03 December, 2015

Somerset West Open Gardens for Helderberg Hospice

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

Early November we explored the gardens in Somerset West. An embarrassment of riches, by the time the gardens were closing we knew we didn't have a hope of finding the last 3. But delighted to save the best till last as we lingered in our final garden. I remember chameleons in the garden when I was a child, but they are seldom seen now. Wonderful to find a garden where they are encouraged.


Broad Oaks has the 1830 Cape Dutch manor house and a large garden carved out of the former farm. The Eucalyptus tree is 'only' 60 to 80 years old.

Delicious monster and Eucalyptus
at Broad Oaks

A very manicured garden. With a zone denial rose garden sunken against the prevailing southeaster. The pond had a surprisingly exposed slope of liner, someone got their levels confused? Deep border with dark-leaved trees among grey topiary balls.

Sunken rose garden
and pond

Two neighbouring houses. The first with an enchanting dry stone wall, perhaps the owners have roots in the Karoo.

with a Karoo dry stone wall

The second with a 'rose' garden fanned out in a wagon wheel with a generous selection of indigenous plants and a couple of focal roses in each bed. The steps which could have been hazardous (a steep drop on one side) neatly resolved with a line of big pots along the corner.

Pots on stairs
King protea

In a cluster development she made skilful use of a medium-sized garden. An oval hedge includes topiary balls. Across the two far corners deep beds. One side with seven silver birches, a small forest. Tiny alcove at the front door with a trompe l'oeil trellis and bubbling pond.

Topiary hedge
Silver birch 'forest'

Only two months ago she removed all the small stuff, severely cut back all the shrubs and trees, put in masses of plants - and opened her garden! Granpa's retreat and Granny's corner (with granny sat there knitting, I wonder how she felt about that?)

A garden two months old (with established shrubs)

By now hot, tired, and thirsty - we really enjoyed tea on this shady verandah! I was intrigued by the lipstick pink flowers near the bench. Justicia sub-tropical South American enjoys shade. Stunned by the huge trees with masses of bronze flowers. She told me it's a problem, shedding branches that crash onto the house, dripping nectar that even gets in her HAIR! Grevillea comes from Australia and is an invasive alien for us.


The chameleon's home is Casella which was a magical place. Reminding me of our glimpse of Mount Snowdon between the dark clouds from the avenue of Sir Clough Williams-Ellis garden (the designer of Portmeirion). A long narrow pool with an avenue of trees on one side of the house. Walk thru the bamboo forest (which the Ungardener would like) to another long view across a raised pond with urn, four trees at the corners, with the line of mountain beyond.

Bamboo and
avenue at Casella

Raised pond at Casella

Back to reality today as I fed our roses and fruit trees, then tromped around with watering cans to the pots and newly planted. The Ungardener is busy with the raised beds at the bottom of the garden.

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Pictures by Diana and Jurg Studer

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  1. I could happily live in any of those, but most especially Casella. What a stunning spot, I'd be forever stopping the weeding just to gaze at the view.

    1. being on a farm, Casella has lots more land to garden on!

  2. I agree with Jessica. The views (and the gardens) are incredible. And I could live with the climate, too. Thanks for sharing highlights from these beautiful South African gardens.

    1. I have all the windows open, wide. 27C in the house today.

  3. I love garden visiting and especially when a good cause is going to benefit. You saw some really beautiful gardens in stunning surroundings, what a lovely day you must have had!

  4. So wonderful to see such beautiful gardens this time of year. I love the use of the pots going down the steps. xo Laura

  5. what beautiful photos, they are treat for my winter weary eyes,,, lol,

  6. This is my first visit to your lovely blog, Diana, and the gardens are looking so beautiful.

  7. Great shot of the chameleon, lovely gardens all with different characters, love that huge gum tree.

  8. Every time when visiting you I tell myself...get out more!

    1. me too, actually. We do something maybe once a week?

  9. Love your intriguing opening, Diana: 'an embarrassment of riches.'Of course, my favorite is Casella as you draw parallels to Plas Brondanw. I've never been, but think about its blooms every day as I use my Portmeirion dishes. Now Portmeirion I have visited several times. The chameleon picture is stunning! P. x

    1. just one Portmeirion visit for me.
      And you remind me I have a honeysuckle dish waiting to be displayed somewhere.

  10. Stunning, fantastic, great! Love the picture of you. Looks very lovely!!!
    All my best and thank you again for your lovely straw stars.

  11. Wow those are beautiful and diverse...and a Chameleon how adorable. I like the garden at the white house with the stone wall and gardens at Casella...a bit more open and wild.