WEEKEND PROPERTY CORRESPONDENT
NOT too long ago, the Albany Horticultural Society’s annual flower show, a rather low-key affair then, was held in community and school halls across Grahamstown, giving residents the opportunity to display and enter the fruits of their labour from their gardens. Their efforts turned the halls into a blaze of colour, filled with sweet-smelling aromas.
Things changed when the decision was taken to hold the show in the Makana Botanical Gardens below the 1820 Settlers National Monument.
Several other societies and organisations came on board and the event became known as the Grahamstown Flower Festival, quickly blossoming into a major gardening event on the Eastern Cape horticultural calendar.
The flower festival, held in October each year, joins several other festivals that give Grahamstown its unofficial title of “Festival Capital of South Africa”.
The flower festival is organised in its entirety by members of local horticultural societies and garden clubs.
This year, it will be held on the weekend of October 6 and 7.
At the helm as convenor of the flower shows and festivals the past eight years has been Sharon Richner, whose passion for the flower festival and all things gardening is legendary in Grahamstown.
Richner is chief technical officer in the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Biotechnology at Rhodes University.
She has been a member of the Albany Horticultural Society since 2003 and its chairwoman since 2005.
Recognising the efforts of committee members, she says: “Organising a flower festival is a huge team effort, and having a group of people working enthusiastically together, and displaying the sort of dedication they do, is absolutely essential.
“All the members bring a whole array of talents and skills to the planning of the event.”
With this year’s Grahamstown Flower Festival just around the corner, residents of the city are gearing up for the myriad activities on offer, plus keeping a watchful eye on their gardens, hoping the blooms and plants will be at their peak come next weekend.
Besides the ever- popular flower and plant competition, there are numerous commercial garden stalls, the hotly-contested children’s section, guest speaker Di-Di Hoffman from Pretoria (well-known and respected herbologist, herb grower and food gardener) as well as the much-anticipated Pam Golding Gardens of Grahamstown competition.
Schoolgirl sisters Milagre and Zoe Lang will present the workshop Worm farming for kids on the Sunday, while Nikki Kohly and Mike Powell will present a workshop on setting up a thicket garden in five easy steps.
For the second year, an art exhibition featuring the work of local artists will form part of the two-day event.
Meanwhile, the copious tree-shaded lawns of the gardens will see numerous marquees and gazebos housing a host of garden stalls displaying and selling everything from garden tools and equipment, seedlings and plants, natural products and garden ornaments to water tanks, pottery, fertiliser, honey, succulents and woodwork.
While Richner will be wandering in and out of the exhibition halls throughout the weekend, viewing all the flowers and plants on show and taking in their beauty, whilst keeping a watch on proceedings, one may well be tempted to ask what is growing in her own garden.
It’s full of clivia, agapanthus, wild jasmine, spekboom, watsonia, gasteria, iris and aloe, she says.
“The water feature takes pride of place and, along with the indigenous plantings, has done a lot to attract birds to the garden.”