CARLA VISAGIE

For the Stellenbosch University (SU) Botanical Garden, 2018 held many memorable moments. These include its accreditation by the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) in June, and another Accredited Conservation Practitioner in August. Another significant highlight was the recent appointment of Dr Donovan Kirkwood as the new curator of the gardens.

Amongst other things, Kirkwood has previously served as an Ecological Planner at Cape Nature and looks set to take the Botanical Garden to even greater heights: “I certainly want to continue the legacy of conservation growing projects and partnerships, but I also would like to make learning about the tremendous botanical diversity of South Africa, and particularly the Western Cape, exciting, visually appealing, and personal,” Kirkwood said.

He further said that he aims to educate people about the various threatened plant species in South Africa. “Most of all, I just want to get people to fall hopelessly in love with plants and nature,” Kirkwood added. Kirkwood believes the Botanical Garden’s successful existence for so many years can be ascribed to various factors like “The Western Cape has one of the most biodiverse landscapes compared to anywhere in the, world and it doesn’t even have a tropic climate.

There is no non-tropical landscape in the world that is richer than the Cape in terms of the flora.” “We [the Botanical Garden] also have some really nice departments to work with, like the department of Microbiology and Biochemistry, the Botany department and the Geology department.

A little garden like this gets a lot done with collaboration,” Kirkwood said. The SU Botanical Garden is the oldest university botanical garden in South Africa. It’s founder, Augusta Vera Duthie, started it in 1902. At first plants were planted next to the Old Main Building, but initially these were only used for research purposes and practical assessments for students. The Botanical Garden was moved to its current location on the corner of Neethling and Van Riebeek Street in 1922, and in 1925 Dr Hans Herre was appointed as its first curator. The SU Botanical Garden boasts its own shop and the Katjiepiering restaurant.

The store sells plants and various other plant-related products, and visitors can enjoy something to eat or drink in the age-old Katjiepiering restaurant.According to Marga Rai, the manager of the Botanical Garden shop, the restaurant and the shop came long after the Garden was founded: “The shop was previously a storeroom, and the restaurant used to be a space where radio recordings were made,” Rai said. Further, “It is a privilege to work in such a beautiful area, and another interesting part about managing the shop is the diversity of people I meet.”

PHOTO: Supplied