Everything will be coming up roses – and a host of other blooms – in the Eastern Cape this spring with a line-up of spectacular flower and garden shows.
The floral feast blossoms with the well-known Addo Rose and Garden Show, which takes place on 9 and 10 October 2010. It will see the small town celebrating the flowering of the famed Sundays River Valley roses for the 28th consecutive year.
More than a quarter-century since the first show was held in the town’s historic Valentine Hall, the event – designed each year around a different theme – has developed into one of South Africa’s premier floral displays and an internationally respected drawcard, even being described by a former world president of the Federation of Rose Societies as "the best in the world".
This year's theme is 'Through the Garden Gate' and visitors can expect to be overwhelmed by the sights and scents of more than 20 000 roses of 40 different varieties as they pass through gates of different styles to reach displays reflecting formal, romantic, Karoo and English cottage gardens.
Unlike in previous years, when the roses on display were almost exclusively grown in the valley, many of the blooms will be flown in from Johannesburg in a massive and finely planned logistical operation.
According to organising committee chairperson Nita Tayler-Smith, there are not many commercial rose-growers left in the valley that was once as famous for these flowers as for its elephants and citrus fruit. She attributes this to rising production and marketing costs, which have eaten into growers’ profits over the years.
However, the plentiful cut flowers for sale at the show will be fresh from local gardens – and Tayler-Smith promises they will be spectacular. "The Sundays River Valley is perfect for rose-growing," she says. "The ground is fertile, the climate excellent and, unlike many other parts of the country, we are very fortunate to have no shortage of water."
For the love of roses
A project of the Sundays River Women’s Institute, the Addo Rose and Garden Show has been held annually as a fundraiser for local charities since its inception in 1983, after an enthusiastically received suggestion from a member of holding a non-competitive show dedicated to “the love of the rose”.
With up to 8000 visitors flocking to previous shows, the institute is hoping the 2010 version will raise as much as R100 000 to help local charities fight rural poverty. Projects that have benefited over the years include creches, libraries, community vegetable gardens, wheelchairs for the aged, and assistance to those living with HIV/Aids.
Frontier country delights
With Addo being an easy drive of less than 45 minutes from Port Elizabeth on a newly upgraded road, the show makes for a perfect family day out. It will also offer music and other entertainment, crafts and plenty of good, old-fashioned country hospitality and farm fare – not least of which are the succulent strawberries and cream that rank just below the roses as the show’s top attraction.
The rose show officially gets under way on Friday 8 October with the traditional preview dinner for ticket-holders, which this year takes the form of an elegant “Cabaret and Canapés” evening among the roses, giving guests an opportunity to view the displays at their leisure, without the crowds of the weekend.
While some show visitors will simply soak up the beauty and fragrances of the vast rose displays, the fundis will be able to view 200 different rose species exhibited in a special “variety tent”, where local experts will be available to share information and answer questions.
With favourable comparisons having been made with London’s famous Royal Chelsea Flower Show, the Addo Rose and Garden Show has previously attracted visitors from the Royal Horticultural Society of London, and closer to home, the South African Flower Union.
Flower and garden clubs from around the country also visit the renowned event each year.
Two weeks later, the Grahamstown Flower Festival will provide a weekend of horticultural, botanical and environmental interest and education in the Makana Botanical Gardens, the country’s second-oldest such establishment, at the foot of the historical Frontier town’s Gunfire Hill.
Page 2: More on the Grahamstown Flower Festival