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Elgin Open Gardens

Elgin Open Gardens

A mere 45 minutes drive from Cape Town will take you to another world as you drop down into the lush gargen valley of Elgin. Eglin has become synonymous with fresh food, cool-climate wines and beautiful country living.

The history of the the open gardens in Elgin dates back to the 1960s and 1970s, when Lady Bourne opened her spring garden each year to the public. The garden was a project which had begun in the thirties and lays in a sheltered kloof. The garden features terraced beds, a bluebell wood, a jasmine pergola, a charming dogs cemetery, a sweeping lawn with islanded beds filled with roses and irises, and a magnificent Judas tree. She befriended the great Japanese flowering cherry enthusiast, Collingwood Ingram, and acquired a number of cherries through him, becoming the first person in South Africa to grow them. The influence Lady Bourne had in designing many other gardens in the district is still felt in the Elgin area today.

Over 20 years ago Fresh Woods, which was started by Maisie Knox-Shaw in the early fifties, was opened to the public for the first time and has held open days each year since 1991. The garden is well known for its collection of heritage and species roses. Over the years other gardens have joined the move to open and allow their beauty to be shared with the public and in 2011 there will be 23 open gardens in the Elgin, Vyeboom and Bot River districts over two weekends. These range from large established country gardens (some over 50 years old), to the younger and more recently planted gardens in villages and on smallholdings, all in a setting of great natural beauty no more than an hours drive from Cape Town.

2011 will see the introduction of Belfield Wine Estate to the gardens, with its picturesque leafy garden flowing into the vineyards. South Hill will also be added to the list with its contemporary indigenous garden enlivened by sculptures. And finally Oak Valley Flowers who are leading two tours a day through their production units, which will give a fascinating glimpse into the world of high-tech cultivation and propagation.

There is more than just the beautiful gardens though, many of the open gardens will have plants for sale, and some will also offer teas and light meals. Other events have also been organised to co-incide with the open gardens in the district and include art and sculpture exhibitions, including the Elgin Artists Group at Glenbrae, and the renowned botanical artist Vicki Thomas at Eikenhof. There will be wine tasting at the local cellars or in the gardens themselves. On one of the days there will be a Country Market in the village.

The 2011 Elgin Open Gardens will take place on Sat 29 and Sun 30 Oct from 10:00 to 17:00 and on Sat 5 and Sun 6 Nov from 10:00 to 17:00. There will be 5 different routes which can be taken, each one with different gardens.

Route 1 Grabouw & environs, includes The Stone Kitchen (Organic garden on rocky koppie with pergolas, indigenous plantings, olive trees; organic permaculture kitchen garden, cob building), Uitkyk (Large, shady, 40-year-old garden created by the present owner, with a recently made sunnier area for growing roses.) and Fresh Woods (Rambling, romantic plantsmans garden with major collection of heritage and & species roses; many rare trees and shrubs, some wild-collected, including maples, rhododendrons (esp. maddenias), serrata and wild hydrangeas, deutzias and Japanese maples; also collections of cyclamen, epimediums and lilies; woodland garden under pine. Bamboo walk.).

Route 2 Viljoenshoop Rd, includes Belfield Wine Estate (Old informal leafy garden with majestic views of the Groenberg, open to the surrounding vineyards which are interplanted with corridors of indigenous flora to attract birds, butterflies and chameleons.), Fairholme (A large and many-faceted garden with a magnificent view, terraces, pergola walkway, woodland garden, grass garden and rose garden.), Lavenham (A woodland cottage garden with extensive lawns, English roses, floribundas, herbaceous borders and groundcovers), Heideland (A suburban-sized rose garden with companion plants on a working farm flowing into the adjoining apple orchards. Part of the garden evolved into an indigenous waterwise section with aloes and restios, groundcovers and alstroemarias in abundance), Dennegeur (Large established garden filled with roses and hydrangeas with awesome views towards the Kogelberg Dam), Almenkerk Wine Estate (Newly landscaped garden on a steep slope, designed to embed the winery buildings firmly in the landscape with massed indigenous plantings. Magnificent valley views onto the Kogelberg. Free entry. Fully signposted hiking trail through kloof (tricky), vineyards and orchards) and Duncans Roses (Beautiful show garden on a rose farm. All varieties available from nursery on site. Added attractions are art and wine-tasting).

Route 3 Highlands & Valley Rd includes, Keurbos Nursery Garden (A garden designed for birds, with an indigenous core as well as exotic and wetland areas. Unusual plants abound, with collections of bulbs and buchus, acers and azaleas, rhododendrons, heritage roses and more), Auldearn (A plantswomans hilltop garden that skilfully mixes unusual and interesting indigenous and exotic plants, with a focus on colour combinations. Panoramic views over the Kogelberg biosphere are framed by informal mixed plantings dominated by flowering cherries and roses. Also two ponds and a stream), Lorraine Farm (An organically managed garden in an idyllic setting on a certified organic farm. Features include a natural rockface, waterfalls, stream, pond, variety of ferns and other interesting plants), Iona (The Herbert Baker homestead, with views of the Elgin Valley, is surrounded by a beautiful garden designed by Dominic Touwen which includes a working vegetable and rose garden), Heaven Scent Garden and Nursery (A working cutflower garden and a garden for the senses all in one, with many unusual flowers grown for their scent, colour and foliage. Inspiring indigenous area. Activities for children & picnic area. Electric vehicles available for disabled visitors), and South Hill (Contemporary, landscaped, indigenous garden enlivened by Sheena Ridleys sculptures and other artworks).

Route 4 Villiersdorp Rd & Vyeboom, includes Oak Valley Flowers (Oak Valley is the largest grower of cut flowers in the Western Cape. Tours of the greenhouse production units will leave at 10:00 and 14:00 from the Oak Valley entrance on all Open Days), Eikenhof Farm (One of the oldest of the Elgin gardens and homestead, from 1920. Magnificent trees and rare plants set in an essentially English style landscape), and Boesmansrug (Rose and herb gardens, secret garden, pastures and majestic oaks. Inexpensive plant sales).

Route 5 Houw Hoek & Bot River, includes Wildekrans Country House (Rambling country garden of historic 1811 homestead. The plunging vistas of the garden descend to the river and rise abruptly, providing a dramatic setting for Wilma Cruises ceramic sculptures), Beaumont Wines (Overlooking a willow-clad dam, this free-flowing country garden surrounds an historic house with the oldest cellar and watermill in the Overberg), Goedvertrouw (Charming cottage garden with a large variety of plants. Winetasting of Goedvertrouw wines), and Porcupine Hills (Natural, free-flowing gardens with dramatic mountain scenery. Walks in the renosterbos and bird watching in the reserve).

A free leaflet with map can be found at most nurseries in the Western Cape, and at Sithanda Nursery and farm stalls in the Elgin area. Please note that some of the gardens do ask an entrance fee of which a percentage goes to charities of their choice.

For more information and future dates please contact:
Barbara Knox-Shaw
Tel: +27-21-8440154
Mob: +27-78-0212101
Jessie Walton
Mob: +27-83-4583790
Or email: info@elginopengardens.co.za

Directions to Grabouw from Cape Town
Take the N2 highway East from Cape Town (to Garden Route) over Sir Lowrys Pass (the First Mountain Range). From the top of the pass to Orchard Farm Stall on your left is approximately 8 kilometres (There is a large sign on the roof). Turn left into Grabouw village Main Road.

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