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Eckards Garden Pavilion

A Horticulturalist On Holiday

A Horticulturalist on holidayVisiting gardens always inspires one to improve and add to your own. This past holiday I visited a number of gardens in and around Cape Town. Beautiful spaces despite the lack of water and truly inspiring, so I thought why not share. Here's what got me going.

Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden

What an unexpected jewel in the heart of Stellenbosch. Over the past five years the curator has brought this garden up to rival many institution gardens in the world. We used the Neethling street entrance. On entry I though here we go with the first section a succulent garden that was a bit ho-hum... then turning a corner the whole garden came to life.

First spotted one of the biggest Yellowwood trees I've seen under planted with a wide selection of all sorts. Imagine the stories this old tree could tell. What I did like about the garden was that it was a mixture of exotic and indigenous all mixed in and more of a collection than a statement.
Past a bamboo grove that lifted the spirits we found ourselves in the potager styled edible gardens with everything from curry plants to a growing example of Rice! The fingers of this Horticulturalist could not stop... touch, smell, share. We were here with family so they got to experience the stories.

Outeniqua Yellowwood tree
Californian Redwood

Past the huge palm and cycad collection, we stopped to touch the stepping stones across the pond which are made from cut stone from the quarries of Robben Island. Then onto the giant Californian Redwood tree for a hug and round the corner to the fernery. Beautiful trees ferns as big as many that I have seen in New Zealand mixed in with indigenous ferns and more.

Portwine Magnolia and Cycads
Robben Island cut stone pavers


A quick look at the formal rose garden and then on to the breathtakingly beautiful, Water Lily Pond. Unlike any Lily pond you will see anywhere in RSA this pond had giant water lilies tadpoles and more. No pictures can do this pond justice. Lily leaves of over a metre in diameter are just a start. The whole collection including the Victoria Lily is simply spectacular.

Round the corner we then discovered the most beautiful Bonsai garden which led us to the National Heritage Bonsai Collection. This is a must see and experience for any avid plant fan, bonsai trees ranging in years but most from the early 60's in immaculate condition. This collection was as good as any that I saw in Japan a few years ago and best of all was that there were a large number of mature indigenous trees.

Feature Bonsai in the Heritage collection
Giant Water lily Pads
Torch ginger in the greenhouse


With a sensory overload we then headed into the Glasshouses. The tropical house with its Torch Ginger and oversized flamingo lilies had us ooing and aahing much better. The desert plants and succulent houses were breathtaking and educational. What a day!

We ended in the Tea Garden discussing what we had just experienced and our whole party agreed that we would be back for sure as there was too much to absorb in one morning.

Wine farms

Wine tasting with a Horticulturalist is a bit different to normal. It includes wine of course but the gardens and landscaping get discussed, shared and evaluated all the way. My top two on this trip were Lourensford and Delaire Graff. We visited so many and each farm has its own character... way to many to mention here.

Recently updated the Gardens at Lourensford are well worth a visit. A mixture of indigenous and exotic plants, with loads of water wise gardening principles in place and beautifully designed. I liked the way they planted pollinator friendly plants on masse as well as mixing succulents as well as grasses into the landscape. Bronze artworks add to the overall design. The gardens at Vergelegen have long been one of my favourites but I do think this update has taken Lourensford to my new favourite garden in Somerset West.

Mixed planting at Lourensford
Striking landscaping at Lourensford


Heading through the pass to Franschoek we stopped in at Delaire Graff as well as Tokara. Tokara was something so different and the art was incredible. But it was at Delaire that we stopped and took a moment to appreciate just how beautiful the Cape can be. The gardens and art are simply breathtaking and so well maintained. Many plants that any gardener can grow for masses of Agapanthus to hedges and borders of Gold Durranta fill this garden. Talking about Durranta I have to add that the Oversized Gold Durranta balls at Neethlingshof were quite spectacular :-)

This holiday as always had me eternally grateful that plants and gardens are part of my life. The world without green and the magic thereof would be a very boring place ...

Pathway planting at Delaire Graff
Gorgeous sculptures and views at Delaire Graff
Water Feature at Tokara Durranta balls at Neethlingshof