Ina Engelbrecht’s Arboretum – not the conventional garden, but a passionate tribute to the trees of the Southern Cape. Below an article by Ena McIntyre, Veld & Flora, June 2011 Volume 97 (2)
Jewels of the Garden Route, A Passion for Trees
Ina purchased the property in 2000 and in 2001 acquired the adjacent erf. The conventional garden around the house, inherited from the precious owners, is maintained by a gardening service and Ina recalls with a smile their difficulty in accepting the fact that flowers are not required and only some weeds are weeds. The indigenous Arboretum stretches below the transition between the two sections softened by natural grasses and shrubs which has the magical effect of suddenly finding oneself in a very special forest.
Relocating to Knysna in 2003, Ina found the new erf badly infested with alien vegetation – wattle, Lantana and Pereskia dominating. Weeks of clearing was followed by succession of both alien wees and indigenous pioneer species, the latter reinforcing her resolve to create her own little forest on the lower portion of the land. Trevor Blamire, provided her with the right opening to the fascinating world of local indigenous trees. Trevor supplied and planted Ina’s first trees in January 2004. Ina was taught soil preparation techniques and the concept of planting close together to promote rapid formation of closed canopy, which is protected by the Forestry Act. Purist when it comes to Southern Cape trees Trevor refused to plant the Harpephyllum caffrum and Doyvalis caffra (bought in ignorance to use as a buffer along the boundary) as well as the Podocarpus henkellii – a gift in a pot. This episode led to Ina discovering J. Von Breitenbach’s Southern Cape Tree Guide (1985) and by the end of 2007 Ina had acquired 99 of the 115 tree species in the book found from George eastward. For the next two years the drought played havoc, and her count was down to 94 trees. Finding the less common trees has been challenging, but with the help of keen nurserymen, ‘tree’ friends and the good rains between June and August 2010, Ina’s collection swelled to 103 thriving specimens (210 planted in total). Natural forest regeneration includes Pittosporum viridiflorum, Vepris sp., Ochna serrulata, Burchellia bubalina and forest margin shrubbery.
Maintaining the Arboretum is a labour of love for Ina and Lindile Ncedani who has been Ina’s right hand since its inception. The scourge of alien invasive vegetation is a fact of life that receives constant attention. To help remember names for visitor’s convenience, trees and shrubs are labelled.
Mimicking nature and maintaining the natural forest look while keeping a mix of dry and wet forest trees happy, calls for nothing short of devotion. Ina and Lindile have acquired an impressive store of skills and knowledge – generously shared with those interested.
Magnificently rich in variety, with an inviting and soothing ambiance, Ina’s Arboretum has broad appeal among newcomers to the area, garden clubs, tree and forest enthusiasts, specialists and novices alike. A truly significant Jewel of the Garden Route and a meaningful tribute to the Year of Forests.
Photographs by Esther Townsend