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Sunday, November 3, 2013


Book on magnificent and carefully planned gardens celebrates those with the “wow” factor. (Review by Keith Millar)

Keith Kirsten, South Africa’s favourite celebrity horticulturist, was in Durban this week to launch his latest book, Garden To Inspire. The venue chosen for the launch was the enchanting Makaranga Garden Lodge in Kloof. Its magnificent 30-acre indigenous and exotic garden is one of the 25 featured in the book.

Garden’s To Inspire is a splendid book. It is a glossy hardcover - with dust jacket - and its 250 pages include an abundance of the most magnificent colour photographs illustrating the beauty and excellence of all the gardens.

Kirsten explained that the gardens selected all have the “wow” factor that sets them apart from the norm. They are not just an accumulation of plants but have been carefully planned and nurtured over years, even decades. The selection ranges from classic-traditional to quirky-eclectic and all strive to meet the challenge of being environmentally sustainable.

Included are Durban’s Botanical Gardens, which is the oldest in the country, and the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens in Cape Town, as well as many grand estates such as the Oppenheimer’s Brenthurst in Johannesburg and Vergelegen Estate’s historic tree haven at Somerset West in the Cape. Rounding it all off are many awe-inspiring private gardens from across the length and breadth of South Africa.

However, whether they are private or public, big or small, exotic or indigenous, this book reveals something of the story behind each garden. Kirsten is a human dynamo who abounds with energy. This is reflected in his colourful and enthusiastic text as he introduces the owners or custodians of the gardens and discusses the plants and landscaping that makes each one special.

Also of great interest is the directory at the end of the book which not only gives the location and contact details for each garden but provides information of when, if at all, they are open to the public.

I promise you that when you read about these gardens, and see the wonderful photographs, you will immediately want to visit them.

Gardens To Inspire is not an instruction manual on how to garden. It is rather a marvelous celebration of some of the most unique and exquisite gardens in South Africa. Not only will it make a very attractive addition to any coffee table, but it sure to inspire and motivate many to get out there and attempt to emulate the best. It would be a perfect Christmas gift for any avid gardener.

Gardens To Inspire is published by Struik Lifestyle. The ISBN number is 9781431700950 and the recommended retail price is R295. – Keith Millar