South Africa 2012
October 3rd - 16th, 2012

Please keep checking for the 2014 Tour Of South Africa – you do not want to miss that one!

October 3 – 4th, 2012
We arrived October 3rd…wonderful to see so many who have travelled with me before. 18 of the 22 people were old friends now and the 4 that I met for the first time are my new old friends. We met in the lobby of the hotel to get acquainted and each of them received a travel vest from me and met our guide for the tour Charl. Then it was off to bed because we were leaving early to begin our journey of discovery.

October 4th
The first garden we visited was Brenthurst, the private garden of the Oppenheimers. No photos were allowed but I did manage to get a few that were ok to take. When Mandela was freed he was given some koala bears along with their food, eucalyptus branches and leaves…little did they know that these leaves carried a pest that continued to infect all the local eucalyptus in this area, so many were cut down – some you can see in this very garden. Her own home is filled with artwork. She loves cattle and has many framed works of art on the walls along with masks…all done by the Nguni tribes….just exquisite. Her own office reminded me of Vita Sackville-West and her office – filled to overflowing with books and magazines and dried flowers hanging everywhere.

Brenthurst is one of South Africa's most magnificent gardens. In a city dedicated to change, it has enjoyed a unique continuity. Of all the mansions built for the Randlords a century ago, this is the only one that has survived with its setting intact. Its trees and shrubs, planted over generations, have had the rare luxury of time and space to grow to a spectacular maturity. Within these sixteen hectares of what is essentially woodland, gardens of different styles and moods, formal, informal and wild, have evolved over time and with the help of a succession of remarkable gardeners into a harmonious whole. The 21st century has brought a new era of naturalism - and a pioneering new role for the garden. "Nothing could be more enjoyable or more rewarding for me than to share this garden - and the ideas in which I believe so passionately - with other gardeners and nature lovers. We began the implementation of organic, ecologically friendly garden practices here in 2001. At the same time we have gradually been adapting the planting to its Highveld setting, introducing plantings of indigenous grass and endemic plants. We have seen the gardens come alive in a new and enthralling way, with many new birds and many more butterflies and insects in a rich and fascinating web of diversity. Gardening becomes so much simpler, so much more enjoyable, when you work with nature, rather than against it. A haven for wild life can still be a beautiful garden and we hope you will be able to see the proof of this at Brenthurst and join us in this great adventure." - Strilli Oppenheimer The rewards of nine years of holistic management (first organic, then biodynamic) and skillful indigenous planting are now clear to see in the estate's lively new beauty and steadily increasing biodiversity. The garden at Brenthurst Estate is rated as one of the finest in South Africa and can certainly be placed amongst the great gardens of the world. Its history goes back to the turn of the last century, when the elegant gabled house, now known as Brenthurst, was built for Drummond Chaplin by Sir Herbert Baker.

The dramatic Cape Dutch gables are delicately balanced against a Gauteng kopje, and the house is now set amid a range of formal, informal and wild gardens.
Brenthurst has become what Strilli Oppenheimer planned it should be:

“An inspirational teaching garden that every gardener and every one interested in the natural world can relate to and enjoy.”

With the implementation of biodynamic and naturalistic gardening principles a new aesthetic has come into play. The conservative eye needs to adjust to this approach. Plants that were once considered weeds now belong in the picture. Paths are meticulously maintained but elsewhere there is much less control and cutting back. Fallen leaves and flowers are part of the scene, as are dead branches, seed heads and nibbled leaves. The picture is one to be enjoyed over four seasons. Allowing the plants to fulfill their natural cycle also allows other forms of life to do so. The indigenous, biodynamic approach is aimed at encouraging a web of rich diversity in which all elements thrive.

Then a visit to the Pretoria Botanical Garden

All along the highway we could see petrol stations called Sasol – they sold fuel made from coal! South Africa has 50 million people living in the country and 5 million of those live in shanty towns. You can tell how well off they are by looking at things like how many houses have wires up to an electrical pole – some towns didn’t have any poles. You could see rows of porta potties or ones that the town had built themselves – each locked and for use by a certain group of houses. Some had these very, very tall lights that barely lit an area for light at night. Some shanty towns had spaces in between the houses and some were so close you could not see between them. Mostly corn, legumes and sorghum are grown in this area.

This 76 ha urban oasis is a pristine getaway situated in the eastern suburbs of South Africa’s administrative capital, Pretoria. A 35 m high quartzite outcrop divides the Garden in two sections. Its frosty south-facing section and the north-facing, warmer section present two different worlds to the visitor and botanist. A paved nature trail gives access to the fascinating natural vegetation on the ridge, which boasts a diversity of indigenous fauna and flora.

Fifty hectares of the total area is devoted to developed garden, using almost exclusively South African plants. All the flowering plant species to be seen, including 50% of the country's tree species, make this Garden a botanical tapestry. Visitors are offered a glimpse of different biomes such as savanna and forest biomes and different theme gardens are being developed.

The Garden is home to the Head Office of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and successfully bridges the gap between scientific research and the recreational environment.

The #1 income resource is tourism and #2 is gold.

Then our hotel this evening, Pilgrims Rest. 80 people were also here from Finland for the World gold panning contest. This hotel is a heritage hotel and dinner here was extra filling plus surprising as the kitchen and staff sang for us all afterwards…



  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row