Indigenous Flowers

Sprout Conference 2019

Hello Cape Town!

Hello Cape Town!

In the first week of June Carien Momsen from Pureline Interior Design joined me for the #SproutConference2019 to Cape Town. It was a lightning trip packed to the brim with experiences that included art, culture, beautiful landscapes, delicious food and even time with good friends.

Our Itinerary

Our Itinerary

Our first site visit was the breathtaking Dylan Lewis Sculpture garden in Stellenbosch. A truly memorable experience that really showcases how the landscape can be a sculptural element in itself. Dylan Lewis laid the paths out over many years with great attention to detail and the recommended visitors walk allows one to appreciate the sculptures in a dynamic way from many perfectly planned angles. The planting is focused on indigenous plants, particularly fynbos, of which a large selection of unusual varieties have been sourced from Kirstenbosch. The landscape and amazing planting combinations really were a highlight of this trip!

Sculptures, water, mountains - a language of beauty and nature

Sculptures, water, mountains - a language of beauty and nature

Loved the lime green and striking red colours of these Crocosmias

Loved the lime green and striking red colours of these Crocosmias

Our celebratory lunch was held at Tokara’s restaurant where wine and fine dining was a feast for the senses. We also enjoyed the Art on display including the enormous and intricately woven tapestry (two sections, each 2.2 high x 3.5m wide) by Sayed Mahmoud from Egypt. A different type of tapestry was the woven pathways of the gardens at Babylonstoren which we explored even though it started to rain!

Fine Dining

Fine Dining

Tapestry at Tokara

Tapestry at Tokara

Our second day of exploration and inspiration started with a visit to Truth Roastery and 117Kloof for coffee and croissants as well as the Company Gardens - always a treat to visit. I love watching how people interact with this space and the different activities that take place here. The entrance to the Gardens is dominated by a massive timber Arch installed as part of the Design Indaba 2018 to honour Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

Company Gardens

Our next stop was the impressive urban precinct known at the Silos at the V&A Waterfront, particularly the Zeitz MOCAA (Museum of Modern Contemporary Art) Art Gallery. The building feels like an artwork and has been crafted out of forty-two concrete columns, each 33 metres tall with a diameter of 5.5 metres. It was designed by London’s Heatherwick Studios and the central atrium space, polished concrete surfaces and layout of the building generates an awe-inspiring reaction.

Following our experience of the museum we had a quick delicious lunch at the restaurant on the top floor with a beautiful view over the harbour and then spent some time exploring the V&A Waterfront.

Zeitz MOCAA
Exploring the Waterfront

Exploring the Waterfront

Our final site visit was the Norval Foundation in Tokai where we again saw beautiful artwork inside and outside the building. The sculpture park has beautiful indigenous planting combinations and although it was raining at this stage we still enjoyed our time here. We had a quick coffee break at Skotnes Restaurant before heading to the airport for our flight back to Johannesburg.

A huge thank you again to my amazing, incredible Executive PA for arranging this conference! It was a wonderful experience that filled us with inspiration for the year, hopefully until #SproutConference2020 :)

View of the Wetland running adjacent the Norval Foundation

View of the Wetland running adjacent the Norval Foundation

Indigenous Planting

Indigenous Planting

Lowveld Botanical Gardens

Water Lilies on a Pond at the Lowveld Botanical Gardens

Water Lilies on a Pond at the Lowveld Botanical Gardens

The Lowveld Botanical Gardens, located at the confluence of the Nel and Crocodile Rivers in Mbombela (previously Nelspruit) Mpumalanga, has a special place in my heart. I grew up in Nelspruit and the indigenous trees and shrubs of the bushveld evokes a comforting nostalgia. When I think of the Lowveld images of Paperbarks, Euphorbias, Aloes, Kiaat and Lowveld Chestnut trees (to name a few) come to mind. My love for nature and indigenous plants has grown as a direct result of the influence of growing up surrounded by the natural beauty the Lowveld. I guess this was one of the reasons I chose to have my wedding photographs taken in the Botanical Gardens and fondly remember walking along the draw bridge to the restaurant where the reception was held.

Nelspruit Waterfall / Cascades

Nelspruit Waterfall / Cascades

Nelspruit Cascades
Nelspruit Cascades

The Lowveld Botanical Gardens boasts a beautiful display of inviting green spaces, impressive trees and amazing cycads. The Garden hosts concerts, wild flower shows, art shows, and plant sales while weddings, baby showers and other events can be celebrated at the Red Leaf Fig Tea Garden. A children’s playground provides opportunities for families to relax and the kids to have fun with an added educational element.

Playground at the Lowveld Botanical Gardens, near the Tea Garden

Playground at the Lowveld Botanical Gardens, near the Tea Garden

Red Leaf Fig Tea Garden

Red Leaf Fig Tea Garden

The Garden is home to the largest man-made African Rainforest in an area of approximately 5 hectares along the Crocodile River. It is said to have the largest collection of South African cycads (and fig trees), more than 700 tree species and more than 3000 plant species in cultivation.

