A walk on the wild side...
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