March 12, 2011 – Manzini, Swaziland
Exciting day three! Although us horticulture nerds on the trip have been examining plants (trees, grasses, flowers – you name it!) everywhere we go, we were all very excited about our visit today to a local botanical garden in Manzini, Swaziland. But that would have to wait until after church.
Church was in walking distance from our lodging and the place itself was a lot more pleasant than I think a lot us were expecting (it had a breeze and was cool inside!). The locals were incredibly friendly and happy to have such a large group from the states visiting them. It was especially fun to sing with them all. After the service, my professor and I chatted a bit about the plants that were surrounding the church. We were especially interested in them because the Welcome Center that we visited yesterday requested that Stan draw up a planting plan for them. As tropical plants are not Stan’s forte, he wanted to start seeing what survived well and what didn’t. Aside from some of the obvious choices, such as plumeria and bougainvillea, we found elderberry and smoke bush were doing well! So that was fun to see.
Then we walked back to the hotel, got on the bus and headed over to one of the member’s homes for a lunch they were so generously providing themselves. Some of us also walked around their yard a bit and had fun identifying (okay, in some case it was only TRYING to identify) some of their plants. One of the funny ones was actually a liriope looking plant in a container. Stan asked me if it was a Liriope or a Sedge and I knew it wasn’t a sedge, so I went with liriope. I should have known, of course, that it was neither. He’s tricksy like that. It was actually a spider plant! Without seeing the new growth that it typically has (you know, the spider bit?) and not seeing the in my grandma’s kitchen threw me off, for sure. It’s funny how plants can be more difficult to identify if they are out of context and you just don’t expect to see them where they are.
We left the families home around 3 p.m., after everyone had a chance to eat. We stopped at our lodging for about ten minutes so we all could change and then headed right off to the Summerfield Botanic Garden. Yay! When we got there, we found out that it is also an exclusive resort. And wow, what a place to vacation! The plantings were beautiful, there were many tantalizing water features, and it was all so secluded and peaceful. Although there were many plants common to Swaziland, we certainly enjoyed them as something unusual to us. There were some beautiful Agave’s, the African tulip tree was well represented, and of course, a myriad of gorgeous palms.
After walking around for a while with the horticulture students from Andrews, who were all assigned to take photos of and identify at least 30 different plants in the garden, I headed off on my own to do that I like to do best at botanic gardens. Explore on my own! Among all the cool plants, planting schemes, and hardscapes to be found, I also ran into a few interesting animals. Particularly a peacock that seemed a bit cheeky to me. At first, he bored me (which I have on video), but then when I was peacefully sitting on my own towards the end of the visit (see below) he snuck up behind me and scared me out of my wits!
So yes, about half an hour before we had to leave, I found a nice spot under some palm trees and got comfortable. I realized that even though I work in gardens, that I’m not that different from the average guest. I cherish the peace and quiet, the cool breezes, the sounds of the birds in nearby trees, and just a chance to enjoy some tranquility. Minus a few swollen bug bites (I don’t THINK there were any malaria carrying mosquito’s ;)), I made it home quiet intact and, in my humble opinion, all the better for having visited the garden.
Here are a few more photos from the garden: