|HORTICULTURIST supreme Keith Kirsten thinks that Joburgers have embraced the essence of the new South Africa better than anywhere else in the country.|
By that he means that Joburgers integrate and enjoy one another's company. In the city you'll find "an eclectic mix of people". And the reason for this is that Joburgers are "very real people with no falseness".
"Sure," he says, "you'll get the odd snobs in the city, but with Joburgers you know exactly where you stand, they're down to earth." Not like Capetonians, who are snobs, he adds.
Most people will know the irrepressible Kirsten from his TV and radio gardening programmes, and for his chain of nurseries and garden centres. He has used his nurseries to promote indigenous species and develop water-conserving plants suited to the highveld climate.
He's also written numerous garden books, with six new titles in the past two years.
Kirsten, born in Durban 53 years ago but in Jozi for the past 25 years, realised after doing a horticulture diploma at Pretoria Technikon in the late 1960s, that the cooler highveld could support a wide variety of plant life. He knew then that he wanted to settle in Joburg and take up this challenge. He's still here, and has become one of the country's most popular horticulturists.
He sold his gardening centres in 2001 and these days channels his enormous energy through Keith Kirsten Horticultural International, a plant supply, marketing and landscaping consultancy that came into being in 1999. He enjoys the work enormously, but who wouldn't when you're discovering, selecting and developing exciting new plants, while also licensing and marketing on behalf of plant growers and breeders, both locally and internationally.
He describes how he has just brought back from Australia a new colour in a local indigenous species that was taken to that country some time back.
Kirsten is patron of many societies and campaigns. He created an award in 1997, The Keith Kirsten Greening Award, to encourage tree planting and greening. Kirsten has a rose named after him: The Keith Kirsten, an orange-red floribunda.
He is to help develop the Johannesburg Zoo into a world-class showcase for African flora and fauna.
You'll be able to catch his TV shows again. He's busy right now filming the fourth series in his "Down 2 Earth" show, to be shown on SABC2 from 24 January.
Kirsten can't stop enthusing about Joburg. He loves the temperate weather and the sunsets, which are "the best in the world". He loves the cloud formations, the lovely burgundy/amber evening skies. Cape Town and Durban just can't compare, with the mother city's constant windiness, and Durban's tropical mugginess.
That weather and its diverse plant life is "invigorating and uplifting", here everything grows - oaks, Chinese maples, ferns, hibiscus.
And, (he takes a breath), Joburg is the world's most treed city with six million trees lining the streets and filling the city's parks.
Joburg is convenient - it's 30 minutes from the airport and 30 minutes from the Cradle of Humankind at Sterkfontein. It compares well with facilities worldwide. "The Everard Read Gallery is head and shoulders with the rest of the world."
He takes another breath . . . and is then called away for the next shoot.