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  • Lisa Martus


When Spring jumps out at you with all the exuberance of a joyful young child, you know you have to ditch the detritus of winter and put a spring in your step. Everything around you starts celebrating in a wild wave of colour and scent that makes you giddy with sensual overload. Give in... follow the fragrance of Spring. Come to Magoebaskloof for the Spring Celebrations from 22 to 25 September, breathe in the fragrance of flowering cherry and crab apple blossoms, and see the huge display of azaleas in full bloom.

Nature is putting on her party dress and she looks bloomin’ lovely, so if you are a floral fiend, you can spend your weekend roaming around some of the most spectacular gardens from Cheerio Road in Magoebaskloof to New Agatha in the mountains above Tzaneen..


The Cheerio Valley covers nearly 100 hectares of forest and includes the world-famous Cheerio Gardens with their Azaleas, Crab Apple and Cherry blossoms. This spectacle of colour and fragrance was created by the unconventional, passionate botanist Sheila (Box) Thompson who collected cuttings from her numerous travels around the province as well as from her contacts at London’s Kew Gardens and even the Emperor of Japan’s physician who, in exchange for blue-flowering indigenous plants from South Africa, sent azalea seeds and the pips of a very special cherry. The cool temperatures in Magoebaskloof were perfect for these deciduous trees and shrubs from the northern hemisphere which have continued to thrive and put on a spectacular show in autumn and spring.

All the terraces were cut out by hand, and the loving dedication she showed is obvious to all who wander along the moss-covered pathways today. Scenic dams are surrounded by huge African Tree Ferns and Pin Oaks and the well laid-out paths meander through the vibrant colours of hydrangeas, camelias, irises and foxgloves. The gardens attract a remarkable variety of birds, so you may be lucky enough to see a White-Starred Robin, Lemon Dove, Narina Trogon, Barratt’s Warbler, Orange Ground-Thrush or Green Twinspot as well as the elusive Samango monkeys or a Cape Clawless Otter. These magnificent gardens have stayed in the same family with owner, Sarah Hillary developing a delightful wedding venue and the Cheerio Café where you can sit on the water’s edge and gaze out over the floral fiesta while you enjoy your meal.

Cheerio Gardens are the focal point of Magoebaskloof’s Spring Celebrations so take a drive down Cheerio Road or Whatsapp 083 355 0835 | email The Gardens are open from 9am to 5pm. Entrance fee for visitors during Spring is R30.00 per adult and R20 for pensioners and kids.


A visit to Sequoia Garden Retreat in Spring is a truly enchanting experience. As I wander through the garden, I discover an Azalea Maze that beckons me to explore its winding pathways, adorned with vibrant pink and white blooms. Alongside the maze, Cherry Blossom Trees gracefully sway in the breeze, their delicate petals showering the ground like confetti.

Everywhere I look, Azaleas burst forth in a riot of colors, their brilliant reds, pinks, and purples creating a kaleidoscope of beauty. The Flowering Dogwood trees stand tall, their branches adorned with elegant white blossoms, while nearby, the Crab Apple trees add their own touch of charm with clusters of pale pink flowers. A canopy of Purple Wisteria cascades from an arbour, its sweet fragrance mingling with the scents of Spring. However, the true gem of the garden is the unique Weeping Cherry Tree, its graceful branches adorned with delicate pink blossoms that sway gently in the breeze, creating a serene and captivating sight. A garden visit in Spring to Sequoia Garden Retreat is a sensory delight, a symphony of colours, scents and natural wonders that linger in the heart long after leaving its enchanting embrace.

The formal gardens at Sequoia were the passion of then-owner, Jack Holloway Snr who successfully propagated some 40 Sequoia / Redwood trees from suckers in the mid-eighties and these majestic giants line the driveway to the main house. His son, Jack Holloway continued the legacy, planting azaleas, roses, rhododendrons and wisteria to add to the floral display as well as building what is now Meadow Cottage and the Monet-inspired bridge. Today, Sequoia Garden Retreat, owned by the Van Heerden family, boasts six hectares of exquisite gardens, two picturesque dams and the beautiful, private guest cottages as well as being a successful Kiwi farm.

Pre-booked garden visits and self-catered picnics at R50 pp to be confirmed by emailing or calling 072 595 3511.


‘Spring to early summer is a wonderful time to visit Kings Walden, when the agapanthus bloom and the grounds are awash with vivid colours and scents. The garden dates from the 1930s and the arrival to Kings Walden of a young bride, Elsie Dickson. Struck by the beauty of the site, Elsie designed the initial garden on three levels, ‘like a ship sailing into the Lowveld’. She ordered the mass planting of poinsettias, bougainvillea and red hot pokers for the winter months and carefully positioned shade trees for the heady subtropical summers. Many years later, on the night Elsie died, lightning struck the enormous blue gum tree at the magnificent viewpoint. It is still standing today, a symbol of Kings Walden’s romantic spirit.’

In the years that followed, the Hilton Barber family built on that legacy, creating a series of quiet paths that lead to shady groves, trickling fountains and majestic vistas. Bridget Hilton Barber is the author of the bestselling Garden of My Ancestors which is the story of the history of Kings Walden, a sad, tragic, funny and philosophical testament to the healing powers of gardening. You can spend a glorious hour wandering the garden and its azalea-filled walkways. Or order a picnic basket before you arrive and spend a magical afternoon with nothing but the sound of water and the breeze for company.

‘From the lightning tree, a series of quiet paths and walkways lead to different parts of the garden, past trickling fountains, ornamental ponds, secret gardens and various water features. You can explore white gardens filled with iceberg roses, azaleas, camellias and zebra grass. Or sit awhile in the cool sunken garden, which has a small pool surrounded by giant tree ferns and lilies. There is a formal Italian-style rose garden, with trellises and columns, whitewashed statues and mirrors, where the resident monkeys like to preen themselves and, at the heart of Kings Walden Garden is an ornamental lake, or 'place of spirits'.

The new owners and managers, Hannes and Marike Bezuidenhout are expanding the herb and vegetable gardens, the produce of which is being used in Kings Walden’s restaurant. Under the direction of Chef Laaika Moosa, her ‘farm to plate’ inspired cooking is a wonderful way to enjoy the region’s produce while the restaurant verandah offers the best views of the property and that iconic lightning tree. Look out for lunch and dinner specials over the course of Spring. And don’t leave without touching the giant concrete sphinxes at the end of the garden, said to bring good luck to all who visit!

Visit the magnificent gardens at Kings Walden Garden Manor, in Agatha near Tzaneen. To avoid disappointment, reserve a table in advance for lunch (12-3pm) or dinner (6-8.30pm). Picnic baskets on order: 015 307 3262 |

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