The Garden Route Botanical Garden (GRBG) is a 19-hectare locally indigenous botanical garden situated at the base of the Outeniqua Mountains in the town of George. The garden itself focuses on conserving and displaying plants indigenous to the Southern Cape region. A wide range of plant collections are divided into several thematic display beds. Each bed acts as an educational tour, displaying the usefulness of the specific plants both to humans and to the surrounding ecosystem.

A tree identification display project is underway, with 118 trees in the garden having been labelled so far. As a result of reintroducing indigenous flora to the landscape, the GRBG functions as an important sanctuary for various animals. To date, ± 52 species of butterfly, ± 26 damselfly species, ± 10 frog species, ± 600 plant, and ± 146 bird species have been recorded and photographed within the GRBG.

The GRBG also supports:

  • other regional plant conservation efforts through plant donations, and search and rescue operations.
  • community projects,
  • and acts as an open-air laboratory and information centre used by local schools and universities​.

All these activities are managed by a limited number of staff and loyally supported by much-needed and appreciated volunteers.


1809 – The over-large Swellendam Drostdy had to be sub-divided. George was chosen because of its year round water availability.

1811 – George was declared a separate district. Adriaan Geysbertus van Kervel was appointed the first landdros (Mayor) and held the post until 1819. One of his first acts as mayor, was to dig a furrow to supply the first thirty six plots in George. An 1819 map shows the original furrows and storage dam where they remain to this day in the Garden Route Botanical Garden. The first furrow originated from the Rooirivier (Red River) and later a diversionary weir was built north of the garden at the Camphersdrift River.

1875 – A second dam (now the wetland) was added. Together, the two dams were called the D&O dams. The open furrow below the dams led into Caledon Street, and later split into an eastern fork and western fork. The eastern fork supplied Courtney and Meade Street, ending at the power plant in Albert Street. The western fork supplied Caledon Street and then divided to run down both sides of York Street.

1884 – The open furrows were replaced with underground pipes, although the water in the old furrows was still running.

1986 – The van Kervel Garden were proclaimed as a Nature Reserve by the administrator Nico Malan and managed by an advisory committee of the municipality.

1986 – A group of local residents tried to resuscitate the badly alien infested nature reserve. “The main purpose of the Nature reserve is to protect the local indigenous flora. Several Local tree species have been planted” –George Herald 1987

1995 – The Southern Cape Herbarium was founded, staffed by volunteers and Housed at the George Museum.

1996 – The Garden Route branch of BOTSOC got permission from the George Municipality to plan a Botanical Garden on the site.

1997 – The Garden Route Botanical Garden Trust is formed.

1998 – Clearing of alien vegetation and preparation of planting beds began. The pioneer Afromontane forest area on the eastern boundary was planted by volunteers of the Garden Route branch of the Botanical Society  (BOTSOC) of South Africa, the South Cape Herbarium, members of the local community and people sentenced to community service under the Department of correctional services.

1998 – October -Official Opening of the Garden Route Botanical Garden

2001 – Amalgamation of the Southern cape Herbarium with the Garden Route Botanical Garden Trust.

2002 – Audrey Moriarty buys the premises on 49 Caledon street- this becomes the Moriarty Environmental Centre. The Southern Cape Herbarium and the GRBG trust offices move to the centre.

2016 – The Garden Route Environmental Education Centre was built by Department of Environmental Affairs.