith Kirsten, a lead­ing light in South African hor­ti­cul­ture, and his ap­pren­tices Ja­son and Leon, who de­signed this year’s gold-medal win­ning South Africa Chelsea stand. We trav­elled up the west coast to revel in

acres of wild­flow­ers. The flow­ers and the hos­pi­tal­ity will stay with me for­ever!

Stre­litzia, or bird of par­adise, could be grown here in the green­house

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