Garden

Sprout Conference 2019

Hello Cape Town!

Hello Cape Town!

In the first week of June Carien Momsen from Pureline Interior Design joined me for the #SproutConference2019 to Cape Town. It was a lightning trip packed to the brim with experiences that included art, culture, beautiful landscapes, delicious food and even time with good friends.

Our Itinerary

Our Itinerary

Our first site visit was the breathtaking Dylan Lewis Sculpture garden in Stellenbosch. A truly memorable experience that really showcases how the landscape can be a sculptural element in itself. Dylan Lewis laid the paths out over many years with great attention to detail and the recommended visitors walk allows one to appreciate the sculptures in a dynamic way from many perfectly planned angles. The planting is focused on indigenous plants, particularly fynbos, of which a large selection of unusual varieties have been sourced from Kirstenbosch. The landscape and amazing planting combinations really were a highlight of this trip!

Sculptures, water, mountains - a language of beauty and nature

Sculptures, water, mountains - a language of beauty and nature

Loved the lime green and striking red colours of these Crocosmias

Loved the lime green and striking red colours of these Crocosmias

Our celebratory lunch was held at Tokara’s restaurant where wine and fine dining was a feast for the senses. We also enjoyed the Art on display including the enormous and intricately woven tapestry (two sections, each 2.2 high x 3.5m wide) by Sayed Mahmoud from Egypt. A different type of tapestry was the woven pathways of the gardens at Babylonstoren which we explored even though it started to rain!

Fine Dining

Fine Dining

Tapestry at Tokara

Tapestry at Tokara

Our second day of exploration and inspiration started with a visit to Truth Roastery and 117Kloof for coffee and croissants as well as the Company Gardens - always a treat to visit. I love watching how people interact with this space and the different activities that take place here. The entrance to the Gardens is dominated by a massive timber Arch installed as part of the Design Indaba 2018 to honour Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

Company Gardens

Our next stop was the impressive urban precinct known at the Silos at the V&A Waterfront, particularly the Zeitz MOCAA (Museum of Modern Contemporary Art) Art Gallery. The building feels like an artwork and has been crafted out of forty-two concrete columns, each 33 metres tall with a diameter of 5.5 metres. It was designed by London’s Heatherwick Studios and the central atrium space, polished concrete surfaces and layout of the building generates an awe-inspiring reaction.

Following our experience of the museum we had a quick delicious lunch at the restaurant on the top floor with a beautiful view over the harbour and then spent some time exploring the V&A Waterfront.

Zeitz MOCAA
Exploring the Waterfront

Exploring the Waterfront

Our final site visit was the Norval Foundation in Tokai where we again saw beautiful artwork inside and outside the building. The sculpture park has beautiful indigenous planting combinations and although it was raining at this stage we still enjoyed our time here. We had a quick coffee break at Skotnes Restaurant before heading to the airport for our flight back to Johannesburg.

A huge thank you again to my amazing, incredible Executive PA for arranging this conference! It was a wonderful experience that filled us with inspiration for the year, hopefully until #SproutConference2020 :)

View of the Wetland running adjacent the Norval Foundation

View of the Wetland running adjacent the Norval Foundation

Indigenous Planting

Indigenous Planting

Lowveld Botanical Gardens

Water Lilies on a Pond at the Lowveld Botanical Gardens

Water Lilies on a Pond at the Lowveld Botanical Gardens

The Lowveld Botanical Gardens, located at the confluence of the Nel and Crocodile Rivers in Mbombela (previously Nelspruit) Mpumalanga, has a special place in my heart. I grew up in Nelspruit and the indigenous trees and shrubs of the bushveld evokes a comforting nostalgia. When I think of the Lowveld images of Paperbarks, Euphorbias, Aloes, Kiaat and Lowveld Chestnut trees (to name a few) come to mind. My love for nature and indigenous plants has grown as a direct result of the influence of growing up surrounded by the natural beauty the Lowveld. I guess this was one of the reasons I chose to have my wedding photographs taken in the Botanical Gardens and fondly remember walking along the draw bridge to the restaurant where the reception was held.

Nelspruit Waterfall / Cascades

Nelspruit Waterfall / Cascades

Nelspruit Cascades
Nelspruit Cascades

The Lowveld Botanical Gardens boasts a beautiful display of inviting green spaces, impressive trees and amazing cycads. The Garden hosts concerts, wild flower shows, art shows, and plant sales while weddings, baby showers and other events can be celebrated at the Red Leaf Fig Tea Garden. A children’s playground provides opportunities for families to relax and the kids to have fun with an added educational element.

Playground at the Lowveld Botanical Gardens, near the Tea Garden

Playground at the Lowveld Botanical Gardens, near the Tea Garden

Red Leaf Fig Tea Garden

Red Leaf Fig Tea Garden

The Garden is home to the largest man-made African Rainforest in an area of approximately 5 hectares along the Crocodile River. It is said to have the largest collection of South African cycads (and fig trees), more than 700 tree species and more than 3000 plant species in cultivation.

