Aloe gardens adorn the landscape, embellishing the magical scenery around the Londolozi Camps. You’ll see them as you arrive in the Founders Carpark, walk along the path to Pioneer Camp, visit the Londolozi Living Boutique Shop, or stroll around Varty Camp and the four Rondavels. You might even see them when you amble along Freedom’s Way surrounded by numerous aloes during the Village walk.
Although remaining fairly inconspicuous for most of the year, the extraordinary winter bloom of tall candle-like inflorescence adds an unexpectedly simple flush of colour, beautifying the entire camp.
But Why Aloes?
I needed more than a story or two from Dave and Shan Varty in order to answer this, I had to go back to the very beginning…
And when I say beginning, I am meaning the very beginning. To the days when all that existed was the four rondavels that the Varty Family would visit, then Sparta Farm, every winter. A few aloes had been planted around the camp and would often be in full bloom when the family would visit. Maidie Varty, Dave and John’s mother, being the matriarch of the family would often keep a comprehensive record of every visit. Within this memoir, she would always include a comment on the general condition of the bushveld which would always allude to how stunning the flowering aloes were.
From these annual reports, we can quite clearly see that Maidie had a deep affinity for aloes. Some stories go that Maidie would spend hours dirtying her fingers and tending to the gardens of aloes, to the point where the planting of more aloes almost became an annual tradition. She continued to search for different types of aloes to plant, that would survive the harsh conditions in the Lowveld. The heat of summer causes many flowers to perish, while the cold and frosty winters would likely wipe out any of the survivors from summer.
The great thing about aloes, is they are incredibly hardy and resistant to harsh weather conditions. Being succulents, they can tolerate long periods of drought, owing to reserves of water stored in the leaves and stem. The storage of fluids within their leaves, however, counts against them during very cold temperatures, such as frost. Unlikely to kill the entire plant, the fluid in their succulent leaves would freeze and then cause the leaves to rot. Without needing too much care aloes were the perfect way to create gardens that look good in summer and stunning in winter.
It is hard to know for sure but it is not completely out of the question that Maidie knew of the treasured medicinal properties of the aloe plants, also often known as Aloe vera. In a nutshell, aloe vera is a medicinal plant that’s been used to treat various health conditions for thousands of years. A few ways to use it are to:
- Heal burns; due to its soothing, moisturising, and cooling properties, it can be beneficial for burn wound healing.
- Aloe vera is known for its antibacterial, antiviral, and antiseptic properties. This is part of why it may help heal wounds and treat skin problems.
- Can improve digestive health; consuming aloe vera can help soothe and cure stomach ailments including IBS and reduce the chances of stomach ulcers. This applies to aloe vera only, other aloe plants should not be consumed.
- Clears Acne; using fresh aloe on your face may help clear up acne, and reduce facial inflammation.
- There is some preliminary evidence to suggest that topical aloe vera gel can slow the ageing of the skin.
Probably something that did not even cross Maidie’s mind, but aloe plants are phenomenal at absorbing CO2 from the environment and storing it, essentially helping clean the air around us and reduce global warming. With Londolozi’s mentality of trying to do everything we possibly can to reduce our impact and strain on the planet, Planting a few extra aloes isn’t going to do any harm.
With this in mind and as a result of Maidie’s toils in the early days, we now have an extensive network of aloe gardens that can be found throughout the entire camp. Every year we make a concerted effort to plant more aloes and continue to add to her legacy in one small way. On any occasion that calls for us to gather and do something together such as a celebration of Mandela Day, on 18th July to we all get our hands a little dirty and plant a few more aloes.
Now today as we wander around the camps and through the village we are surrounded by a spectacular array of aloe gardens that burst with colour every winter attracting a hive of activity and life for us to marvel at.