23 May, 2011

Berghoff proteas to Chelsea

If you were in London. At the Chelsea Flower Show and the Kirstenbosch exhibit. You could see our renosterbos, and the halfmens on the Richtersveld side. ‘The Pachypodium namaquamum on loan, will be returned to the Karoo Desert National Botanical garden, after the show’.  Looking at the fynbos side, those proteas were growing on our mountain when we went up on the 12th of May.

Berghoff protea farm

Berghoff farm school, with the distant road winding up to the Wilderness Area

Between Dasklip Pass and the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area are farms. Once were fruit, but now they have swung over to fynbos. From picked in the wild, to plantations of new cultivars.

Protea bushes planted on the mountain

Protea plantation

Planted proteas with distant Leucadendron blazing 

Proteas get their name from the god, who was able to change shape. There are the well known flowers – King proteas. Leucospermum pincushions. Lime green or burgundy Leucadendron ...  And many more.

I found fire photos taken on Berghoff protea farm. First lightning struck – we travelled thru that all the way from Swellendam, fire by fire. Then the second fire on the pass, was due to Eskom power lines shorting. There, you can also see the devastation left by pine plantations, which blaze like torches. And the fruit orchard next to it, still green, despite the fire.

Alien trees felled, and chipped

I went down to show you how the individual flowers are packed in plastic mesh bags. Florists and their customers, require flowers that are perfect, unmarked by nature. Curiously plastic and artificial to look at. Years ago, to protect the flowers from birds – a tall stick painted yellow was placed in each protea bush. Coated with bird poison, it killed the sugarbirds. We have, thankfully, moved on.

Would you like a bag with that?

This protea farm is sustainable, but I have to remind myself, that doesn’t equal organic. We did see them spraying. I suppose to prevent beetles chewing on the merchandise and making it unsaleable.

Protea flowers bagged, for Chelsea et al.

Cameras are dangerous. I stepped back to frame a wider view. And went down, bravely defending the camera. Skinned my elbow and still have the technicoloured fist of Berghoff emblazoned on my hip. 

before the fall ...

Berghoff is a New South African good news story. Mountain Dew­­ is the associated black empowerment protea farm. – ‘Two Western Cape workers from the cut flower industry’ - will be accompanying the flowers to Chelsea. ‘Edwin Gouws is a trustee of the Mountain Dew empowerment farm, and Dorah Siduka is a production supervisor at Fynsa, a flower packing shed’. Fynsa supplies our Pick n Pay and England’s Marks & Spencer. ‘United Nations Development Programme last year found that full-time employment has doubled under the sustainable harvesting programme, and payments to flower pickers increased six-fold’.


Our third stop will be the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area.

Pictures by Diana and Jurg
words by Diana of Elephant's Eye
- wildlife gardening in Porterville,
near Cape Town in South Africa

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  1. Dear Diana,
    what a pleasure to see things through your eyes that I never thought of. But of course, Proteas have to grow somewhere.
    But bird poison really does sound hideous...

    Have a nice day

  2. Interesting article, but you go in mind, not worth hurt to post on the blog. I'm not revolutionary days ago, more and more conservative about things of nature. Goodbye.

  3. Diana, it is always so interesting to read your posts.

  4. People of imperfect lives demand perfection in ephermeral objects which they buy. On the other hand, they demand 'organic' foods without thought as to what that really means.

    Mama used to carefully cut out the damaged parts of our pesticide-free peaches, saying, "He's a clean little worm who has never been anywhere but in this peach."

  5. The proteas wrapped in bags look bizarre!
    Absolutely lovely to see another part of the world. My parents used to live in S.A., your blog helps to bring it to life for me.
    Jane x

  6. I have never even heard about Berghoff. What a wonderful undertaking. I suppose the spraying and capping have something to do with the trip to Chelsea, getting the flowers there in absolutely peak condition!

  7. We should have an award to give you, for injuries sustained in the line of blogging--some sort of badge you could display on the side bar. :/ It sounds like your region of S. Africa is beginning to become aware of its own marketability and turning more to its own resources like the protea. Is that being a mixed blessing?

  8. Nell Jean - I agree with your mama, I'd rather trim around a worm I can see, and compost him. Than pretend I can wash off the invisible layer of poison.

    Stacy - The Western Cape has long been into tourism. But sustainability and biodiversity are newer buzz words. We have 'Farming for the Future' labels on fruit and veg from Woolies. Surely a thousand times better than fracking and mining.

  9. I shall never look at a Protea again without remembering the effort that has gone into growing them and keeping the other protea lovers at bay. Thanks for all the info Diana and risking your neck too. Phew camera is intact!

  10. Your photos of the protea farm are wonderful! Sorry about the fall, and I am glad you and camera are OK, if skinned a bit. I appreciate your efforts! I was unfamiliar with proteas and had to look them up to see what they looked like! It must be a lot of work to put all those little bags over the flowers.

  11. We have quite a number of protea farms in the Kouga and Tsitsikamma west of us, some of them quite big. As far as I know there is only one that does tours in the Tsitsikamma (there could be more) and specially the international tourists love seeing how they are grown, cut and packaged for shipment overseas.

  12. In the past I used protea to create abstract and avant garde floral designs, but as exotic and wonderful as they are, I've turned to using what can be grown in my region, as much as possible. I learned some new things about protea today. Thanks for sharing.

  13. And today it was heartening to see that our Chelsea exhibit won a gold medal!

  14. What we do for our blogs....I love learning so much from you and I had never seen flowers bagged before...too bad about the poison...

  15. This was an interesting tour, for us and you. Too bad about your fall an good thing on protecting the camera. When I was in Costa Rica I went to all the flower production farms. What a sight to see flowers all the way up the side of the mountains. No bags on them as they were destined to greatness, bot the protea still looks pretty nice en mass.

  16. Such lovely scenery!

  17. Dear Diana, Interesting post, glad you managed to save the camera, and also that you managed to avoid serious injury. I guess the farms couldn't survive if customers didn't demand perfect proteas. The Mountain Dew story is inspiring. cheers, catmint

  18. I saw the exhibit at Chelsea yesterday - it was very impressive! Fascinating to see so many plants unfamiliar to me, and from a very different landscape. The gold medal it was awarded was well deserved.


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Photographs are from Diana Studer or Jurg Studer.
My Canon PowerShot A490

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