The Bedford Garden Festival has developed from a purely local affair into what is perhaps South Africa's premier open gardens event as well as attracting gardening enthusiasts from overseas.
The British settler heritage in and around Bedford perhaps made it inevitable that there would be a great interest in gardening. If one also takes into account that the village, in the shadow of Kagaberg, enjoys a micro-climate of its own and the lushness of the Kowie River valley, the interest becomes even more understandable.
Not that gardening was only pursued where the going was easier. Beautiful gardens developed both in the surrounding mountains and on the plain south of the village.
A competitive spirit naturally began to enter the equation which led to that extra effort being made that turned nice gardens into stunning gardens. The Garden Festival then began as a local event to enable the inhabitants to admire each other's creations and, as word of the festival spread, so popular interest snowballed and its fame spread.
The variety of gardens is fascinating; from formal gardens, to indigenous gardens, huge gardens on farms to tiny gardens in the township, gardens with Old English roses and at least one garden built on rock where the soil was obtained from anthills in the veld and carted in to the farm. There are gardens to suit all tastes in and around Bedford.
To-day the festival is a whole week-end affair with many side activities besides viewing gardens. There is a craft market, a scarecrow competition which always amuses visitors, gardening workshops, plant sales, a variety of places to eat and other side activities such as organised birding tours.
This year the fesitival will take place between 28 and 30 October and, with a cold and wet winter being the ideal preparation, promises to be a great one. For detailed information please visit the festival's website.