PMB — city of gardens

2010-08-21 00:00

IT was interesting to read in The Witness this week about Pietermaritzburg being the City of Choice. PMB was most certainly a city of choice and a city of flowers in the seventies in relation to competition gardens, flower shows and open gardens. These were followed by the demonstration garden.

Earlier in Pietermaritzburg , an active horticultural society with two big shows each year in the city hall flourished; regrettably as the decades went by and the ways of families and society changed, it became defunct; this was sad.

As the big shows declined, a committee was formed that encouraged gardeners to enter an annual spring garden competition. For a while this was well supported with sections for small and large gardens and for schools and factory gardens.

Unfortunately, and with economics causing a squeeze, these competition gardens fell away. But fortunately for the city, there were some very determined and energetic residents who would not allow all to be lost.

In the late seventies Mark Shute, general manager of the Royal Show, proposed that a spring garden show be held at the showgrounds.

A group of volunteers got together and with Shute as leader with his great push and determination, and with the then Natal Witness coming on board as anchor, the first Garden Show was held on September 30, 1977, with 11 nurseries showing their wares and several commercial firms, all related to gardening, also exhibiting. In conjunction with this show, the first Open Gardens were available to the public. This was a result of the late Lorraine­ Kettley’s vision of Open Gardens being less formidable than garden competitions.

As Maritzburg knows, the big Spring Garden Show is still going extremely well, and Open Gardens in the city and suburbs are seen each year by hundreds of visitors.

Both these ventures brought gardeners and other enthusiasts from all over South Africa­, and the city’s once efficient bus service laid on transport to take visitors to Open Gardens with a courier accompanying them through the gardens.

Over the years the garden show kept growing bigger and better with more exhibitors and many exhibition gardens being professionally and expertly laid out. Soon the judges were awarding certificates of merit to outstanding exhibits and this is still the practice.

The next unique Pietermaritzburg garden happening was the opening in 1988 of the Demonstration Garden in the Alexandra Park. This venue has closed, but a quarterly meeting is still held at the Botanical­ Society.

So indeed with the vision of Pietermartizburg again becoming a proud City of Choice there is ready-made support in the gardening world.

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