Roar Africa

Exploring Africa Since 1688

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Kirstenbosch Gardens: 100-Years Beautiful

A flourishing sanctuary just beyond the city, Kirstenbosch Gardens has been stunning its guests for the last century. Now christened the Most Beautiful Garden in Africa, Kirstenbosch Gardens commemorates its 100th Anniversary with a yearlong celebration and a look back at the birth and evolution of South Africa’s first Botanical Garden.

A Diamond in the Weeds

It was 1911 when South African botanist Henry Harold Welch Pearson stumbled upon a craggy nook of unkempt farmland nestled into Table Mountain’s eastern slope.  Although the land was overrun with rampant weeds and wild boar, Pearson did not allow its current state to cloud his vision. He embraced the lands potential when he declared, “This is the place!”

Two years later, in 1913, Pearson’s labor of love was officially founded, heralding the name Kirstenbosch Gardens. Namesake established, much work still needed to be done. In the early days, as well as the first 50 or so years, most of the work was done manually, using trolleys, mules, carts and crawlers.

Among all the hardships the garden has faced, without a doubt the greatest challenge was coping with the death of Pearson in 1916. Pearson was buried in the garden and is still regarded as the father of Kirstenbosch. Luckily, Robert Harold Compton came along to fulfill Pearson’s vision and under Compton, along with curator J.W. Mathews, the garden garnered an enormous amount of progress and success.

The Jewel of South Africa

Today, the 36-hectare garden is home to exotic forest, brilliantly unique fynbos, and a vibrant variety of animals and birds. More than 6,000 indigenous plants are cultivated at the gardens, and in 2004, the gardens were included within a UNESCO World Heritage Site – the first botanic garden in the world to be included within this prestigious accolade.

Commemorating its 100-year anniversary on 01 June 2013, the gardens will celebrate with yearlong centennial walks and discussions, a VIP event, the launch of a collector’s edition of garden-inspired postage stamps, and an outdoor poster exhibit highlighting the garden’s year-by-year history.

Generational Adoration

Without a doubt, many of these centennial walks will be led by ROAR AFRICA’s friend and Kirstenbosch botanical expert, Andrew Jacobs. Raised across the road for Kirstenbosch in Protea Village, Andrew’s relationship with the garden blossomed early on when in 1963 his father became a plantsman. As a child, Andrew would run barefoot across the canal to deliver his father’s lunchbox. Little did young Andrew realize how closely connected he and the garden would become. Today, the third generation of Jacobs has joined the Kirstenbosch ranks, Andrew’s daughter, Andrea, who has recently begun working in the gift shop.

And after all the years, the honeymoon stage of Andrew’s love for the garden has yet to dispel. “This place is everything to me,” says Andrew. “If the air were any fresher we’d be in heaven.”

Join the celebration by visiting the garden and our friend Andrew this year. A must-see for anyone visiting Cape Town, and a favorite daytrip among many ROAR AFRICA guests, Kirstenbosch is the perfect place to reconnect with the environment, inhale deeply, and bask in the unremarkable beauty of nature

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