Written by: Annie Bisset
I fell in love with Cape Town years ago. In particular the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens stole my heart and has been an integral part in my family life, as have the forests, mountains and beaches that originally beckoned me to Cape Town.
Other countries speak of monarchs as having blue blood. I believe that Capetonians have rainbow colours coursing through our veins:
Red: the seeds in the wild peach fruit
Orange: the colourful wings of the Acrea butterflies
Yellow: the button-like Cotula flowers
Green: the green belts, gardens and mountainsides
Blue: skies and seas all summer long
Indigo: the colour of the buds of the Aristea flower and
Violet: the haze of Ericas on our mountain slopes.
As a visual artist and illustrator, my world changed forever when I was diagnosed with a chronic neural condition. I was no longer able to pursue my two favourite pastimes: running and painting. I started walking, and thus began the most extraordinary journey of discovery and recovery. Walking daily in my favourite garden uncovered the wonders of Kirstenbosch seen through new eyes and recorded with the aid of my trusty pocket camera.
I watched as two of three Kosi Palms (Raphia australis) completed their life-cycles and were returned to the garden to be used as mulch, and have gazed in awe at the repair work done to save the vast African mahogany after it was torn apart by a mighty gale.
The ‘Magic Trees’, two Breede River yellowwoods (Podocarpus elongatus) where my children and their cousins and friends played also suffered massive storm damage but are growing healthily thanks to a team of dedicated gardeners.
With anticipation I have watched as a pair of spotted eagle owls have reared their owlets from tiny feathered powder puffs, to proud and confident fledglings, eventually leaving their parents and the gardens.
A prinia nest, sewn into a pelargonium bush with miraculous and delicate stitchery: nature at its most extraordinary.
One year later I revisited the site and the nest was gone and minute green and brown shiny beetles were greedily consuming the leaves.
An angulate tortoise I have named ‘Rambo’ lives above The Dell. I have named him for his bravery in chasing adult humans off his turf. He is no bigger than a side-plate but behaves like a bull elephant in musth.
Under the last remaining stone pines is a small pond with a wooden bridge. I have taken a series of photographs over a range of seasons, showing the varying reflections and multi-visual layering that occurs wherever water is found.
Sticks, leaves, rocks, trees, bubbles, mountain and sky, not to mention the biggest tadpoles I have ever seen, all merge together in this pond.
Black girdled lizards live in the dead tree stumps on the contour path. I have finally discovered how to photograph these shy reptiles since they scuttle away at the slightest provocation.
This has been the rainbow coloured garden of my recovery. It has kept the creativity in me stimulated and as my mortal coil has repaired I have climbed higher and found new and daily delights.
I could write forever but suffice to say that I count myself truly blessed to have access to such a healing space, where peace and calm preside. My greatest desire is that my children, grandchildren and generations to come will continue to love this garden and thus ensure the continuance of the flora and fauna of our rainbow kingdom.
Become a member of the Botanical Society of South Africa and enjoy free entrance to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens as well as the other 9 South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) National Botanical Gardens. Get a MyPlanet card and show your support for our rainbow kingdom by adding the Botanical Society of South Africa as your beneficiary!