Once a year in springtime, five brave residents of Pinelands generously open their gardens to crowds of curious visitors, as part of a fund-raising event organised by the Rotary Anns of Pinelands.
This group, which is part of Rotary International, is made up of women, all of whom are mothers or grandmothers. They support various charities, which include Ons Plek, an organisation that cares for girl street children (and the only such organisation to focus specifically on young girls); and the Western Cape Care Center that works with under-privileged children at the De Waveren Primary School in Ruyterwacht. This year, about 250 people attended the event, which is more or less in line with previous years.
Since moving to Pinelands about eight years ago, we have attended several of these Spring Garden Days, and they have always been most enjoyable and inspirational. I have tremendous admiration for these residents who spend weeks, if not months or years, working on their gardens, designing the overall look, landscaping the different sections, and fine-tuning the details: adding sculptures and cute little figurines, as well as water features, bird feeders and bird baths, planting and pruning and weeding and feeding…
Every year, as we roam through these friendly strangers’ gardens, marveling at their creativity and vision, and wondering how much hard and difficult work has gone into these gardens, we come away feeling inspired and full of ideas.
Over the last few years, the starting point has been the Methodist Church Hall at 2 Union Avenue, Pinelands: here, you purchase a little booklet with descriptions of the five gardens together with a road map indicating their locations. Each ticket costs R40, and grants you access to the five gardens – as well as entitling you to a cup of tea or coffee, and a cupcake at the delightful Tea Terrace inside the hall.
There is also a small craft market, where you can buy some plants and herbs, decorations, homemade cards and assorted nibblies like homemade jams, chutneys and baked goods, as well as boerewors rolls with fried onions and tomato sauce.
We always start by scrutinising the map to see where the different gardens are located and working out the most logical route. The first two times we attended Spring Garden Day, this was rather tricky because the hand-drawn maps were a little sparse on detail; now, we always take along a map or the Garmin just in case. This time, though, we were given a proper map with all the roads indicated, not just the main ones.
The event always feels to me a little like a treasure hunt! Thrilling!
So – are you curious to see what the delightful gardens chosen this year looked like?
Garden No. 1:
“A very young garden with a focus on edible plants; the central feature is a fascinating aquaponics system, displaying the advantages of mimicking nature.”
Aquaponics is a method of growing crops and fish together in a re-circulating system, housed in a homemade greenhouse. The nutrient wastes from Tilapia fish, which are kept in two large tanks, are used to fertilize the hydroponics beds via irrigation water, which was circulating steadily while we were there.
The plant roots and associated bacteria remove fish waste, algae, and excess fish food from the water, preventing the fish tank water from becoming toxic – and at the same time fertilizing the plants. The hydroponic plant beds in turn filter the water, so that it can be pumped back into the fish tanks and aerated. A clever cyclical system.
Garden No. 2:
“A garden for a young family with a lovely pool area, places for the kids and dogs to play, and an eclectic mix of flowering shrubs, creepers and this-‘n-that!”
I rather liked the wooden bench under the big shady tree in the front garden, from where you could look back at the big house, with the flower beds in front of it. A very peaceful spot.
Garden No. 3:
“A beautiful thatched home is set in a pretty and well-established front garden but the real delight is the wonderful kitchen garden hidden from first view.”
The front garden of this had a spacious lawn surrounded by flower beds, as well as a large tree complete with a thick climbing rope and a treehouse for the kids.
As hinted at by the description, the kitchen garden at the back was absolutely gorgeous! Instead of having a single ground-level vegetable patch, the owners had created slightly raised beds, hemmed in by horizontal wooden logs, and surrounded by gravel pathways.
Next to the walls, vines of beans or similar veggies were supported by trellises, rustic bird feeders dangled from branches, a lemon or lime tree was producing a generous crop, and little ornaments were dotted about amongst the plants. Here and there, clusters of chairs with comfy cushions invited visitors to sit and linger a while. I loved this kitchen garden.
“This is a tiny and exquisite gem of an English cottage garden with many indigenous plants inbetween the traditional old favourites. Also on show are the community garden areas. Be sure to visit Betty’s Island.”
Oh My Goodness.
Of all the gardens on show this year, this had to be my favourite. Even though the space was quite small, this creative gardener had made full use of its possibilities. The colours of the flowers simply took my breath away.
We sat down in the shade of a pergola with vines – most likely grapes – winding their way around and around the structure, and just gazed in sheer amazement at this gorgeous little cottage garden.
From here, we made our way to the back of the cottage, where we found the communal garden area, which lies in the middle of this cluster of houses. Betty’s Island with its large, well-established trees, was beautiful. A very different style to the cottage garden we’d just visited, it was shady and cool, with a pathway leading across the island. So peaceful.
Garden No. 5:
“This is more than just indigenous. This is a ‘fynbos’ garden – the result of vision, hard work and determination of a passionate lover of our Western Cape floral heritage.”
A fynbos garden sounds like a relatively easy project in the Western Cape, but fynbos actually requires very specfic soil and growing conditions. Both the front and the back garden had been transformed into a fynbos paradise, with flowering proteas and pincushions and ericas. I’m sure this must be very popular with the local birds, including sugarbirds and sunbirds and all those other little birds that we see when we go hiking in the Silvermine nature reserve.
This was quite a range of different styles of gardens, don’t you think?
In closing, I want to say a heartfelt Thank You to all the brave and hardworking gardeners of Pinelands who opened their wonderful gardens and peaceful sanctuaries to scores of inquisitive visitors. Your hard work, creativity and vision for a more beautiful suburb is inspirational! And thank you to the Rotary Anns and all their friendly helpers for organising this event, which is always a highlight on our calendar!
Until next year!