Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wild Flowers will not disappoint at Kirstenbosch this spring

Spring is a wonderful time for those of us in the business of accommodation in Cape Town; when the roads into our beautiful city are lined with seemingly perpetual old trees and lovely indigenous flowers are in bloom. It is sheer pleasure to take a drive over the Old Cape road (Ou Kaapse Weg ) which leads from our affordable self catering accommodation to the highway into the city. This route over the Table Mountain reserve is lined with beautiful yellow pincushions and Watsonias as well as colourful daisies, and a detour into the hiking entrance to the Silvermine reserve will be rewarded by some spectacular Proteas in bloom. It is a pity for tourists to the Western Cape that the late and sparse winter rains, followed by unseasonable hot weather this year , seems to have resulted in a disappointing flower season in the traditional viewing areas of the Western Cape.

Those visiting Cape Town, however, need not be disappointed, because Kirstenbosch National Gardens has a spectacular display of a wide variety of indigenous flowers to awe the visitor. We visited Kirstenbosch recently on one of those amazing warm and wind free Spring days that make Cape Town seem like paradise, with the temperature soaring to 27C; so warm that my wife had occasionally to rest during our walk on one of the many benches that can be found under the shade of a convenient tree, nestling in enchanting little glens.

Spring is the most colourful time in the Gardens, and we were rewarded with magnificent vistas of colour at every turn. This commenced at the entrance with magnificent displays of orange Clivias growing in the shade of century or more old trees lining the avenue built by Cecil John Rhodes, the one time owner.

There can be few more uplifting sights than fields of Namaqualand daisies turning their bright faces of white, orange, yellow and purple toward the sun, as well as equally colourful vygies that carpet large areas of the Garden. In the fynbos garden many plants are in flower, and the arrays of Ericas were absolutely splendid. My favourite section is the clearly signposted Protea Garden, higher up toward the mountain slope where bright pincushions with their brilliant oranges, yellows, peach and red colours were dazzling. Although they tend to be at their best in the early Summer; we were rewarded with several bushes of the majestic King Protea in full bloom. Who can fail to be impressed by this beautiful flower that symbolises our country, South Africa? Unfortunately we missed the brilliant Cape bulbs, including my own favourites Babiana and Sparaxis because we did not realise that the flowering bulbs are kept in the Conservatory to protect them from the voracious porcupines.
In a cleft is a riverine glade and amphitheatre filled with amazing, semi-prehistoric cycads and tree ferns, offering a welcome respite from the heat and an opportunity to admire these unusual specimens that are so sought after by collectors that a permit is required to keep just one in your garden.

Kirstenbosch Gardens covers 36 hectares in a 528 hectare estate including protected mountainside with natural forest and fynbos set against the Eastern Slopes of Table Mountain, and one cannot be unmoved by the awesome setting of the gardens against this magnificent backdrop. Kirstenbosch was the first botanic garden in the world to be devoted to a country's indigenous flora, and is the first botanic garden in the world to be included within a natural World Heritage Site as it forms part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, which in 2004 was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There are 3 choices of restaurant or refreshment in the Gardens, but do enjoy the flowers while waiting and don’t be in any hurry as it might otherwise spoil a perfect day. Entrance to the park is an affordable R37 per adult, with lesser rates for students and children; but it is worth noting that SA senior citizens are admitted free (on production of ID) on Tuesdays.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is just one of the many spectacular attractions that are within easy reach of our Noordhoek beach cottages

By : affordable Cape Town accommodation