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Discovering Durbanville’s Own Secret Garden: Avondale Open Garden

When I first saw the event listing for Avondale Open Garden on Facebook, I immediately saved it to my calendar. Even two months prior to this exciting event, I was wishing to attend.

I have always loved South Africa’s natural open spaces, where beauty and wildlife reign unchallenged… but ever since moving to Cape Town, I have learnt that cities, too, can offer wonderful green spaces. These are free or otherwise affordable spaces for nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, travellers and even young families to enjoy in blissful harmony.

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For the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of living in Cape Town’s Northern Suburbs – and every month it feels like I discover and visit some new outdoor gem, where the scents of flowers, whizzing bees and falling leaves fill the air around me with a headiness and sense of natural, green magic…

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Yes, indeed, if Cape Town offers a wealth of green spaces, it is undoubtedly found in our Northern Suburbs.

Unlocking annual garden magic on South Africa’s first Garden Day

It was perhaps particularly fitting that, by chance, on the two days that Avondale Open Garden took place this year (20 and 21 October 2018 respectively), I happened to visit on South Africa’s first Garden Day.

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This new calendar event is a wonderful way to celebrate all things green, pretty and vibrant. It serves as a gentle reminder for us to take time out of our busy schedules to enjoy immersing ourselves in nature, going back to our (literal) roots and best of all, interacting in our gardens and green spaces…

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I love the concept of Garden Day – and what better place to enjoy it than Avondale Open Garden? A beautiful, immaculately maintained, eight-acre oasis in the heart of leafy Durbanville.

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This incredible garden is the precious handiwork of Ronelle Shuttleworth (mother of the pioneering Mark Shuttleworth) and her capable team of gardening staff. By all accounts, Ronelle is hailed as a genius and passionate plantswoman and if her labour of plant love, Avondale, is anything to go by… then this is certainly true and then some!

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Durbanville’s own Secret Garden: Avondale Open Garden

Once a year, Avondale is open to the public. And for those in the know, this unique space makes for an incredible and awe-inspiring day out in the fresh air. Here, you can disappear for hours at a time in a labyrinth of trees, flowers, shrubs and lawn spaces to turn Kirstenbosch a little green with envy… (In fact, having visited both to date, I was more impressed by Avondale… but that’s just my personal view.)

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If you missed Avondale Open Garden this year, keep an eye out for it next year. It’s an incredible space to walk, picnic, take your children and even to enjoy browsing for some purchasable plants. What’s more, you can also tuck into tea and freshly baked scones, courtesy of The Gardener’s Cottage within.

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What You Need to Know

Entry to this year’s event cost R20 and all proceeds go towards charity. So not only do you get to experience a beautiful day out in the sunshine (the weather was glorious this past weekend, thankfully) among the flowers, but you also contribute towards a good cause.

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While the garden is not dog-friendly (for obvious reasons), there is plenty of space for kiddies to wander around, smell the flowers and run about under the trees and green spaces, in particular the lawn areas, which offer incredible views of the mountains off in the distance.

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The plant sales and fresh scones seemed like a huge hit, so too the interesting art displays found amid the plants and flowers.

I’m not a huge art admirer – but the artwork is suitably fitting and beautiful in that lush, vibrant space, the painted colours as bright and cheerful as those around one.

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Generational Green Fingers

I am not an expert when it comes to plants and flowers, but having grown up with a very avid gardening and famously green-fingered grandmother (who gardened well into her late eighties) and a mother who also shares a keen knowledge on all things green and growing, it was hard not to catch the bug…

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For myself, I’m able to identify and name my fair share of flowers, scrubs and trees. This is something I take quiet joy in.

I have also successfully maintained my own small gardens at home, diligently planting marigolds, chrysanthemums, roses and gazanias (which still turn into a burst of happy colour every spring and summer). Today, even my flat is full of as many potted succulents as I can find.

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You could say the plant force is strong with this one… More than that though, I have a keen appreciation for the outdoors and am probably my most happy when lost in nature.

