Ewanrigg Botanical Gardens – still there!

19 04 2012

“Oh and the aloes are out in the gardens and we saw at least 7 species of sunbird on them too!” the customer said as he turned to leave. I was pleasantly surprised that Ewanrigg Gardens were still extant so at lunchtime I had a quick meeting with the managing director and we both decided that I should take the afternoon off and go and investigate the photographic possibilities at the gardens out on the Shamva road, some 30km out of Harare. I was also keen to take a drive past the farm where I used to live before I moved into town. There was also nothing so urgent that it could not wait until tomorrow. Such are the benefits of owning one’s own business!

I hadn’t been out that way for a few years but I was not too surprised to see Chabweno Farm where I used to live when working at Hortico, derelict. The grass was higher than the fence, the maize such as it was shorter than the grass and all the tobacco barns were falling down. What a waste!

The sign for the gardens was almost obscured by the grass but the road, never great when I was living there, had recently been graded. I had to wonder if this was the doing of the National Parks who look after the garden or the fat cat who “farms” opposite. I had to plumb for the latter. The man at the gate was pleasant and hoped that I would stop on the way out to buy some aloes. I asked if there were any other visitors around but I had the gardens to myself.

The road up to the car park had definitely seen better days. I made a point of covering the binoculars that I’d brought along but decided not to carry as I remembered there had been problems in the past  with theft and set out with my fearsome hound, Kharma, on a lead as required.

The garden was looking a bit unkempt but there were people around tidying up and the grass had been mown so it looked as though someone was putting some money back into it. The aloes were not quite the display I’d hoped though it is a bit early in the season; they normally come into full flower around June/July.

Of course I only saw one sunbird that was gone long before I could get my camera out of the bag so I looked around for other things to photograph.

As I had come out ostensibly to see the aloes I at least had to take some photos of them!

Not everything in the garden is indigenous – I am pretty sure that this flower is not, but I was not too concerned about that. I guess at one time everything had labels on them but these had long gone and I only saw a sign saying that the taking of cuttings was forbidden. No surprises there.

Once a bit further away from the car park I let Kharma go – fortunately she is not the wandering type though I did keep an eye on her and a lookout for snakes which are common in the area being quite a lot warmer than Harare.

I walk looking at the ground; not because I want to but because I cannot feel my feet on the ground so I walk visually. Of course it’s a pain but it does mean that I see things that other able-bodied people would likely miss.

It does mean that I need to make an effort to look up! And I was rewarded with this view of some fine old indigenous trees!

April is a great time of year – cool nights and warm to hot days. Today was no exception but of course the clouds had to get in on the act and spoil my light. It was not too serious as I knew I had the whole afternoon off and just had to be patient.

I wasn’t really equipped to take photos of the very small so just had to make do with my monopod and just wait for the clouds to clear the sun. This flower was tiny – about 3mm across!

Nope, definitely NOT holly and I wasn’t tempted to taste these berries either! I guess they must be red to attract something, birds I guess, but the garden was curiously devoid of birds.

Up to this stage I’d only taken non-moving subjects and then I noticed this insect. I just HAD to try. Hmm, mixed success. A tripod was really necessary but I’d opted out of buying one just the other day so gave the monopod a chance. It sort of worked. I did say Sort Of!

Then it was time to go. One last photo looking north-east over the surrounding countryside and the granite kopjes (pronounced koppies) that are so typical of Zimbabwe. In fact the South Africans, who like to claim all sorts of things, cannot claim to have ANY. They don’t exist south of the Limpopo river. Like the msasa trees that I love so much!