Soaring, sparkling fountains, soft emerald green grass, sun-kissed roses, tall shady trees – the Rose Garden invites you to drink it in, and then to lie on your back and watch the drifting cheerful clouds through the rippling leaves and blossoms. The sound of birds, the chuckling water, and a whisper of hope in the gentle breeze.
Getting away from it all does not mean that you have to leave the city. If you know of them, there are a number of places to which to go to find space, quietness and beauty. Tucked away from the every day, for most people, are the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens and the Emmarentia Dam.
They cover over 100 hectares and, as you explore them, seem to go on forever. They are very well laid out and, from the secure parking, paved paths and signposts lead on to a number of different destinations.
If you have to, you can choose between the extensive Rose Garden, the Succulent Garden, the Herb Garden, the Shakespeare Garden, the Floreum and the Dam. There are sweeping lawns, groves and avenues of trees, and some great, wide open spaces. You can rest or walk to your heart’s content – or just sit and watch the shifting waters and birds. Near the Dam you might be investigated hopefully, by a file of ducks. They come, they go…. back towards the geese, dabchicks, moorhens and other water birds.
In 1886 Frans and Louw Geldenhuys established the farm Braamfontein. After the South African War Louw arranged for the dam to be constructed, and named it Emmarentia in honour of his wife. It is a favourite spot, especially over the weekends, for those who enjoy sailing and canoeing. The gardens were created in 1968, and signs of extensions and new plantings are encouraging.
Families, groups of friends, and couples can be found wandering along, or sharing their picnic baskets under the trees, whilst others stride out, or jog, along the pathways. Children have space in which to run, play, fly a kite and, even shout. The Gardens absorb it all.
We have enjoyed a Sunday picnic in the Rose Garden, and I recently paid the Gardens and Dam a visit on a Monday, and appreciated the quietness, with only the occasional person in the distance – and the ever hopeful ducks.
Apart from the Rose Garden and the banks of the dam, which are gloriously green, the lawns are waiting for a good rain, Signs of green are beginning to appear, and the later trees are sprouting new Spring coverings. It won’t be long before the whole area is a festival of green.
Your spirit needs space to breathe, and gaze on beauty – feed it