A celebration of mothers who passed on their knowledge and passion and inspired a new generation of gardeners with recipes for a successful green space
More than 40 countries will celebrate the legacy of mothers on Mother’s Day tomorrow. For many, our love of gardening and the environment was passed down by our mothers and grandmothers.
My mum, Corinna Cox, is a great gardener, and mygrandmother, Bobby Calder, was a pioneering gardener. In the late 1940s, she developed a method for making liquid fertiliser for her indoor and patio pot plants. She raked out her duck enclosure and placed all the droppings and straw into a net above a large drum. Before the droppings were taken to the compost dump, water was poured through into the drum. All the pot plants were watered each week with this water. In tribute to great gardening mothers, we caught up with some personalities in the industry to learn more about the lessons they learnt from their moms.
Bongani Mnisi, the City of Cape Town’s head of nature conservation and deputy chairperson of the Botanical Society of South Africa, says his 65-year-old mom, Buzani, a retired teacher and primary school head of department, is an avid vegetable gardener. She grows a variety of veg, including cassava (Manihot esculenta), sweet potatoes, pumpkin, tindluwa (nyimo beans), corn and peanuts.
“She taught me how to identify and pick tasty green plants to flavour food (or miroho in xiTsonga) at a young age,” says Bongani. “She said as long as I knew how to do this, I would never go hungry. If it wasn’t for my mom, I would be just like those who rip plants from the ground as mere weeds. Now I pick them and prepare a delicious dish of miroho and vuswa (pap).”
“My mother was very supportive of my decision to study nature conservation”, says Chandré Rhoda, Invasive Species Programme Manager for the City of Cape Town.
“Protecting indigenous flora, removing invasive species, appreciating natural ecosystems and understanding the value of water are important lessons for mothers to pass on to their children”, says Chandré. “We are privileged to live in the Cape Floristic Region”, she adds. “My daughter, Kendall must be exposed to the wonder of nature”.
Louise van Rheede van Oudtshoorn
International landscape designer Leon Kluge says his mom, Louise van Rheede van Oudtshoorn, owner of the Klugro Nursery outside Mbombela in Mpumalanga, is goaldriven and hard-working, but always up for adventure with loved ones. “The most important skill my mom taught me was patience,” says Leon.
“There is no better way to learn to be patient and avoid rushing than growing plants from seed, then waiting for them to make their appearance, nurturing them, planting them out and selling them in the nursery. This all took what seemed like an age for a child, but it taught me care and patience always pay off in the end.”
Horticulturist and author Jenny Simpson says her late mom, Geraldine Clifton, was a kind and gentle person with a good sense of humour. “She was passionate about her veggie garden and her fruit trees, especially her mini citrus orchard. She had a ‘cure all’ fertilisation programme for her beloved citrus trees, a recipe which I have used to great affect for 30-odd years.”
The recipe is as follows: 900g 2.3.2 fertiliser; 900g magnesium sulphate (epsom salts); 450g urea; 450g potassium sulphate; one tablespoon manganese sulphate; one tablespoon zinc oxide. Apply once a year in spring.
Jessie Walton, owner of Keurbos Nursery in Elgin, says her own love for plants and gardening was fired by both her mother and grandmother. At the age of 94, Gwen Fagan, a medical doctor and honorary architect, still fills her day with numerous tasks executed with energy.
She is the author of five books, including the internationally acclaimed Roses of the Cape of Good Hope. “My mother shared her passion for plants with her four children, teaching us about our environment from a very young age,” says Jessie.
“When I had the opportunity to create my own garden, I had no landscaping experience, but one bit of advice from my mother became my mantra in creating my, and later other peoples’ gardens: wherever you stand in a garden, there should always be a ‘view’ to a next ‘room’. There should always be a path that leads to places unseen to pique curiosity. It is a recipe that, when you look at great gardens, has been consciously or unconsciously applied.”
At 89, Barbara Mennigke, still enjoys her lifelong passion for gardening. Her son, Arthur Mennigke, known as The Naked Gardener, says has far back as he can remember, his mother was always in her garden.
In the early 1980s, Barbara and her husband started a conifer nursery. With a large food garden on the farm, Arthur often found himself carting crops to school to sell. Arthur’s own love for plants stemmed from the passion he saw in his mother as she tended garden.
“She taught us to pay attention to plants. Doing this, you pick up problems quickly and you can rectify them,” says Arthur. “She also taught perseverance. Not only in the garden or when a particular plant isn’t doing as well as you’d like, but in life too. My mother has tremendous tenacity.”