The warm, north-facing slopes of Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden are home to a spectacular display of aloes during winter.

My Eastern Cape birthplace has given me many things to love, and one of them is a great appreciation of aloes, the spiky, flaming plants that brighten winter landscapes. During the week of the winter solstice, I spent an early Sunday morning wandering through the Mathews Rockery, which was ablaze with aloes and succulents.

I’d always thought these plants had grown here naturally, but discovered on one of the helpful visitor boards that the first curator, Joseph William Mathews, created it from scratch. “Every rock was brought here by sledge and mules, and manoeuvred into place by hand,” I read.

Initial planting took place in 1922, but the Mathews Rockery was only completed 37 years later as funding trickled in. The granitic soil and sun-catching slopes must have done the trick, because now it looks spectacular with some enormous specimens.

Whether you’re needing inspiration for your water-conscious garden, are a twitcher seeking out nectar-eating birds, or just need a colour infusion on a bleak day, this bright spot is well worth a visit.

Kirstenbosch is open every day from 08h00 to 18h00 during winter (April to August) and entrance is R65 for an adult. Find out more on the website:

Sources: Kirstenbosch. Images Judy Bryant, including pic of info noticeboard.