In Wanderlust, Shannon Roxborough, Garden Variety’s founding editor-in-chief, introduces GV readers to gardens, arboretums, parkland and other destinations across the U.S and around the world that appeal to gardeners, outdoor lovers and natural foodies.
Winter may be approaching in North America, but in the Southern Hemisphere summer is in full swing and South Africa’s “floral kingdom” basks in its glow.
On South Africa’s hook-shaped Cape Peninsula, sun-splashed vineyards, bountiful fruit orchards, bucolic farmland, near-pristine forests, and magnetic beaches, all vie for nature lovers’ attention in an area roughly the size of New York City. But the jewel in the region’s outdoor crown is Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, which botanists consider to be one of the world’s great treasure troves of plant life. Dramatically sprawling across 1,300 acres between the lush eastern slopes of Table Mountain and the shores of the South Atlantic Ocean in the city of Cape Town, Kirstenbosch combines surreal scenery and horticultural splendor like no where else on the continent. Created in 1913 on land once owned by Cecil Rhodes, the garden now displays some 7,000 species of native plants, including camphor and fig trees planted by the British colonist and philanthropist at the end of the 19th-century and portions of a wild almond and thorny bramble hedge put in as a natural fence in 1660 by Cape Town’s Dutch founder, Jan van Riebeeck. Wildlife abounds in the garden’s natural forest: some 125 types of feathered friends call it home, as do a number of mammal, reptile, amphibian and invertebrate species. The multi-room conservatory is filled with heat-loving specimens and the fragrance garden offers the sensory pleasures of aromatic flowers and scented leaves. Guided tours showcase why Kirstenbosch has snagged 33 coveted gold medals (for indigenous floral display) at London’s prestigious Chelsea Flower Show. There are also temporary art exhibits and a seasonal concert series featuring a variety of South African musical talent. sanbi.org/gardens/kirstenbosch.
If You Plan to Visit
Known as “The Mother City,” multicultural Cape Town—where Afrikaner, Xhosa, British, French, Italian, Portuguese, Indian and Jewish people coexist in the post-Apartheid era—provides a unique vacation experience. Besides being chocked full of diverse lodging, dining, shopping and dining and entertainment options and a bevy of opportunities for outdoor junkies, the historically rich city has much to offer travelers with GV readers’ sensibilities, from The Company’s Garden, a heritage site that was originally a slave-worked produce farm established in 1652 to feed the Dutch East India Company fleet, to Willowbridge Slow Market, a weekly Saturday set-up brimming with local and traditional natural and organic foods.
Learn more: Capetown.travel is the official website of Cape Town Tourism.
GV editor Shannon Roxborough, a veteran writer and journalist, has covered everything from renewable energy, sustainable agriculture and conservation-focused tourism to eco-friendly furniture, green fashion and organic wine. A former international consultant, newspaper columnist and magazine correspondent, he has written about destinations in all 50 states and more than 60 countries.
Photos courtesy of Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Senior Travel Expert, Baphumelele, Sherry Lachelle Photography, Stephan van Vuuren, Atul Sikand and Cape Town Tourism.