Large areas of Lawn with Cycads and Trees

Large areas of Lawn with Cycads and Trees

 “Genesis of a Garden, Lowveld Botanical Garden 1969-1981” is a book written by Elise Buitendag who was involved from the inception of the gardens and worked there during it’s first twelve years of establishment. The beautiful coffee table book includes historical information, photographs, personal memoirs and stunning botanical artworks by the author.

Elise Buitendag is a qualified botanist and acknowledged as one of South Africa’s professional botanical artists having authored and illustrated several publications. Her paintings are mainly inspired by the wonder of plants, as encountered daily in the Lowveld bush and in her garden.

“The area donated by both the town council and HL Hall & Sons had a dramatic beauty, with its roaring cascades and rugged landscape, but was considered by many as unsuitable, primarily because of the Y-shaped junction of the Crocodile and Nels River which would divide the garden into three distinct sections. To create a garden in such a diverse and fragmented terrain seemed a very ambitious undertaking.” (Page 9)

“Another tree, the huge fever-tree at the lapa has gained monumental stature and has become an icon in the garden. This tree was grown from seed sown in 1973. I remember how the lanky little seedling grew so rapidly that it couldn’t support itself and had to be tied to a pole to keep it upright. Today everyone who loves the Garden takes pleasure in this beautiful lemon-yellow to lime-green giant.” (Page 161)

Fever Tree

Buitendag’s book is a wonderful depiction of the Garden’s history and looks at the Place, the Plants and the People. The beautiful artworks create a visual experience for the reader that strongly evokes the sense of place that this special garden holds.

Elise Buitendag Artwork in her Book “Genesis of a Garden”

Elise Buitendag Artwork in her Book “Genesis of a Garden”

For more information please visit: https://www.sanbi.org/gardens/lowveld/

House E Indigenous Planting

Indigenous Grasses with Cycads and Aloes. Trees screening neighbouring house.

Indigenous Grasses with Cycads and Aloes. Trees screening neighbouring house.

House E is a stunning example of the beauty that South African flora holds and makes use of indigenous grasses with several focal plants in between.

A grass mix including Aristida junciformis and Melinis nerviglumis was interplanted with several bulbs such as Ornithogalum thyrsoides, Dierama spp, Eucomis autumnalis and Eucomis comosa, which formed the main planting theme.

Several feature plants grow out of the grass mix including Aloes, Proteas, Cabbage Trees and Cycads.

Trees: Large Olive trees were used as the primary screening elements which were interplanted with Loxostylis alata, Dombeya rotundifolia, Heteropyxis natalensis and Nuxia floribunda. Dais cotinifolia were also added as feature trees.

Shrubs: a screening hedge of Dodonea angustifolia created a green boundary and smaller shrubs such as Polygala myrtifolia, Coleonema alba and Euryops virgineus were added.

Before and During Construction

After Implementation and then the greener images are taken 4 months after installation.

Inspired by South African Indigenous Flora

I have been fortunate to listen to two presentations by Elsa Pooley: one hosted at Random Harvest Indigneous Nursery in 2015 and the other at the ILASA Conference held in September 2015 (See Previous Blog written on ILASA Conference). I also recently attended a course at The Cavern in the Drakensberg where I was able to view some examples of beautiful indigenous plants  and see examples of these plants growing in the wild.

Turrea floribunda flowering at Random Harvest Nursery

Turrea floribunda flowering at Random Harvest Nursery

To see more about the tree in the above image visit: http://www.randomharvest.co.za/South-African-Indigenous-Plants/Show-Plant/PlantId/112?Plant=Turraea%20floribunda  

Elsa Pooley is an advocate for using indigenous plants in public and civic spaces and strongly believes that any form of rehabilitation should exclusively make use of locally indigenous species. She has spent many years studying the indigenous flora of South Africa, particularly in Kwa-Zulu Natal and knows the great potential that South African plants have, but are unfortunately not commercially grown and therefore not well known by landscapers and home owners. Fortunately for us Random Harvest is one of only a handful of nurseries in the country growing indigenous plants, many of which have until now been unavailable.

An indigenous garden can have colour all year round and although this may not always be bright flowers it can come from foliage and the variety of colour and texture from different plants. Elsa mentions how South African plants are used throughout the world but we do not necessarily appreciate their true value as we prefer to make use of exotic plants in our designs. The temptation for landscapers is to use the same old plants they always use because they are easy and work well but there are so many other plants that we could be using.

