Skip to main content

South African flower display splashes Eden’s great outdoors with vibrant winter colour

Unexpected pockets of colourful South African flowers are delighting visitors to the Eden Project’s outdoor gardens thanks to the mild winter weather.


South African Veld garden at Eden


The 800 square metre South African Veld garden was laid out in the spring of last year (2020) with many of that country’s botanical wonders.

Horticulturists at the project have been amazed at the abundance of flowers now on show and say that a lack of very cold temperatures and hard frosts so far this winter has caused the spectacular blooming.

The new garden, which sits on a slope outside the Rainforest Biome, is inspired by the Veld, a wide range of habitats in South Africa from the mountains to the coast.  

Among the stars of the show close to the Biome is a bed of honey euryops, shrubs which grow in coastal areas of South Africa and into the mountains at heights up to around 1,200 metres. 

The shrubs are covered in masses of small, bright yellow, honey-scented daisy flowerheads and are ideal for UK gardens, blossoming from late winter to spring.

Another floral surprise is Protea aurea, also known as the long-bud sugarbush. The cream, solitary flowerheads are reminiscent of shuttlecocks. The seeds of this plant need fire to germinate and the dried flowers are able to envelop its seed for long periods of time until there is a fire, a natural phenomenon in its natural habitat.

The flowers at Eden currently stand at about 50 centimetres tall but could eventually reach a height of five metres.

In among the blooms, a stunning architectural plant is Aloe polyphylla, which grows in a perfect spiral in the high Maluti Mountains of Lesotho. Visitors to Eden are surprised to discover that this aloe is hardy down to  minus 15C as long as it has good drainage.

A near neighbour of the aloe at Eden is a charming pink, delicately-flowered Hesperantha coccinea also known as a river lily.

Another special plant in bloom now is a member of the protea family, the wine-coloured Leucadendron ‘Safari Sunset’, one of the more frost-hardy leucadendrons. Its beautiful colour comes from its leaves and bracts which surround its small flower, which will develop into a cone on the female plants.

The South African garden was designed and is tended by Florence Mansbridge, specialist horticulturist with Eden’s outdoor team, who is drawing on her experience of a study visit to the Veld funded by the Royal Horticultural Society and Cornwall Garden Society.

Florence said: “We’ve been unexpectedly delighted by the number of South African plants that are blooming outdoors in what is a very young garden display. 

“Very cold weather would have nipped off their buds but because it has been relatively warm we are seeing a spectacular show as we head towards midwinter.”

The area is part of what Eden calls the Wild Edge, where people entering through the Visitor Centre take a left turn and walk through gardens within the outdoor garden, including the Korea exhibit, rugged Wild Cornwall, the Outdoor Mediterranean area, North American Prairie and then on to South Africa.