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The Gardens that Box Grew

Posted by: on Apr 30, 2014 | No Comments

Cheerio GardensWithout Sheila (Box) Thompson’s love of plants and interest in cultivating interesting species, we would probably not be celebrating spring in Magoebaskloof.

We all love and enjoy the beauty of Cheerio Gardens in spring – breathtaking azaleas in a myriad colours, Japanese flowering cherry trees covered in clouds of blossom, streams and dams, gentle walks.

Daughter of local pioneers, Box early developed an interest in rare and indigenous plants. During WWII she was posted to the SA Signal Corps and continued to collect indigenous plants wherever she was based and bring them back to plant on the family farm

At the end of the war Box started her own indigenous plant nursery and soon she was sending her plants to collectors all over the world. There was no design for the Gardens. As her plant collection grew, she and her three assistants would collect stone from a nearby rocky outcrop and build another terrace wherever suitable for the new plants.

The physician to the Emperor of China (himself a collector of rare plants) read an article Box had written for a botanical journal. He was fascinated and a correspondence started. Soon he was sending her Japanese flowering cherry tree seeds, and later, azalea cuttings She also planted a variety of maples which make her autumn gardens as stunning as the spring gardens *Given the length of time cuttings took to reach SA it is amazing that the plants actually survived their journey. Apparently the best method was to make holes in potatoes and set the seedlings into the holes!*

Several of the original trees are now enormous and still flower prolifically. Some original azalea bushes are also still flourishing on the banks of the main dam.

The Gardens are still maintained by the family. They have also created a tea garden overlooking the dam, a wedding venue and a rustic chapel. Box’s cottage can now be hired as a charming B&B. See the Cheerio Gardens website for more info.