Annual Review

Chairman's Report
HR & Finance



Garden & Horticultural Services

[Introduction] [Kirstenbosch] [Karoo Desert] [Harold Porter] [Lowveld] [Free State] [Natal] [Pretoria] [Witwatersrand]
Parliamentary Committee visiting the Karoo Desert Garden

The eight NBI Gardens continue to attract numbers of visitors, both local and from foreign countries. The total number for the period April 2000 to March 2001 exceeded one million for the first time in the NBI's 87-year history.Most Gardens received sponsorships and donations and this has facilitated the upgrading of amenities and improvement of the Gardens generally, making them more attractive and user-friendly.

These improvements included improved pathways, increased signage and the creation of an increased number of guided walks.

In the first workshop of its kind on the African continent, curators from eight countries and 20 gardens in southern Africa met in Pretoria in March 2001. This workshop, which was part of the SABONET (Southern African Botanical Diversity Network) Programme, provided participants with the opportunity to create an ongoing sustainable network, allowing for sharing of knowledge and the pursuit and implementation of collaborative projects.

Kirstenbosch NBG Cape Town, Est. 1913

New nursery facilities

Once again Appletiser sponsored the Summer Sunset Concert Series. There were 15 concerts, with the series running form December to March 2001. At least 37 739 people attended these concerts and the takings at the gate amounted to R811 748.

Pam Golding Properties sponsored a popular winter concert series that took place between May and October. The Rotary Club of Kirstenbosch organised a Carols by Candlelight event in the garden in December 2000. A second 'millennium' concert, the New Year Starlight Symphony was held on
31 December. A total of 4 625 people attended and a profit of R460 461 was generated for the new Centre for Home Gardening project.

In the interest of improved security, surveilance cameras were installed at the four-way stop at Kirstenbosch. A multiplex video recorder records footage from the six cameras simultaneously. Seven streetlights have been installed along the road leading to the Visitors' Centre. These lamps were designed to reduce light pollution in the night sky and have proved to be a popular innovation, particularly with visitors who have flocked to the Garden to take part in the "star walks" which were so much in demand, that they were always over-subscribed.

Total rainfall for the period January to December 2000 was the lowest ever recorded in one calendar year - 905,4mm.

Several art exhibitions and talks took place at Kirstenbosch.
Six permanent storyboards were designed and installed in the Fynbos Demonstration Garden in the Kirstenbosch NBG. The interpretive signage is trilingual (English, Afrikaans and Xhosa) and illustrated with line drawings.

Audio-guided walks (My Guide) were introduced to Kirstenbosch NBG and appropriate signage was included in the Garden along the three walks serviced by the MyGuide(tm) system.

The new Collections Nursery structures funded by the Botanical Society have been completed. Succulent and bulb collections which have been moved to the new houses are thriving in their new growing conditions.

In-service student training has progressed well with an effort being made to create a balance between practical training and academic improvement courses. During the winter of 2000, a Report Writing Course was offered. Its aim was to equip students with the tools they would need to function correctly in the industry as professional horticulturists when they finish their training. Two nursery groundsmen applied to study horticulture at the Cape Technikon and began their three-year course in January 2001.

The Kirstenbosch Outreach Greening Programme has continued to be successful with the establishment of 20 indigenous gardens, mainly at schools in the Cape Flats. These programmes are run in conjunction with the Cape Flats communities and there is ongoing work being done at a further seven gardens. The programme has committed to further new projects which include the Joe Slovo Greenbelt in Langa, four school-based greening projects in Manenberg, Gugulethu and Crossroads. These all also linked to the Edith Stephens Wetland Park, which is also being developed in partnership with the City of Cape Town involving a Working for Water job creation project for wetland restoration.

A pioneer horticultural therapy project at the Lentegeur Psychiatric Hospital in Mitchell's Plain is being undertaken. This project, facilitated by horticulture students, commenced in January. Patients were involved in gardening activities to encourage social, physical and psychological development. The staff and clients of this Mitchell's Plain hospital successfully planted their garden and have taken pride in seeing it develop.
The Outreach Greening team from Kirstenbosch (on behalf of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry) established a water-wise garden at Nyanga clinic. The Minister of Water Affairs opened this garden on 20 March 2001.

The NBI continued its programme of information sharing visits with Botanical Gardens in other parts of the world. To this end, an exchange programme between Kirstenbosch NBG and the Missouri Botanical Garden was launched in September 2000.
As a result, a Kirstenbosch horticulturist spent three months at the Missouri Botanical Garden. An education officer from Missouri also came and spent a short time at Kirstenbosch during February 2001.

Karoo Desert NBG Worcester, Est. 1921

Spring at the Karoo Desert garden

Apart from the name change - Karoo National Botanical Garden to Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden - several very interesting additions were made to the garden.

A Zen garden and a new glasshouse for the Mesemb collection have both been successfully completed.

