For a pleasant day out in Cape Town, visit Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, wander through the gardens, toss a coin into Colonel Bird’s bath while making a wish, and learn a bit more about the Cape floral kingdom, before retiring to one of the restaurants to enjoy an excellent meal …
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, located approximately 13kms from the centre of Cape Town’s CBD, is world renowned for its showcasing of the natural, indigenous beauty of the Cape floral kingdom. The garden is planted exclusively with indigenous plants, and covers 528 hectares on the slopes of Table Mountain. 36 Hectares of this area forms the cultivated garden, which boasts such features as Colonel Bird’s bath as well as an enormous clock and sundial, just outside the restaurant complex.
While the garden itself was only established in the early 19th Century, by Professor Pearson, who is buried in the garden, with an epitaph that reads “If ye seek his monument, look around” the garden has a rich and varied history that stretches further back. From stone implements found on the site, it is clear that the area was in use by people from many thousands of years ago. In the 1600’s, Dutch settlers planted a hedge, still in existence, of brambles and wild almond, that formed the boundary of the then Cape Colony.
Colonel Bird, who built the bath in the Dell area of the garden, acquired the land in 1811. His ownership was short lived, and the land passed to the Cloete family in 1823, who established a farm. Probably the most famous owner of the land was Cecil Rhodes, who acquired the property in 1895, and who bequeathed the land and the remainder of his Groote Schuur estate to the people on his death in 1902.
While the garden is undoubtedly steeped in fascinating history, most visitors come to the garden to wander through the extensive landscaped areas, picnic on the grass in summer, take advantage of one of the magnificent walks or hikes up Table Mountain that begin in the garden, shop or visit one of the restaurants. Newer attractions include the Kirstenbosch Garden Centre, an indigenous nursery, the curio shop and the Kirstenbosch Logo Store, which sells branded merchandise to commemorate your visit.
Kirstenbosch gardens boast four restaurants, for those not wishing to take advantage of the picnic potential, including the upper class Silvertree Restaurant, deli style Fynbos restaurant and the Kirstenbosch Tea Room, built on the site of the original tea room. In addition to these year round attractions, the gardens host an annual Garden Fair in March, and are the site of regular music and theatre events.
Also on offer are guided tours, where experienced and trained guides lead you through the gardens attractions, such as the Peninsula Garden, a showcase of approximately 2500 species of plants indigenous to the Cape Peninsula, as well as a medicinal, fragrance and protea garden, the Dell, and the fascinating and ancient Cycad forest.
Tours & Bookings:
Volunteer guides conduct tours of the Garden from Monday to Saturday at 10h00 and 14h00. Group bookings and special interest tours can be arranged with the Information Office (Telephone +27 (0)21 799-8783). A club car also runs daily mini-tours on the hour from the Visitors’ Centre. (please enquire about the costs). Pre-booking is advisable, (Telephone +27 (0)21 762-9120). A number of trails lead through natural forest and fynbos surrounding the developed garden. A map is obtainable from the Information Office for a nominal fee.
The Kirstenbosch Gardens are open 365 days a year.
Summer from 08h00 to 19h00 (September to March)
Winter from 08h00 to 18h00 (April to August).
Photographs taken at Kirstenbosch Gardens:
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I’m translating for publication an18th-century ms in Swedish that mentions a marine plant seen off the Cape. Should be grateful for help in identifying it. The account reads.”a sort of floating root that probably grows on the bank itself. It is usually three to four ells [120 to 160 cm] in length, greenish-yellow in colour and at one end as thick as a man’s arm but thinner at the other, hollow, and softer and more porous than ordinary canes or reeds. It is rooted at its thinner end by many fine shoots between which sand and coral fastens in a clump as big as two fists. Sometimes two or three of these stalks grow up from a single root. At the end of the thicker or upper end (they are believed to grow vertically upwards) it has the form of a pointed head of a snake, from which hang a great many leaves, one-and-a-half inches in width and thick and tough with fine filaments, like moss. The Portuguese call them trombas or trumpet”.
Can you book for weddings and what is the cost?