Limpopo Tourist AttractionsCheerio Gardens
Where? Off the R71 L4.2 Cheerio Gardens, Magoebaskloof / Haenertsburg, Limpopo
How? Call +27 (0)83 355-0835
The azaleas of Cheerio Gardens, when in bloom, remind one of Chinese cherry blossoms in spring, only even more beautiful.
Cheerio Valley, a 100 hectare forest, lies in the Magoebaskloof. Within the forest lie the world-famous Cheerio Gardens. And it is not azalea blooms alone that set the gardens on fire during spring. Cherry and crab apple trees too adorn the countryside in rich, exotic colour.
The gardens include at their heart a sequence of dams, their banks lined with huge African tree ferns and quintessentially English garden features, like elms, pin oaks and crab apple trees. In spring the hydrangeas, camellias, irises and floxgloves are at their peak, and the array of colour is a rash of pinks, mauves, orange and scarlet.
Which is why Cheerio Gardens are the focal point of the Haenertsburg Spring Fair.
These thoroughly exotic gardens, and surrounding forest, attract a wealth of birds, and a gentle stroll along the paths of the gardens will lead to sightings of green twinspot, Baratt's warbler, white-starred robin and lemon dove.
In the forest itself you can spot the Narina trogon, whilst the little dams are alive with half-collared kingfisher, ducks, herons and Cape clawless otter.
You won't want to leave so head to the tea garden, which serves light meals, or take along your own picnic.
Interestingly: the original cherry trees were sent to the now owner's great aunt Sheila (Box) Thompson in the 1950s by the Emperor of Japan's physician.
The tale is a fascinating one of an unconventional plant lover who created the garden from scratch, nursing the soil that had served to grow mealies, back to health organically. Sheila Thompson's wild garden grew without plan as she sourced cuttings.
The thrust of her work, though, was to share South Africa's rich plant life with the rest of the world. Her articles in botany magazines came to the attention of the Japanese Emperor's physician. In return for blue-flowering indigenous plants from South Africa, he sent Sheila azalea seeds and the pips of a very special cherry.
Some of the plants came from the curator at Kew Gardens.
Today's garden is operated according to the same principles – no insecticides, no feeding or watering (the misty climate of the Magoebaskloof takes care of that).
Visit the garden's nursery and tea garden. It is also a wedding venue.