Some plants I saw in the Drakensberg that I hope to use in the future in my landscape designs:

Pelargonium reniforme   (photographed at Engen Garage in Harrismith, all other images taken at The Cavern in the Drakensberg)

Pelargonium reniforme  (photographed at Engen Garage in Harrismith, all other images taken at The Cavern in the Drakensberg)

Helichrysum sutherlandii  - look at this wonderful grey foliage

Helichrysum sutherlandii - look at this wonderful grey foliage

Kniphofia northiae  - large Poker highly rated by Elsa, impressive flowers

Kniphofia northiae - large Poker highly rated by Elsa, impressive flowers

Hesperantha coccinea  - Pink Variety, normally Red Flowers

Hesperantha coccinea - Pink Variety, normally Red Flowers

Monopsis decipiens

Monopsis decipiens

Inulanthera calva

Inulanthera calva

Helichrysum hypoleucum  - likes a bit of shade

Helichrysum hypoleucum - likes a bit of shade

Merxmuellera macowanii  - beautiful ornamental grass ( Gomphostigma  on Right)

Merxmuellera macowanii - beautiful ornamental grass (Gomphostigma on Right)

Syncolostemon macratnhus  - tall purple pink flowering shrub

Syncolostemon macratnhus - tall purple pink flowering shrub

Helichrysum acutatum

Helichrysum acutatum

Metalasia densa

Metalasia densa

Gladiolus crassifolius

Gladiolus crassifolius

Wahlenbergia

Wahlenbergia

Lotononis pulchella

Lotononis pulchella

Thalictrum rhynchocarpum -  soft and delicate foliage for shady areas

Thalictrum rhynchocarpum - soft and delicate foliage for shady areas

Seriphium plumosum  (Bankrotbos) also known as  Stoebe plumosa

Seriphium plumosum (Bankrotbos) also known as Stoebe plumosa

Polygala virgata  (Purple Broom)

Polygala virgata (Purple Broom)

Clematis bracteata  (Travellers Joy) - beautifully scented dainty white flowers make this an ideal creeper 

Clematis bracteata (Travellers Joy) - beautifully scented dainty white flowers make this an ideal creeper 

I hope that you will also be inspired by these beautiful plants and experiment with indigenous plants in your garden!

Random Harvest Details: 

For directions please go to our website www.randomharvest.co.za : or call 082-553-0598

Hours of business 8:00 to 17:00 Monday to Sundays

I highly recommend subscribing to Random Harvest Newsletter on their website

The Cavern - Nature Journaling Course

The Cavern hosts a variety of activities on its events calendar throughout the year including: bird weekends, yoga retreats, photography workshops and mountain bike races amoungst others. I joined the course called ‘Sketching and journaling – creating a nature journal’ hosted by two well-known figures in the botanical field: Elsa Pooley and Gillian Condy.

The Cavern

The course was run from Wednesday 1 March – Sunday 5 March 2017 and we were blessed with wonderful weather over this time. A few late afternoon showers were well timed as this was when we were indoors drawing in the studio.

Beautiful scenery on our morning walks

Beautiful scenery on our morning walks

View of the Hotel from a vantage point on a morning hike

View of the Hotel from a vantage point on a morning hike

Wonderful hikes in the mountains

Wonderful hikes in the mountains

If you have ever been to The Cavern you will already be well aware of its reputation to fill your belly with the most wonderful and delicious meals as well as provide a relaxing atmosphere that makes you feel as if you have entered into a beautiful warm bubble where all you can think is “Life is Good”.

Always fun choosing what to have for dinner from the menu!

Always fun choosing what to have for dinner from the menu!

Our programme roughly involved breakfast at 8am followed by a morning hike into the beautiful surroundings where we would stop to draw whatever caught our eye (a dam, a tree, the bridge, moss, flowers, a bubbling stream) and then tea was brought to us at our location in the bush. We would head back to camp for lunch and then in the afternoon spend time in the studio drawing the plants we brought back with us from the morning walk. Some people drew flowers, others fungi, leaves, insects or seeds.

Working in the Studio

Working in the Studio

Elsa Pooley has the most incredible plant knowledge (which comes from her love of the area and having written several books on the subject) but it is her passion for plants that is completely contagious. She generously shares her knowledge of each plant we stop to admire, points out its special features and patiently answers all our questions (most often, “How do you spell that again?”)

Elsa showing us a beautiful locust

Elsa showing us a beautiful locust

Heading out for the morning walk and drawing session in the forest

Heading out for the morning walk and drawing session in the forest

Inspecting some flowers

Inspecting some flowers

While Elsa is the person to go to for any plant question Gill Condy is a trained botanical artist and gives tips and direction on how to improve your drawing skills. Both ladies are talented at water colour painting and it was a treat to learn some tips on how to use this medium for the first time.

Absorbed in our drawings

Absorbed in our drawings

Our nature journals were all very different and we had the freedom to make them into whatever we liked. It was interesting to see how each person took a slightly different angle and approach to the same subject and how everyone was drawn to different plant types.

Bridge in the Forest

Bridge in the Forest

Drawing in the Forest

Drawing in the Forest

We arrived on Wednesday afternoon not quite sure what to expect, and left on Sunday feeling inspired and rejuvenated. The fresh air combined with soul-inspiring walks through unspoilt nature, not to mention being fed and pampered (some even went for massages at the onsite Spa) made for a most amazing and memorable trip. Thanks to everyone for making it so special!

Such a treat to share this time with my dearest Mom!

Such a treat to share this time with my dearest Mom!