For one weekend a year, one of South Africa’s most important historic houses shares its exquisite garden with the public to raise money for charity.
Stellenberg in Kenilworth, Cape Town has remained largely unaltered since it was built in the 18th century in the gabled, white-walled Cape Dutch tradition. Its garden, however, has evolved remarkably under the astute stewardship of Sandy Ovenstone, who has divided the property into a series of intimate garden rooms.
With the Cape still in recovery from a critical drought last year, I was eager to see how this treasure trove had evolved. I joined dozens of visitors passing through the ornate wrought iron gates, into a serene world magically removed from the hustle and bustle of surrounding suburbia.
Old favourites such as the White Garden were as marvellous as ever, the border planted up with cream and white annuals, perennials and shrubs. Water, scent and colour were key to the Paradise Garden. The focus in recent years has been on the boundary areas and now bridges, ponds, marshland and lush indigenous forest plants are a delight. Low hedges remain a constant design element
Vegetable and herb gardens always appeal as function marries form. The Stellenberg vegetable garden channels a monastic medieval garden with a central water feature, while the fragrant herb garden is marked by gravel paths in the shape of a St Andrew’s x-shaped cross.
Six wood and metal sculptures and carvings bring a third dimension: Guy du Toit’s humorous dancing hare in the upper stream garden brings a smile to your face, while Wim Botha’s more menacing outspread wings in the stream garden evoke a mythical narrative. A magnificent wooden owl by James Doran-Webb represents a silent, strong presence in the upper forest walkway.
This annual treat not only awakens the senses, but also has a philanthropic angle – in this case, donations supported the St Joseph’s Home for chronically ill children.
Do mark November 2019 in your calendar for the 28th consecutive annual open weekend. Until then, the nursery is open Monday to Friday 08h30-16h30.