Here’s to the power of flowers…
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.