Cape Town; Five Favorite Gardens

This is the year to highlight some of my favorite gardens in the beautiful city of Cape Town, South Africa. The New York Times has named Cape Town as the #1 travel destination for 2014, for it’s rich heritage and the “renaissance of it’s creative class”. The city is also the 2014 World Design Capital and it’s gardens play an important part in showcasing the themes of hope and inspiration.With the country mourning the passing of Nelson Mandela, it’s an appropriate time to reflect on the gifts the country has given the world and the challenges that still lie ahead.

 

Green Point Park and Stadium

Native restios play an important role in the plant combinations for Green Point Park, adjacent to the stadium in Cape Town. Photo; Albright-Souza

 

Green Point Park and Biodiversity Showcase Garden

A new garden for a new era; filling a broad swath of land on the north-western edge of the city, lies Green Point, one of Cape Town’s newest parks. In the shadow of Cape Town’s stadium, built to host the 2010 World Cup, the park is a welcoming place for urban dwellers and visitors alike. With views of the city’s famous sentinels, Signal Hill and Table Mountain, in the background, the contemporary “drift” planting design makes excellent use of textural sweeps of native plants.

 

Green Point Biodiversity Garden

Traditional housing methods are demonstrated as part of the Biodiversity Gardens in Cape Town. The city’s famous hills can be seen in the background. Photo; Albright-Souza

 

The biodiversity garden has spaces devoted to explaining the traditional uses of native plants, examples of traditional homemaking techniques and places for kids to play and people to rest. Many of the planted areas are grouped by eco-system, so that a visitor can see the types of plants that live naturally together in the wild. Most of the park has wide, well-constructed paths and an open, modern feel providing plenty of room to run, bike or picnic. Hopefully this well-designed space will be an inspirational place as South Africa re-invents itself and navigates towards a harmonious and sustainable future.

Take home garden lesson; Group plants with an eye for contrasting texture and complimentary needs.

 

Manenberg Garden

Plants and recycled material are imaginatively used to create a garden for the community in Manenberg township.Photo; Albright-Souza

 

Township Garden

The urban land patterns of South Africa, created from the infamous township system of apartheid, are still very evident today. On the outskirts of Cape Town lies Manenberg, established as a “colored” township in the late 60’s, as compulsory, government-built housing for part of the population that had been categorized accordingly. It has had a history of  violence over the years as rival gangs fought for dominance in long-running power struggles, but it was inspiring to meet energetic people eager to utilize new opportunities to change their community and their world.

 

Township Garden Sprint

Native South African plants are generally tough and adaptable, so they are a good choice for a resilient garden for resilient people.Photo; Albright-Souza

 

At the time I visited, a corner lot on Manenbergs main street, that had been caught in the crossfire of gang warfare for years, was being transformed into a bright spot of hope. Built with donated and re-purposed materials and filled with hardy native plants, this tiny urban oasis was a baby step in re-claiming a tiny corner of the world for a bit of beauty and hope.

Take home garden lesson; Re-purpose, re-imagine and do what you can.

 

Kirstenbosch South Africa

Plants with medicinal uses and special conservation needs are part of a labeled display at the excellent Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden.Photo; Albright-Souza

 

Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden

Possessing a stunning combination of panoramic views and well-curated educational spaces, South Africa’s world famous botanical garden is filled with both beauty and brains. Located on the Eastern slopes of Table Mountain, on the outskirts of Cape Town, Kirstenbosch was established in 1913 to highlight and protect the unique flora of South Africa. With over 1300 acres, you can ogle, meander, learn and hike for hours on end, in this beautiful preserve.

 

Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden

At Kirstenbosch, curving paths lead through well curated gardens and on into the still-wild areas of South Africa’s best known botanical garden. Photo; Albright-Souza

 

If you don’t have enough time to see other parts of South Africa, then KBG is a good place to go for a taste of the diverse plant communities that make the country so special. The docents are well-informed and justifiably proud of their beautiful flora and you can join a guided tour or bring home interesting items from the excellent gift shop. There are places to rest, intriguing sculptures and cafes to have a meal or a well-made coffee, so you can keep your strength up to explore till your hearts content.