The garden has benefited enormously from a substantial financial contribution by the Kirstenbosch Branch of the Botanical Society. This donation has supported the development of a Bushmanland display area. Further donations include an extensive collection of Haworthia plants and, to house the entire collection, the construction of a Haworthia House was made possible by yet another donation from the Kirstenbosch Branch of the Botanical Society.

The Quiver Tree forest has been extended, with 120 trees being collected in the Klein Pella district. The total number of trees is now 300 and this makes it the largest planted Quiver Tree Forest in the world, outside the natural habitat of this rare tree aloe.

The garden staff have been busy with numerous ongoing projects such as training of SATOUR tourist guides, a beneficial initiative for all concerned as with increased knowledge of the plants in the garden, the guides would be encouraged to introduce even more visitors to this unique destination. An interesting initiative was the first concert to be held at the Garden. It was a popular event and well attended


Harold Porter NBG Betty's Bay, Est. 1958

Entrance to the Harold Porter NGB

During the year under review, major improvements were made to the entrance building in order to provide a secure and weatherproof office for the ticket office staff. This facilitated visitor control and improved collection of entrance fees. Pathways leading to and from the new entrance were also upgraded. The work undertaken was performed by Garden staff and made possible by funds from NBI as well as a donation from the Kogelberg Branch of the Botanical Society. A very successful reopening ceremony took place in October 2000.

Improved landscaping was undertaken in the Erica section. This involved the construction of two large ponds, three smaller ones and also made provision for a cemented bed for the watercourse connecting the water source from Leopard's Kloof to the wetland area. A large pond was also constructed in the wetland section and this, together with the other large ponds, form part of the fire management plan for the Garden. The whole project provides different habitats for a variety of species to be displayed.

The old potting shed at the Garden is being transformed to accommodate female and disabled staff facilities. Work on the new potting shed and a storeroom for nursery items is ongoing.

A poison store was completed and, because of the fact that the Garden is situated in an ecologically sensitive area with a high water table, a conservancy tank has been provided for the safe disposal of contaminated water.

A very successful Specimen Flower Show took place in September 2000, with a total of 469 species of the Kogelberg flora on display. When the Western Cape Nature Conservation Board wished to hold their Specimen and landscape show in October, they requested assistance from the Garden staff. This Show, highlighted the plants of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve.

The cultivation of some threatened plant species in the garden has been successful. These plants are growing well and include Nivenia stokoei, Erica patersonii, Witsenia maura, and Dimorphotheca walliana.

Lowveld NBG Nelspruit, Est. 1969

Volunteer guides training in the rain

Numerous improvements were made in the Garden. These included 210m of garden paths being paved using cement and stone, an 800m section of the northwestern boundary was fenced. A children's play area was constructed at the Cascades Caf} in the Garden. Furthermore, a donation from the Lowveld Branch of the Botanical Society made it possible for the old workshop to be converted into a lecture room and for the workshop to be moved into the potting-shed building.

Several collecting trips were undertaken, yielding over 50 species, of mostly trees and shrubs not previously represented in the Garden, as well as a number of new, undescribed taxa. In addition, the first ever community of miombo woodland, dominated by Brachystegia spiciformis found in South Africa, was discovered in the north-eastern Soutpansberg during one of these collecting trips.

The Garden assisted research and education institutions by supplying organisations such as Capespan and the Department of Biochemistry at RAU with plant material.

Staff from the Garden undertook a two-day visit to the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary in Swaziland to investigate the possibility of a Memorial Garden dedicated to Dr. Gilbert Reynolds. This intrepid botanist travelled 200 000 miles through Africa, studying aloes. A request for support was subsequently received from His Majesty, King Mswati III of Swaziland.

Statistics for the Garden's cycads and trees are very encouraging. There are currently 6 000 cycad plants being cultivated, constituting 130 species and 11 genera. Only one South African species is not being cultivated and, of the African cycads, 86% are being cultivated.

43% of the world's cycad species have been propagated successfully in the Garden. 66% of South African trees are being cultivated in the Lowveld National Botanical Garden, undoubtedly the finest collection of indigenous trees in the country.

The Garden was the venue for numerous functions. The Garden Festival organised by the Botanical Society, on 6-7 May and the K-TV Market Day, on 3 June 2000, were highlights.

Poverty Relief funds, obtained from the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry for the Working For Water Projects, were utilised to clear an area of 90ha heavily infested by alien invader plants. Twenty-six contract workers were temporarily employed for this.

These workers received training in HIV/AIDS, Occupational Health and Safety and the use of equipment and chemicals as part of the life skills development programme of the Working for Water Project.

Free State NBG Bloemfontein, Est.1967

Concerts on the lawn

The number of visitors to the Garden increased during the year under review. Improvements to the Garden included upgrading of irrigation in both the nursery and the Garden, further plant bays were constructed in the nursery area and a vehicle bridge was built on the western side of the Garden to ensure easy access to the hills. A pond was constructed as a water feature in the Lapa.

