It was our last day in South Africa and we had a few hours to wander in Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens before the long flight back to the UK. The weeks had flown past, crammed with unforgettable sights and experiences – it had been wonderful.
A detailed history of the land is given here and I was surprised to find that the site was identified as suitable for Botanic Gardens as late as 2011, and the land set aside and the Botanical Society formed only in 2013. Harold Pearson, Professor of Botany at the South African College, who had campaigned strongly for the Gardens, was appointed as the first Director. He died tragically young and is buried close to the cycad amphitheatre, but his vision for the Gardens – research and conservation of South African flora – has continued and developed.
The early development of the Gardens established the Cycad Amphitheatre, The Dell and Colonel Bird’s Bath, the Main Pond & Lawn, and Matthews Rockery & The Koppie. Work started on the Protea Garden, the Erica Garden, and Arboretum, and the Living Plant Collections.
Joseph William Matthews (1871-1949) trained at Kew and went to South Africa c.1895. He was the first Curator at Kirstenbosch, working with Pearson to design and develop the Gardens, in particular Matthews Rockery and The Koppie.
There are nearly 770 species of Erica in Southern Africa and many are grown at Kirstenbosch. Apparently ‘…Southern Africa is home to nearly 90% of the world’s Erica species, and most of them occur in Fynbos. Europe has only 21 species…’.
The Enthusiastic Gardener has posted more photographs, but it was time to leave and we walked down the Avenue of Camphor Trees planted by Cecil Rhodes to the carpark.