The land for the Lowveld NBG was donated by H.L. Hall & Sons, owners of a vast agricultural estate in the area, while additional land was contributed by the Nelspruit Municipality. The 165-hectare Garden has 25 hectares of developed plantings, where emphasis has been given to collections of trees and shrubs of South Africa. The natural vegetation includes 470 species, with a further 2 020 species in the Garden’s living collections. The use of shade-tolerant Durban Grass Dactyloctenium australe results in lush evergreen lawns below shady bushveld trees: a diverse savanna parkland sweeping across the Garden’s gently rolling shoulders before dropping into the deep gorges of the Crocodile and Nels rivers.
Johan Kluge (1947-1998), long-time Curator of the Garden (from 1980 to 1998), had a special passion for trees, and established two forests – the African Rain Forest and the South African Forest – that present an abundant diversity of the woody plants from these highly threatened habitats of West, Central and South Africa. Funding provided by Sappi, a pulp and paper company, saw the realisation of one of Kluge’s dreams – a raised walkway that takes visitors through the forest canopy. This innovation adds another dimension to the visitor’s experience – a closer look at some of the Garden’s 243 bird and 96 butterfly species.
Many discreetly placed viewing sites allow access to the lip of the gorges, and to views of the rivers in full spate as they tumble over high waterfalls into the deeply potholed river below. A suspension bridge links the two sides of the Garden, giving access from the Visitors’ Centre, restaurant and parking to the Environmental Education Centre and the main Garden with its outstanding collection of cycads, clivias and fig trees.
How Much Does A Trip To Kirstenbosch Cost Photo Gallery
While trees are the main focus of the Garden’s collections, the conservation of cycad gene banks has been a key activity, with large and well-protected orchards of 53 cycad species planted out to provide seeds for mass propagation and distribution to other gardens and conservation agencies.
Easily accessible from the main national roads linking the interior of the country with Mozambique and the Kruger National Park, the Lowveld NBG is a tourist destination that should not be missed.
The double avenue of 46 London Plane trees, planted in 1908, provides a popular venue for parties andfamily outings at the KwaZulu-Natal NBG.
Winter concerts are a major drawcardfor visitors to the KwaZulu-Natal National Botanical Garden.
In the rush to expand the national network of Botanic Gardens, so energetically pursued in the 1960s, it is perhaps regrettable that an old, rather moribund colonial garden was drawn into the fold. Natal Botanic Garden in Pietermaritzburg had been established in 1874. In common with the many similar gardens being developed in the distant reaches of the British Empire, its primary objective was to serve as an acclimatisation garden for the introduction of timber and other economically important species suitable for use in the young colony of Natal. It served this purpose well: many thousands of trees, mainly wattles and eucalypts, were supplied by the Garden through the late 19th century to government buildings, schools, hospitals, cemeteries and private individuals. Funds were always lacking and, despite the rather elegant Victorian design and displays of hydrangeas, rhododendrons, azaleas, bougainvilleas, poinsettias and other horticultural favourites of the time, by 1900, in the view of some, the Gardens have in the main become pleasure gardens and not botanic gardens, a place for lounging rather than learning’.
But the Garden had some fine curators, including W.E. Marriot, who in 1908 planted the 200-metre double avenue of the London Plane tree Platanus x acerifolia, still to this day the Garden’s most charming asset. In 1907 the Natalian had lauded Marriot’s work:
‘The great improvements that have taken place in the last two years are rapidly raising the Garden to a position second to none in South Africa a veritable lung of the city, soothing to the eye and brain, and appealing to the sense of all that is beautiful and good and noble.
Despite serious ups and downs, in 1930, the eminent botanist and scientific advisor to the British government, Sir Frederick Keeble (1870-1952), considered it An ideal Botanical Garden – the Pride of Natal and of Kew’.