The official opening of the Garden's Traditional Medicinal Garden took place in March. The event was marked by the presence of traditional healers and other stakeholders and had been planned to coincide with the first NBI Board meeting ever to be held in the Free State. This Traditional Medicinal Garden is the fourth such garden to be opened in the National Botanical Gardens throughout the country.

Five storyboards relating to the Medicinal or "Muthi" Garden and 15 relating to the Cussonia Trail were introduced.

On World Environment Day, 5 June 2000, the Grasslands poster was launched at the Free State NBG by the Botanical Society and Old Mutual. The Garden had been chosen for the launch specifically because it is situated in a grassland region. This beautiful poster, the eighth in a series depicting various South African biomes, by NBI artist, Jeanette Loedolff, was sent to 1 200 primary schools located in South African grassland regions.
The plant inventory of the various sections was put onto computer, facilitating control and record keeping.

Apart from concerts, which took place in the Garden throughout the year, there was also a Carols by Candlelight evening in December.

Natal NBG Pietermaritzburg, Est. 1874

Endangered Kniphofia leucocephala

The new millennium brought changes to the Natal NBG. These were in the form of an imposing new entrance gate to replace the small, obscure entrance that the visitors have used for the past 60 years. The new wall and gates are clearly visible to all who pass and there is no longer the problem of people being unable to find the Botanical Garden.

In support of the appearance of the new entrance, the Midlands branch of the Botanical Society sponsored the building of an Information deck at the head of the Plane Tree Avenue. This deck will accommodate four information boards, a bench and a ticket sales kiosk.

The year also saw the culmination of a collaborative project with the Department of Entomology at the University of Natal. A Dragon and Damselfly trail was opened in the Garden. A brochure illustrating this new trail was also developed to serve as an interpretation tool highlighting the intricate animal/plant interactions that exist in nature.
On the horticultural front, the Garden was successful in producing seedlings of the very threatened Kniphofia leucocephala, known only from a single threatened locality on the north coast. These plants will be used to establish a colony in a suitably protected habitat by KZN Wildlife. A total of 66 tree labels were put up along the Turraea Trail in the landscaped area of the Garden.

The 'Look, Listen, Feel, Smell Garden' has proved to be a popular attraction with children and adults alike and sponsorship for extending this section during the next financial year was promised by the Hilton Round Table.


Pretoria NBG Pretoria, Est.1964

Concert at the Lapa: Photo:Simon Cooper

The Northern Gardens, in general, and the Pretoria and Witwatersrand Gardens, in particular, were promoted at both the Getaway Show and the Tourism Johannesburg Show. These two tourism shows took place during September 2000.

Activities at the Pretoria NBG focussed strongly on collaboration with friend organisations. Several donations of trees, plant material and seedlings were made by the Garden. Assistance in the form of garden development by staff of the Pretoria NBG was received by the Transvaal Museum and Banareng Primary School.

The year ended with a major success - an allocation of R2 217 000 was received from the DEA&T's Poverty Relief Fund to be used during the next financial year for urgently needed tourist and education facilities in the Garden.

Witwatersrand NBG Roodepoort/Krugersdorp, Est. 1982

Sasol dam at Witwatersrand NBG

Visitor numbers grew significantly (8.9% over the previous year), despite the decision to increase the entrance fee.

There were several improvements to the Garden, including lawning of the Nestle Education Centre garden, rebuilding of the Water Garden pond, addition of more specimens for the Geological Garden and levelling of the concert lawns. Development of the Succulent Garden has begun thanks to a donation of R50 000 from the Bankenveld Branch of the Botanical Society. The Sasol Dam area was improved and an extension made to the boardwalk. This work was made possible by a donation of R20 000 from SASOL. Nestl} contributed R22 500 for the facilitation of environmental outings for schools from disadvantaged communities.

In a dynamic initiative in the Garden, Africam have installed a camera on the cliff face which overlooks the Black Eagles' nest. Through this camera, live images during the eagles' breeding cycle can be transmitted and viewed via the Internet. (The Black Eagle Project Roodekrans has produced a web page showcasing the eagles). These two sites are linked to the NBI website.

In line with the promotion of skills development, several training initiatives were undertaken for groundsmen, operators and foremen. Other training relating to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHASA), health awareness, as well as personal skills training took place.

A collaborative effort involving the Gauteng Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment funded a team of their staff in an alien clearing project at the Garden during April/May 2000. Further work on alien clearance took place as phase III of the Working for Water Project and was funded by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry to the amount of R250 000. Trees cleared were made into wood chips for use in the Garden water use efficiency system.

Work continued on the living plant collections and plant records and several collecting trips were undertaken. Collaborative initiatives with some Nature Conservation authorities involving threatened plant species also took place.

A new, full colour marketing brochure highlighting the Witwatersrand NBG was designed and produced. It is currently being distributed at tourism outlets and shows.

A film shoot by Velocity in the Witwatersrand NBG netted R65 000 for the Garden. These funds will be used to replace fencing in the parking area.

Despite inclement weather, a successful Carols by Candlelight event was held in the Garden.


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