Drive through the villages of the Cape Winelands during autumn and you are bound to spot gardens brimming with head high chrysanthemums. It is a beautiful sight and one that inhabitants have been enjoying for over 100 years.

The so-called “coloured” communities of the Edwardian era organised themselves into Horticultural Societies to promote culture, excellence and family life in their various communities. Chrysanthemums are not indigenous, and require expert care, but they do fare well in the cold winters and warm summers of the Cape Winelands region.

Today, the annual Chrysanthemum Show is still held in Pniel (between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek); Stellenbosch, Worcestor, Ceres and Wellington.

The Wellington Horticultural Society was founded in 1916 and held their first show in the village hall the following year. The committee was made up of respected gentlemen in the community, and today their families are still well represented on the committee and at the show.

These days Anthony Cavernelis is the chairman. Cavernelis, who is also the head master of the local high school, developed his love of horticulture from his father and grandfather, both regular prize winners over the years.

Early on the women joined in too and a Home Craft category, including baked goods and needlework, as well as a flower arranging, was introduced.

A few years ago the committee decided to reach out to the local farmworkers to boost Society membership. But also, living and working on farms gave them a natural head start when cultivating plants.

The Wellington Show is held every year on the second Saturday of the month. Growers take great care and enter several categories, the winners taking home gleaming trophies and renewed enthusiasm for the following year.

Mother’s Day usually falls on the Sunday following the competition so the mothers of Wellington are guaranteed to be treated with bouquets of prize winning chrysanthemums.

This is something that really brings the community together and we hope to build on that in the future,” says Cavernelis.

Johannes Thomas, a general worker on Bosman Family Vineyards, joined the Wellington Horticultural Society three years ago. He has an allotment on the mountainside above his house and there he built his own greenhouse and started cultivating chrysanthemums. The Society members gave him cuttings to start off with and loads of advice.

These are not indigenous flowers and so require great effort to nurture the plant into producing huge, colourful blooms. But every weekend, Johannes can be seen tending his flowers as well as the vegetables he also grows and shares with his neighbours: strawberries, chillies, green peppers, beans, onions, potatoes and even corn stand proud on his little patch.

This year Thomas was awarded a Certificate of Participation at the show, but he said he learnt a lot and is determined to win an award next year. “I must just fix up my greenhouse to protect the flowers from the sun, and then I need to feed them so that they can get tall.”

After the competition Thomas donated all his flowers to the Mothers’ Day church service and function afterwards that the Women’s Club organised for the mothers on the farm.

- Julia Moore