The gardens of Fernkloof Nature reserve
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The gardens of Fernkloof.


In addition to plant labels and informative story boards about botanical families in their special habitats, the gardens now have two pictorial storyboards, one specifically about its birds (erected by the Hermanus Bird Club) and the other about its flora and fauna and history. The latter was made from monies donated to Belle Barker’s 86th birthday fund and composed by members of the society’s volunteer gardening team.


On the first day of Spring 2006, the wheelchair-friendly paths and new gardens of Fernkloof were formally opened by the Mayor of Hermanus, Mr Theo Beyleveldt.

An aluminium map of the gardens area was unveiled and senior citizen guests were regaled with rides into wetland and protea country after a sumptuous tea.

The successful completion of these two flower show projects, funded by donations and profits, is the culmination of three years of planning and hard work by path planners and a volunteer team of amateur landscapers, weeders and hackers.

The path project, named Walks on Wheels/ Wandel met Wiele, now loops round the fragrance and aloe gardens, takes a turn past the new protea and erica gardens, up to a bench hidden in a protea plantation (passing the newly opened up wetland area on the way) and down to a bulb haven and restio search and rescue area. The latest garden in the making aims at enticing birds and butterflies and also features an ‘oval’ of healing plants and their uses.

More than fifty years ago…

In l957, when the Fernkloof Nature Reserve was first proclaimed, Harry Wood, the first curator, was given the job of making a garden from plants in the Caledon division. So enthusiastic was he that there is still a bauhinia from India and scarlet-flowered Natal flame trees probably dating from that time. In the process of clearing senescent and dead fynbos from the river and parkland areas, the hacking team came across stonework and agapanthus gone wild when policies changed and all work was channelled into the reserve.

Twenty-metre trees, such as the Cape Ash Ekebergia capensis, Wild Plum Harpephyllum caffrum and yellowwoods Podocarpus falcatus and latifolius, among others, thrive in the parkland and garden areas. Aluminium labels giving a short description are affixed to many of these giants and smaller labels give visitors information on plants and shrubs. There are nearly 40 kinds of tree, including visitors from other parts of South Africa, in the reserve and its gardens. For more information on trees click on ‘Tree Trail’ on this website’s home page.

In the parkland area now an arboretum, manicured lawns and trees invite visitors to picnic and relax, while the young and the old enjoy wandering along the one and a half kilometres of friendly paths. You don’t have to climb a mountain to enjoy the fynbos!

Below are pictures of the paths and gardens at the time of the official opening. The Botsoc team responsible for the transformation are also featured.

Photographs by Marinda Louw, Hermanus Times


In the centre of the newly-restored gardens of the Fernkloof Nature Reserve in Hermanus there is a very special place. Fragrances from a thousand perfumed leaves and flowers sooth the senses and tranquillity pervades.

This is the Fragrance Garden, designed and completed in August 2003 by indigenous nursery manager Jack Bold and donated by Heather Virtue-Evans in memory of her husband Stuart. Raised stone beds around a central sun dial host pelargoniums, buchus, salvias and plectranthus, the essential oils in each leaf releasing its own wild scent.

Whether it is a whiff of lemon from Pelargonium citronellum, the spicy scent of the nutmeg geranium, a hybrid Pelargonium fragrans, or the strong perfume of the oak-leaved geranium Pelargonium quercifolium, pelargoniums all have more in common than just a heady aroma. They can be used as poultices, teas and medicines as the Khoikhoi did in early days, followed by the settlers, who soon appreciated the soothing qualities of the various species.

Plants were sent overseas by enthusiastic collectors in the late seventeenth century and hybrids soon appeared on the horticultural scene.

The exquisite purple, white, pink and blue flowered plectranthus species also have fragrant leaves with medicinal uses. Use the crushed leaf on veld sores and on your dog's slow-healing skin ailment. A decoction will help coughs and colds and make a soothing body wash.

The buchus are perhaps the most famous of the scented medicinal plants. Their shiny dark green leaves are small and oval and smell of the mountains. Small starlike flowers in pink, mauve or white, or pompom style, come out late winter and bring the bees. There are two true buchus, Agathosma betulina and A crenulata, which are farmed for their valuable oils and whose seed is among the most expensive and sought after in the world. The pink and white confetti bushes, the coleonemas, also belong to this family.

And don't forget the graceful Buddlea salvifolia which attracts the butterflies with its lilac honey-scented flowers in spring. Each tiny flower is tubular with a yellow centre and throat and is filled with nectar for its flying guests.

From its creation in a parkland wilderness, this little garden has inspired the team of enthusiastic volunteers, who help to maintain it, to encompass it with other special gardens for ericas, proteas, bulbs and restios. It is linked with these and the neighbouring aloe garden by wheelchair friendly paths, a special flower show fundraising project. It takes its place as a beautiful addition to the annual Wildflower Festival with its visiting minigardens and floral displays.

And if you want to start your own scented garden you can visit Jack at the nursery where he is constantly propagating new species and old favourites.

Geraldine Gardiner
Hermanus Botanical Society
Photographs: Christine Wakfer

Below are pictures of the Fernkloof gardens at the start of the restoration project in 2003.

The gardens of Fernkloof rehabilitated and restored, in the present day.
The volunteer team was nominated for the mayor's Environmental Award in 2007.

Photo - Geraldine Gardiner> Photo - Geraldine Gardiner>




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This website was last updated on
2017 / 3 / 23