Take home garden lesson; Appreciate the plants that grow naturally where you live.

 

Bo-Kaap Cape Town Pastel Houses

Sunlight washes the walls of the painted homes in the Bo-Kaap district. Photo; Albright-Souza

 

Bo Kaap

Stacked up at the edge of Cape Town, between downtown and the open space of Signal Hill, the Bo-Kaap neighborhood was originally settled by the descendants of Muslim slaves, brought to Africa by the East India Company, from countries in South East Asia. The Bo-Kaap is one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods; here pocket gardens are packed into tiny spaces that are the epitome of urban gardening.

 

Bo-Kaap Cape Town Garden

The bright colors of the tightly packed homes feel like a flower border along the edge of the city bowl, in one of Cape Town’s oldest neighborhoods. Photo; Albright-Souza

 

With important contributions to the nation’s language, arts and cuisine, this traditional community is evolving and the gentrification that has come with the new era makes for particular controversy. In addition to small groups of plants, the cheerfully painted houses themselves give the impression of a colorful garden, clustered at the edge of the city, like a border of flowers.

Take home garden lesson; Color and Care can transform any outdoor space.

 

King Protea Cape Town

The national flower of South Africa; Protea cynaroides aka King Protea is a stunner. Photo; Albright-Souza

 

Company’s Gardens

In the center of Cape Town lies the Company’s Gardens, established in 1652 by the first European settlers, in order to grow produce to supply the ships of the Dutch East India Company as they rounded The Cape of Good Hope. It can even be argued that the establishment of this garden was the reason for the establishment of the city itself and from there, the European colonization into the rest of Southern Africa. The original production-garden grid was replaced by a Pleasure Garden style, for strolling and viewing, during the Victorian era, which is the style it maintains today.

 

Companys Gardens Cape Town

The oldest gardens in South Africa, the Company’s Gardens, are home to statuesque trees and  open spaces. Photo; Albright-Souza

 

Surrounded by imposing and historically significant buildings, the garden now provides a pleasing urban space that everyone is allowed to enjoy. With a couple of museums and majestic mature trees, the garden serves as a place to meet or sit or stroll and is considered to be the “Green Heart” of Cape Town.

Take home garden lesson; Welcoming spaces are important for creating a sense of community.

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Categories: Places to See

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7 Comments on “Cape Town; Five Favorite Gardens”

  1. March 3, 2014 at 11:18 am #

    Another fantastic garden is the Arderne Gardens in Claremont. They’ve got a diverse collection of exotic trees, a koi pond, and wonderful pathway filled with hydrangea to wander through. On the weekends, you’ll find it’s a gathering place for local wedding parties to have their photographs taken. Overall, it’s a nice place to have a quiet picnic in the heart of the Southern Suburbs.

  2. March 3, 2014 at 11:47 am #

    Thanks for comment Marie. Cape Town and the surrounding areas have so many beautiful places, it’s hard to narrow it down isn’t it? I love your beautiful photos of hiking in South Africa too.

  3. Susan
    March 3, 2014 at 10:44 pm #

    Five great lessons to keep coming back to in my own little corner of the world.

  4. March 11, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

    I loved Cape Town when I was there, and was impressed with it’s beauty, even though I had been told by South African friends and family of just how beautiful it is…and the surrounding countryside. There is much horticulture to see and learn in SA

  5. March 13, 2014 at 12:58 am #

    Yes, South Africa is a world treasure in so many ways. Such diverse and unique beauty. I would love to spend a year there, just following the bloom cycle around the countryside.

  6. Bettina Digby
    March 18, 2014 at 11:32 pm #

    What a great blog!!! Found you when looking for info on Leucospermums. I will definitely forward to my gardening friends. So similar to Australia where I am but still so different. I especially like the biodiversity garden!

  7. March 19, 2014 at 10:28 am #

    Welcome! So glad you found per-joy. I’m excited to share with gardeners, like yourself, in other parts of the world, that have similar conditions to California. In fact, I visited Australia this past Oct/Nov and loved it. Watch for future posts about what I learned there. There’s also many more things I appreciated while visiting South Africa and I will post more about that trip as well.

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