01 March 2013

Roses at Kirstenbosch?

Reading through old copies of The Journal of the Botanical Society of South Africa, I was intrigued to discover that a large part of the efforts of the early gardeners at Kirstenbosch went into the creation and upkeep of the "Economic Plants". In beds that were located, it seems, pretty near where the main road entrance to Kirstenbosch is today - diagonally opposite the Church of the Good Shepherd, grew lavender, pelargonium, peppermint, buchu, sumach (Rhus coriaria) and "true roses" used to obtain Attar of Roses.
   In an article written by Prof. Compton in 1934 he states that the Government that granted the rights to establish Kirstenbosch as a National Botanic Garden expected that some work be undertaken on "the introduction of economic plants" that might add to the country's wealth and prosperity.
   As usual, he is hampered by lack of funds, but well-wishers had given him "a gift of an experimental still and the loan of land through private generosity". Despite the lack of funds, the list of economic plants is mind-blowing and includes "Medicinal", "Perfumes and Aromatics", "Bush Teas" (including Rooibos), "Food Plants and Flavourings", "Fodders" and "Miscellaneous".
A plate from the 1937 issue of The Journal of the Botanical Society of South Africa

Map of Kirstenbosch from 1925 showing the location of the Economic Grounds just south of the Camphor and Ficus Avenues.
Read the article here.

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