by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa
I bribed the Ungardener to visit an open garden, with the promise of tea and cake. Stellenberg dates back to 1700 and Simon van der Stel. Today a huge estate set among the leafy suburbs and stately homes of Cape Town. The Ovenstone family has lived, and gardened here, since 1953.
|Tea at Stellenberg Garden
for the Lalela Project
February 2015 was for the Lalela Project which 'provides educational arts to youth affected by extreme poverty, sparking creative thinking and awakening the entrepreneurial spirit'. Manning the ticket tables and serving tea were young people from Lalela. I'd like to see the photos by a man in a Lalela T shirt who was making serious use of the photo ops in the garden.
Stellenberg is a Cape Dutch house. The iconic gable was probably designed by the architect Louis Michel Thibault in the middle of the 18th Century.
|Stellenberg's Cape Dutch gable
Predominantly blue and or white, with a heavy emphasis on plants from Northern hemisphere horticulture set in formal gardens, with a wilder edge and more South African indigenous plants. We begin at the White Garden which runs along the stoep at the old house. The lush plants are the result of digging up the perennials each year, bagging them while revitalising the soil with compost and manure. Each year the arrangement and combination changes - and the plants are always displayed in their prime!
|The White Garden at Stellenberg
Along the edge are tall shady trees and a channelled stream. Distributed around the garden tall wicker baskets collect contributions for the compost heap. The trees once planted for privacy have grown too tall, and there are plans I look forward to - planting indigenous for the birds. Red lilies catching shafts of sun among the trees are Scadoxus. Imagine having the space to plant a Ginkgo tree!
|Ginkgo and Scadoxus
along the stream in the Wild Garden at Stellenberg
The Herb Garden (by Graham Viney and Gary Searle) is planted as St Andrew's Cross. Enclosed by hedges, it smells delicious with pots of Tulbaghia as you walk down the steps.
|The Herb Garden at Stellenberg
Stone fountain reflects our roots in Europe and a grapevine speaks to the Cape's wine culture. Lemon trees in large glazed deep green pots, and a row of terracotta with Tulbaghia in the Medieval Vegetable Garden (by Francesca Watson).
|The Medieval Vegetable Garden at Stellenberg
The Walled Garden (by David Hicks) has a positive and a negative half. At first disconcerted by the quiet (boring?) parterre with just two plants alternating, on reflection I found it a peaceful interlude in a garden filled with 'interestingness'. The second side is romantic planting sparked by perfect topiary balls. (My inherited exotics will be corralled by topiary - an Australian brush cherry pyramid and balls of Indian hawthorn and Bougainvillea, the lemon tree and standard rose lollipopped, the garden bookended by spekboom hedges at the kitchen patio and the Karoo Koppie).
|The quiet parterre in the Walled Garden at Stellenberg
|The romantic half of the Walled Garden at Stellenberg
with grey Helichrysum balls
A garden needs a signature colour for the benches, gates, fences and pots. Here I was caught by the gentle understated sage green grey. The soft green shimmers thru the grey only when neighbouring Artemisia, Santolina or sage call it out. (For our False Bay garden I plan seaweed red on the front door, the gate, and the random pots in need of new paint).
|Sage green grey paint at Stellenberg
with Artemisia and Santolina
In 2005 we first saw Stellenberg. They open for charity twice a year and I'll link the November date when it is announced. We missed the lime walk - next time!
Pictures by Diana Studer
of Elephant's Eye on False Bay
(If you mouse over teal blue text, it turns seaweed red.
Those are my links.
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