Steam rises from the damp soil as the nurseryman hoses down the careful rows of potted plants. At 10am the heat is already intense and I keep close to the shade of the walls as we descend the steps to the coffee shop. Ahead the sound of a fountain and the welcoming arms of a spreading acacia tree. This is the Four Seasons garden centre in Lilongwe , and we’ve missed breakfast, so two vanilla milkshakes are quickly ordered.
There are several small gift and clothes shops, readying themselves for the day, as well as a restaurant or two.
But of course it’s the plants I want to see – lots of exotic looking ones, which I remember from my days of living in South Africa, as well as the familiar roses, which grow very well here, and a fine assortment of terracotta pots. It seems very like a garden centre I might see back home, regimented rows of foliage plants and appealing blocks of flowering ones, geraniums, nemesia and marigolds for “instant colour”.
Of course, I love the strelitzias and the striking heliconias – if I was living in Lilongwe I’d go for lots of these flowers and exotic foliage … and yet, I remember how much I longed to grow lupins when I was living in Johannesburg.
The lush foliage of the landscaped gardens surround the coffee shop. Last time I was here, we relaxed to the Chameleon Bar’s Sunday lunchtime jazz session in these lovely grounds.
The sound of water is always welcome in a hot climate, as is a shady bench, especially one as nostalgic as this one.
A last morning in Malawi. So it was back to the coffee shop and the milkshakes, and a fond farewell to my son who remains in Africa. We walked around the fountain once more before the reluctant journey to the airport.