Encountering Some Serious #PlantPorn

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For me, this kind of experience is a dream. And from the moment I stepped through the gates and found myself in a most impressive rose garden, it was outright, head-over-heels love.

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I took my Nikon camera along and I think some of the photos I took on the day are some of my best this year. You can really tell I was lost in an entirely different, peaceful world.

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One where tiny flowers, colourful leaves, ladybugs and busy bees come to the fore… I was entranced – and yes, I confess, completely enamoured – by this ‘#plantporn’.

For those who love gardening (and nature/macro photography too), Avondale Open Garden is a dream come true.

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But more importantly for everyone, it is a safe, well-preserved haven in the middle of city suburbia. Here, there is not a scrap of litter. What’s more, even dead leaves and old roots have been cleared away.

I have to say: it’s pretty hard not to go completely potty (intentional pun) when exploring this amazing garden…

Roses, Orchids and Everything in Between

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Once you get over the beauty of the rose garden spaces, where trellises and water features only add to the appeal, there’s plenty of yellow, peach and orange clivias (another favourite of mine), pretty-faced pansies and every other kind of flower imaginable to occupy your attention…

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In fact, there are at least two sections where the Namaqualand flowers could easily give both the West Coast and Namaqualand a decent run for their money.

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I also saw some beautiful arum lilies (still my favourite flower, however ‘common’ it may be), bushes upon bushes of vibrant daisies and other incredible blooms, like hardy ice plants, vygies, strelizia, gazanias and more.

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After that, I meandered through the gardens, passing the lawn spaces perfect for picnics, with some well-placed tables and benches, and one of the most incredible trees I’ve seen… It really was like the Party Tree straight out of Hobbiton!

 All That I Saw – and Loved

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Once you pass through the clivia stretches (spot the bee warning signs), it’s onto the main space behind the outbuildings. This is where the little bridges (yes, I have an obsession with adorable bridges…) and fascinating orchid glass houses first appear.

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The garden also offers water features carefully interwoven between manicured garden spaces and cheerful-looking potted plants, which spill over with all kinds of colour and joy. (And I may have even found the lamp post from Narnia’s Lantern Waste…)

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There are many other interesting sights within the garden. Think: potted plants, succulents and all kinds of flowers. As well as some inventively used statues and old gates, which add to the overall garden charm.

In fact, at times, it feels a bit like a cross between a Jane Austen novel and The Secret Garden… though I like to imagine Avondale would somehow trump them all!

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One of my favourite places is the orchid house… and I am not even a fan of orchids. (Okay… maybe a little after this.) It is a whole other experience entirely. The suspended, hanging potted plants and incredible-looking orchids are certainly a sight for sore eyes.

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In Closing

Avondale Open Garden is one of the best experiences I have enjoyed in the Mother City. I felt completely at ease, safe and happy here and I think the crowds around me did too. It was wonderful to see people of all ages out and about in the sunshine.

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Like I said earlier, if you missed Avondale this year, please make note of it for next year. I promise you, your soul will thank you for it.

For more information on Avondale Open Garden, please contact the Rotary Club of Tygerberg on: + 27 (021) 976 5475 or email them at tygerbergrotaryclub@gmail.com.

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They were responsible for wonderfully and passionately hosting this special event and they do some incredible work in preserving and bettering our local community.

Thank you to all who ensured such a pleasant and wonderful Avondale Open Garden weekend for 2018! 🙂

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Avondale Open Garden is situated quite centrally in Cape Town at 40 Protea Way, Durbanville, Northern Suburbs, Cape Town, Western Cape South Africa. 

Author: Tamlyn Amber Ryan

Content writer by day and blogger by night, Tamlyn Ryan passionately runs her own travel blog, called Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust, from her home base of Cape Town, South Africa. And, despite a national diploma in Journalism, in her free time, Tamlyn’s preferred niche remains travel writing.

Tamlyn is a hopeless wanderer, equipped with an endless passion for road trips, carefully planned, holiday itineraries and, above all else, an innate love for the great outdoors.

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