Plant fair treat in Newlands

The 41st Kirstenbosch Plant Fair will take place on land surrounding the Stone Cottages on the corner of Kisternbosch Drive and Rhodes Drive in Newlands.

Gardeners are in for a treat this weekend when the Kirstenbosch plant fair returns to the area around the Stone Cottages in Newlands.

For the past three years, the popular sale of indigenous plants has been cancelled. Reasons given are the drought and political infighting within the Botanical Society of SA, fondly called BotSoc.

With predictions of better rainfall this winter, the mostly volunteer-led society wants to celebrate its comeback by showing that BotSoc is back on track.

Last week we caught up with Dr Nathan “Natie” Finkelstein, convener of the 2019 plant fair, and co-convener Catherine Gribble, of Plumstead.

Dr Finkelstein, of Constantia, said Capetonians had emerged from the severe drought much more waterwise.

Retired pharmacist Dr Finkelstein celebrated his 80th birthday on Thursday April 25. He has been on the BotSoc committee for many years and a volunteer garden guide for the past five.

The annual plant sale is usually held over a weekend at the end of March, but this year it is later because of the many public holidays.

“This year we highlight the abundance of fragrant plants with the theme ‘amazing aromatics’, and the clever strategies plants employ to attract pollinators or protect themselves against unwelcome insects and herbivores,” said Dr Finkelstein.

Ms Gribble said there were a surprisingly high number of proteaceae among these plants, including the critically endangered leucadendrons stellare and thymifolium. Better known fragrant plants include agathosma crenulata (buchu), the lemon scented endangered agathosma glabrata and coleonema album (confetti bush); erica caffra and various pelargoniums.

Ms Gribble said if buyers were uncertain about plants then Kirstenbosch horticulturists and other plant gurus would be on hand to answer questions.

Ms Gribble said this would be the 41st plant fair since it was started in 1976 by John Winter, first curator of Kirstenbosch Gardens, who wanted to sell surplus plants.

This was done from the back of a station wagon in the parking area at Goldfields Environmental Education Centre.

She said land for Kirstenbosch was granted by the government on condition that a civil society organisation was formed to support its development.

The Botanical Society was formed on June 10, 1913.

Over the years the plant fair has become a highlight on gardeners’ calendars with many people arriving during the night, waiting for the gates to open wrapped in blankets, with flasks, chairs and catalogues marked with rare and exotic indigenous plants.

Dr Finkelstein said this year will not disappoint and there will be the usual cycads on sale, a status symbol for many gardeners, and strelitzia juncea (Centenary Gold) which he says is not normally commercially available.

Ms Gribble said a variety of plant and garden-related products will also be available and a selection of food stalls, essential oils, craft beer or estate wine from the Slug and Fynbos bar, and children can pot up a little plant to take home. They advise people to take along wheelbarrows or trolleys.

The plant fair is an important fund-raiser for the Kirstenbosch Botanical Society with funds raised going towards conservation, outreach and education projects.

The Kirstenbosch Plant Fair takes place over the weekend, May 4 and 5, from 9am to 4pm on Saturday and 9am to 2pm on Sunday, on the corner of Kirstenbosch Drive and Rhodes Drive, Newlands.

Entry is R10, children under 12 free.

The plant availability list and regular updates about plants can be found at www.facebook.com/BotSocKirstenboschBranch/ Contact Natie Finkelstein at 021 794 4132, or email natie@westlakesquare.co.za