Many feet have walked the pathways of the Garden Route Botanical Garden (GRBG) over the past 20 odd years. Some may still remember the days when this garden was one of the most dangerous spaces in town. Not too many know the story behind this unique garden, and how a small group of determined citizens made it happen.
It all begins with The Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc), first established in 1913 to oversee the development of Kirstenbosch Garden in Cape Town. The NPO, operating through regional branches across the country, first arrived in the Garden Route in 1992. Amidst many environmental activities, the need for a botanical garden to conserve the indigenous flora of the South Cape region was soon identified. What followed were two decades of sweat, tears and triumph as key BotSoc members (many now in their 60s, 70s and 80s!) worked tirelessly to raise funds and turn the once alien plant-invaded, crime-riddled public park into the independent safe haven and beautiful living library it is today.
‘Mindful of the role of the people of South Africa as custodians of amongst the world’s richest floral heritage, it is the Branch’s mission to win the hearts, minds and material support of individuals and organisations, wherever they may be, for the conservation, cultivation, study, enjoyment and wise use of the indigenous flora and vegetation of southern Africa.’ – mission statement, BotSoc constitution
The life of the branch has ebbed and flowed, as is the nature of NPOs who rely on volunteers and donated funds. The new wave of young environmentalists taking up the staff of BotSoc Garden Route hope to breath fresh air and energy into the region. The branch’s first initiative has already begun – a weekly volunteer day at the GRBG Prop Yard, aimed at expanding the facility so it can provide more indigenous species to the public via its nursery and develop a special new flowerbed aimed at bee conservation and education.
“We started with four people in the last week of January, and now we have about 30 volunteers,” says Jo-Anne King, Interim Chair of the new branch. “It has been truly amazing to see the spirit that started this garden reinvigorated again. I can’t wait to explore what else this community can achieve. We are living in a critical time for the environment, and we, the lucky inhabitants of the Garden Route, need to step up or we will no longer be so lucky.” The new committee aims to champion key botanical causes, such as wildflower protection and alien-invasive clearing, through conservation and education programmes, projects and initiatives.
The public is invited to join the new branch’s first AGM to see what the society has planned for the upcoming months and how they can get involved. Details:
BotSoc Garden Route Branch AGM
Date: Saturday, 16 March
Time: Registration from 10h00, Meeting from 10h30, Picnic from 11h30
Where: Environmental Education Centre, Garden Route Botanical Garden, 49 Caledon Street, George
Nature Conservation students from Nelson Mandela University deweed plants for the GRBG nursery