22 July, 2015

Harold Porter NBG at Betty's Bay

by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

Adventuring around False Bay, past the Strand, we continued along the far shore to the southernmost tip of Africa,Cape Agulhas.

Dappat se Gat looking across Kogel Bay

We travelled between mountains and sea, winter flowers, to my wish list stop at Harold Porter National Botanical Garden in Betty's Bay. Years since we've been there, but now it lies within a happy day's journey to collect plants from the nursery. We chose a kind winter day and I would have walked and taken photos for hours, but, we were worried about the car and needed to keep going.

Harold Porter NBG
Original section
New beds after the floods

The garden has a substantial section laid out as a horticultural garden like Kirstenbosch and a new to us forest section. They were badly affected by floods, giving them an opportunity to rethink the layout and plant new sections.

Mountains at Harold Porter NBG

There are mountain trails which I hope we can explore, next time.

The sea at Betty's Bay from Harold Porter NBG

The garden covers crest to coast, with sea views when you turn your back to the mountains. We did come to Betty's Bay to look at houses for sale, before we decided on False Bay and living back in the city of Cape Town.

Waboom and yellowwood trees

Within the garden, echoing the forest remnants tucked into the mountains, are newly planted trees. The waboom, Protea nitida grows not just to shrub size, but to a substantial tree if it is not thwarted by fire. A yellowwood arched down above our heads.


I am so enjoying a fresh opportunity to gather and plant fynbos. My fan aloe Kumara plicatilis is still on its first fan, and my Phylica is flowering but waiting to be planted. Heart-warming to see them flourishing in the NBG and remind myself - I've got those!

Limestone fynbos endemics

Our fynbos usually grows on acid sandy soil. Limestone fynbos grows on coastal sand of crumbled sea shells. (I'm still trying to work out where our False Bay garden would lie between acid and lime, before a succession of gardeners 'amended the soil' with compost)

Protea scolymocephala, Oldenburghia grandis, Mimetes cucullatus
Metalasia muricata

A small protea with quiet lime and cream flowers Protea scolymocephala is on my wish list. When the sun is out in force the smell of honey around Metalasia muricata is dizzying. Tall and stately daisy tree with HUGE leaves, looking like a thistle on steroids is Oldenburghia grandis. Coral and feathers is yet another protea, Mimetes cucullatus.

Dassiesklip Wind Energy Facility near Caledon

We timed it just wrong, for lunch at Harold Porter on the way up. Nice little restaurant ... but they were in load shedding. So impressed that they still made us a hot vegetarian lunch. Mac 'n cheese with al dente fresh veg of the day. Driving home past Caledon we saw the Dassiesklip Wind Energy Facility, which was opened in February 2014. Next time you want to curse the Cape Doctor or a north-westerly gale, stop for a moment and think, because this very wind might be powering the kettle for your cup of tea.

We came home via Peregrine Farm Stall (I remember going there with my parents in school holidays. It goes back to 1964). Queued for a table and I had a delicious lunch of wood-fired veg on couscous with halloumi. Yum!

Pictures by Jurg and Diana Studer
of Elephant's Eye on False Bay

(If you mouse over teal blue text, it turns seaweed red
Those are my links.
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  1. I spent some time studying your map this morning...so you are directly across from Cape Town, on False Bay itself? Why called "False?" The first photo on this post is really stunning. Such a pure and fascinating landscape with the mountains rising above the sea so close. I enjoyed all your fynbos shots, but am really interested in False Bay as a location to see in my lifetime. It looks quite beautiful. Am glad to hear you are settling in to your new place and happy finding plants for it.

    1. We are on the Cape Town and Peninsula side of False Bay.

      False, because early sailors thought they were safely in Table Bay. Not. And this is the Cape of Storms. Fierce wind wreaking havoc yesterday!

  2. Oh, what a beautiful area. My only experience of mountain-plus-ocean was in Newfoundland, where midsummer was probably about as warm as your midwinter, and there were icebergs in the bay.

    Someone here told me that our water is alkaline enough to undo the effects of soil amending fairly quickly. I don't know whether that's true, but if so, a water test might give you a clue about where your garden falls on the acid/lime spectrum?

    1. It's complicated. The gardener's compost I can see, but fertiliser?? Builder's rubble, from before, I see too. (But is that concrete, or a bit of limestone??) I'll keep looking for info, and which plants are happy, or not. So far, it all flourishes!

      The combination of mostly white walls and too much irrigation leaves rusty marks on other houses - which should tell me something, but what?

  3. What a beautiful area you live in, with flora that we find only in the highest-end flower shops.

    1. mm hm, I once went to a posh Zurich florist, asked for a king protea (for my husband's birthday).
      They found me one out back in the cooler, and the Lady who Lunches customer, admired the flower over my shoulder!

  4. what an amazing area, gosh its beautiful nestled beneath those mountains,, beautiful plants, I love mac and cheese,,

    1. that stretch, between the towns and resorts, sometimes with whales - is my favourite.

  5. The view was so worth the trip...that ocean, those mountains they are breathtakingly beautiful.

    And they so remind me of areas on the coast. Gorgeous.


  6. What a beautiful place you live in. We are both lucky that way -- to be living in places with so much natural beauty close at hand. -Jean

  7. You pictures do inspire us.
    I think my little mushroom would sure want to visit these places one day.

  8. The image of the lady (you?) standing at the Harold Porter NBG gave me an urge to be there, sharing it with you. I have always appreciated looks into your country and way of life. I can almost smell the honey-scented Metalasia muricata! The view across Kogel Bay is striking. What a great outing you had!

    1. yes - my turquoise cotton pullover - souvenir from London years ago.

  9. Looking up the limestone wash, the Protea nitida tree, and the rocks and mountains...amazing. Quite a resemblance to where I hiked this morning, but so unique. And a protea tree...nice!

  10. Diana I am always so impressed with this place you call home...imagine being at the most southern tip of Africa...and seeing these plants and amazing vistas....the way you describe the scents and scenes is magical.

  11. Its so interesting reading how you are making your fynbos - going with the grain as opposed to the struggle of irrigation/fertilisation etc Did wonder about how the wind effects your garden being in such a blowy part of the Cape - all very well for kettles but plants must have to dig deep

    1. the wind - was why we chose this Green garden. We are somehow in a sheltered corner, unlike some of the bleak lawn and blasted tree others we rejected.

      My pots are unstable, but I am steadily getting those plants in the ground. Mindful weeding is bringing me some exciting volunteers too.

  12. What was wrong with the car?

    1. It was over-heating, needs some serious work - and I have housebound time to catch up with planting pots into the garden.