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A Tree is Planted
“In his cabin the ship’s Master was talking to a spare man with blue eyes, set in a serious face, who had come aboard. They were discussing the cargo of timber the ship had brought from beyond the Indian Ocean, but every now and then the visitor glanced away at a tiny tree growing in a pot on a shelf. It was about six inches high and the shape of a childs Noah’s Ark tree.  When the business was finished, the visitor, whose name was Ralph Henry Arderne, pointed to the tree and said, “would you tell me where that tree comes from?”
“It is a Norfolk Island Pine from Australasia.” the Captain replied. “I am taking it home to plant in my garden.”“Would you be willing to sell it to me?” Arderne asked. “I have recently bought a property, and am hoping to lay out a garden with trees and plants from as many parts of the world as I can, and I know the Norfolk Island Pine is a very handsome tree.”

“Well,” said the Captain at a venture, “I’ll take five pounds for it.”

That was a very large sum in 1847, but Arderne was so anxious to have it that he paid it without argument. … Arderne was not yet living on his new property, which had been part of the old Stellenberg estate; he was still busy clearing the ground and he was living in a house just opposite. … He had already planned the grounds and now he selected a spot that would be about half way between the site he had chosen for the house and the road from Cape Town to Wynberg, and more or less in the main part of the garden. … All through its life [the tree] was carefully nurtured, watched and measured, and it repaid this loving care by growing to a great height of over 140 feet, towering above all the trees around it ; it was said to have outgrown any other tree of its kind outside its native home.”

The Arderne Gardens, with its shady glades, romatic nooks, and Japanese-style ponds has, for generations, been a place for Capetonians to bring their children, take much cherished wedding photographs, and relax away from the increasing hubbub of city life.  The garden, thanks to the extraordinary interest and commitment of its founders, also has one of the most diverse and valuable collections of exotic trees in all of South Africa.  It now officially includes one of the largest trees in South Africa, the vast Moreton Bay Fig (or, Wedding Tree, as it is commonly called) and quite possibly the largest Aleppo Pine in the world.  These trees, along with four others, were proudly designated Champion Trees in 2008.

 

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