Fynbos, fire, flowers and fruit of the vine

* Bridget and Julian Johnsen with Sophie and Anthony Ward, all from Vondeling, Paardeberg.

These pictures are part of the coffee table book Fire to Flower – A Chronology After a Wildfire in Fynbos written by Ruth Garland, who lives in Australia. It’s a marriage of fynbos, fire, flowers, the insects and invertebrates that live with them and also the fruit of the vine. What could be better? Possibly the location of the book’s

Held at the Botanical Society Book-
shop at Kirstenbosch on Wednesday December 14, the book is a celebra-
tion of rebirth after a wildfire in 2011 on Vondeling Wine Estate in the Paarl

It may have been commissioned by the Paardeberg Sustainability Initiative (PSI) to document the regrowth of fynbos but it also resonates with Capetonians touched by the veld fire of March 2015, or, in fact, any major veldfire.

Sipping their Vondeling Petit Blanc the author’s sister Jilly Berning, said the idea of publishing a book came about when Anthony Ward, one of Vondeling’s owners, was walking through the burnt vegetation.

The fire had been burning for eight days and was particularly fierce for four of these days.

Anthony was impressed by the Working on Fire team who worked tirelessly waging war on flames, burdened by heavy protective clothing, hefting shovels and paddles, tired but never giving up. “Sometimes there were eight helicopters in the air,” said Jilly.

Rewind to 2001 when winemaker and close friend Julian Johnsen encouraged Anthony to buy the farm. On a visit one day, walking through the veld, PSI managing director, Dr Bridget Johnsen, encouraged Anthony to get involved with alien clearing and other environmental conservation projects. He would not hear of it.

After the fire, he was taken to the top of the mountain. Back then there was no road. “It was an amazing journey and precarious, the firefighters had been working in extremely high temperatures, there was nothing. Thinking everything is dead and yet a protea burst through. Life goes on,” said Anthony.

That’s when he was inspired to chronicle the event and asked Bridget to come up with a budget for a book. He gave her only a few days in which to do this, she did it in only three days, thanks to Newlands botanist David Gwynne-Evans. David’s proviso was that a duplicate of everything collected be given to the Bolus Herbarium at Kirstenbosch.