Monday, September 25, 2023

Grootbos: a better vision for the future

Ferraria crispa

Watercolor painting by Mieko Ishikawa in first room of the Hannarie Wenhold Botanical Art Gallery at Grootbos Nature reserve...which is a remarkable place for many reasons.

Ferraria crispa: the original!

I thought it was clever that they had a specimen of what had been painted by Ishikawa next to the painting!

Road to Grootbos

Grootbos ("Great Woodland" for the Milkwood forest it contains) is a unique location for a many reasons. Their Website (click on that to access it) conveys much, but by no means all there is to know about the place. A five star hotel, but also a school of horticulture for local youngsters from underserved communities, an extensive nature reserve and now an amazing museum of botanical art unlike any other.

The picture depicts the entrance to a multiroom (seven halls I believe) including exhibit halls, gift shop, offices and a large patio and veranda. It is state of the art and very beautiful.

One of the many galleries, all depicting plants native to Grootbos painted by many of the leading botanical artists from all over the world.

The guestbook, which I signed, and Karel Du Toit--our tour commander--who's poring over various things I noticed he'd purchased: we all bought things there. It was exquisite.

A display featuring a book I shall get around to but also a variety of teas and other local goods prepared exclusively for Grootbos.

Including wines and gins distilled especially for the place!

A variety of tea towels and even clothing featuring the site are also offered.

Chris Lochner, the youthful curator and artist-in-residence of the Museum, telling us the riveting story of the Florilegium's creation. Adam Harrower, Curator of Succulents at Kirstenbosch, looks on (he was the one who directed us to the museum after all!)


After a wonderful guided tour and a bit of an orgy of purchasing things we were treated to wonderful teas designed with local herbs: they were fantastic!

I had to buy this book while I was there (absurdly reasonably priced, by the way) It is a superb guide to southernost South Africa.*

But the kicker was this enormous tome that feels as though it weighed 20 pounds. One weighted down my suitcase going home: it features all the paintings in the gallery at present (over 200 I believe of over 100 taxa). A half dozen new species were discovered in the process of preparing this work. It only features 10% of the Reserves flora. Methinks a lot more paintings will join these in the future years.

If you go anywhere east of Capetown, make sure to arrange to visit Grootbos' gallery: do call ahead--they need to know you're coming! It's a gated reserve, and drop-ins may be disappointed.

I know there are large private nature reserves in many countries: none, I suspect, have generate such a fantastic floral field guide and magnificent Grootbos Florilegium**  is unique. It is an inspiring vision for the future of a world with the right priorities.

I had the privilege of staying at Grootbos in 2005 on a tour sponsored by Denver Botanic Gardens. I was even more impressed and delighted this time around!

*You can purchase the Field Guide from Silverhill Seeds for a lousy $14.50! 
**Wordsworth Books offers the Grootbos Florilegium for $132.11 [And there are other sources on the web--although aside from Silverhill Seed which ships from elsewhere, I can't vouch for their success in shipping: the South African postal system--like Argentina's--is notoriously inefficient and just plain bad]

1 comment:

  1. beautiful painting and nice writeup, will have to check it out one day when we next get a chance to travel to SA


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