Large areas of Lawn with Cycads and Trees

Large areas of Lawn with Cycads and Trees

 “Genesis of a Garden, Lowveld Botanical Garden 1969-1981” is a book written by Elise Buitendag who was involved from the inception of the gardens and worked there during it’s first twelve years of establishment. The beautiful coffee table book includes historical information, photographs, personal memoirs and stunning botanical artworks by the author.

Elise Buitendag is a qualified botanist and acknowledged as one of South Africa’s professional botanical artists having authored and illustrated several publications. Her paintings are mainly inspired by the wonder of plants, as encountered daily in the Lowveld bush and in her garden.

“The area donated by both the town council and HL Hall & Sons had a dramatic beauty, with its roaring cascades and rugged landscape, but was considered by many as unsuitable, primarily because of the Y-shaped junction of the Crocodile and Nels River which would divide the garden into three distinct sections. To create a garden in such a diverse and fragmented terrain seemed a very ambitious undertaking.” (Page 9)

“Another tree, the huge fever-tree at the lapa has gained monumental stature and has become an icon in the garden. This tree was grown from seed sown in 1973. I remember how the lanky little seedling grew so rapidly that it couldn’t support itself and had to be tied to a pole to keep it upright. Today everyone who loves the Garden takes pleasure in this beautiful lemon-yellow to lime-green giant.” (Page 161)

Fever Tree

Buitendag’s book is a wonderful depiction of the Garden’s history and looks at the Place, the Plants and the People. The beautiful artworks create a visual experience for the reader that strongly evokes the sense of place that this special garden holds.

Elise Buitendag Artwork in her Book “Genesis of a Garden”

Elise Buitendag Artwork in her Book “Genesis of a Garden”

For more information please visit: https://www.sanbi.org/gardens/lowveld/

Vergelegen

You know you have arrived somewhere special when you drive down the oak tree lined driveway and approach the entrance gate to Vergelegen Estate. This historic farm was granted to Governer Willem Adriaan van der Stel in 1700. Here he built an estate that reflected the Renaissance influence of wealthy estates and palaces in Europe with their symmetrical plans and ornate gardens. Vergelegen was laid out with a double walled octagonal garden, radial avenues, and four flanking outbuildings - the slave lodge, water mill/stable, the wine cellar and the pigeon house. 

Sprout Landscapes visits Vergelegen

I enjoyed exploring the octagonal garden - especially the pergola covered walkway along the perimeter. The compacted earth walkway has been overgrown with moss in some areas. To see an artist who creates beautiful sculptures that change over time as moss and fungi grow on them, see Mirella Bandini's work: http://iconosquare.com/mirellabandini

With landscape it's about what defines the space you are in: what is above you (pergola with wisteria or bougainvilla creeper) what is below you (moss covered walkway) what is around you (wall to one side, Plectranthus and Azaleas on the other). Designing a garden is like designing a house because you experience it spatially; instead of a roof over your head you have a tree canopy, instead of walls you have planting in the form of shrubs or hedges. Flooring is important - is the surface you walk on rough or smooth? Does it make a noise like gravel? The biggest and most exciting difference between a building and a garden is the seasonal variation - how does foliage and light change with the seasons? What colour variations are there as different plants start flowering?

Vergelegen Manor House
Sprout Landscapes visits Vergelegen
Sprout Landscapes visits Vergelegen
Sprout Landscapes visits Vergelegen

There is so much to see on this beautiful estate! The Contemplation Garden is lovely and adjacent to the oldest living Oak Tree. We did the Yellowwood Walk which must be really impressive when all the Camellias are in flower - I didn't realise you got so many different hybrids. The view of the stream is very pretty here. The Rose Garden is a sensory delight. The Wetland Garden is lovely, but is quickly forgotten as you enter the spectacular Camphor Forest! You feel as if you could be in an Enid Blighton novel as you walk through this enchanted landscape. The trees are truly inspiring. I can't imagine having a picnic in a more beautiful place.

Sprout Landscapes visits Vergelegen
Oldest Oak Tree
Sprout Landscapes visits Vergelegen
Sprout Landscapes visits Vergelegen
Sprout Landscapes visits Vergelegen
Sprout Landscapes visits Vergelegen

Enough about the gardens... The manor house has a passageway dedicated to the history of the estate and it was fascinating to read about the changes over the last 300 years. I was especially intrigued with the notable references to slavery. 

Sprout Landscapes visits Vergelegen

One of the things I am most grateful for, as a South African, is my Freedom. My heart ached as I read the names of the slaves that were purchased for van der Stel and I tried to imagine what some of their lives must have been like. Can you imagine not owning your freedom? Can you imagine being owned by somebody, doing hard labour every day, never leaving the farm you work on, being deprived of ambition and hope? And then I read on... Unnamed from the Cape, Aged 1...Unnamed from the Cape, Aged 2.

Slave Record at Vergelegen

Where did these tiny unnamed children come from? What happened to their parents and what became of them? Looking into the past has an unsatisfying way of making you curious about the details, but knowing that you will probably never know the full story. Vergelegen has a vast and rich history and a visit to this special estate is a rich and rewarding experience.