Here’s to the power of flow­ers…

South African Country Life - - In This Issue - Nita Hazell Ed­i­tor

My gar­den­ing friends tell me that Oc­to­ber is the month to get down and dirty in the gar­den. So while I’ll be fill­ing con­tain­ers with herb seedlings, sow­ing Johnny Jump Ups and lay­ing down a few daylily bulbs in my tiny town­house gar­den, vis­i­tors will be stream­ing in their num­bers to the an­nual Open Gar­dens fes­ti­vals across the coun­try to mar­vel at the won­ders of spring.

This fine tra­di­tion of open gar­dens has cre­ated an av­enue of gar­den­ing tourism that draws the crowds and – es­pe­cially in the South African con­text – much-needed in­come to the coun­try­side.

The sideshows of­ten in­clude tea and beer gar­dens, farm-style lunches and ac­tiv­i­ties for chil­dren, and make for won­der­ful fam­ily out­ings. Sadly, due to the drought, sev­eral Open Gar­dens fes­ti­vals have been can­celled this year, but one of my all-time favourites, the Elgin Open Gar­dens, is car­ry­ing on as usual, where there will be a to­tal of 18 gar­dens on show.

Al­though not open to vis­i­tors this year, Palmiet River farm gar­den has al­ways been a real show­stop­per with its wood­land plants and stone ter­races. It’s one of the old­est gar­dens in the Elgin Val­ley and is the cre­ation of a woman who helped pi­o­neer ap­ple farm­ing in South Africa (A Taste of Eden page 54).

One of the big­gest ‘gar­dens’ open to vis­i­tors all year, but es­pe­cially spec­tac­u­lar in spring, is iSi­man­gal­iso Wet­land Park World Her­itage Site in KwaZulu-Na­tal. It’s prob­a­bly best known for spot­ting the Big Five but, con­sid­er­ing it’s the sec­ond rich­est floris­tic re­gion in the coun­try (af­ter the Cape Floris­tic Re­gion), a flora sa­fari there is as re­ward­ing as any game drive. Just don’t ex­pect swathes of colour à la Na­maqua­land. Flower spot­ting in KZN is more like be­ing on a trea­sure hunt, as An­drea Ab­bott points out in Don’t For­get

the Small Stuff on page 36.

Flow­ers are not only a thing of beauty to wild-food for­ager Roushanna Gray, who val­ues them for their medic­i­nal qual­i­ties and adds them to her food for flavour. On her Veld

& Sea ex­pe­ri­ences at Cape Point she’ll take you to gather wild food from the fyn­bos-cov­ered slopes above her home, and flow­ers and herbs from the fam­ily’s veg­gie gar­den, to use in mouth-wa­ter­ing recipes, some of which she shares with us on page 96.

“We eat with our eyes as much as we do with our mouths,” she says. Take a look at her spring salad with it’s petals and nas­tur­tiums and I’m sure you’ll agree (her pretty flower ice cubes are also just the thing to add to a G&T on a hot sum­mer’s day).

Seems there might in­deed be some added age-de­fy­ing prop­erty to the nas­tur­tium. My late-hus­band’s pa­ter­nal grand­mother lived to the ripe old age of 103 and raced around in her lit­tle red sports car well into her nineties. She in­sisted that her ex­cel­lent health was thanks to eat­ing nas­tur­tium flow­ers ev­ery day (and en­joy­ing a Side­car cock­tail be­fore sup­per).

Now I don’t pro­fess to have green fin­gers, but I’m off to the nurs­ery post haste to pick up a packet of nas­tur­tium seed. And not to for­get the Cognac and Grand Marnier. Just in case.

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