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The Enchanting Stellenberg Open Gardens, Cape Town

Stellenberg Open Gardens, Cape Town is an annual garden affair of note. This special occasion is held once a year to support a wonderful, charitable cause. And with its unique history, natural beauty and Cape charm, it draws garden lovers and history aficionados in droves.

This year, the Stellenberg Open Gardens fell on 9 and 10 November and my good friend and I were fortunate enough to experience Day One. It was, by all accounts, a lovely day trip; one that we relished immensely.

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For this post, I will share insight into the garden and its many different sections and touch on its Cape history. Above all though, I invite you, my readers, to enjoy a visual (garden) feast… So fasten your sun hat and let’s explore.

The Cape Remembers

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Stellenberg, a magnificent Cape Dutch homestead, weaves a unique thread throughout Cape history. For Stellenberg, since its creation, has seen many lifetimes… enduring many tastes and transformations in the process. It has been everything from a tranquil farm dwelling to a country escape to an esteemed provincial heritage site and more.

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Stellenberg is the last existing example of its kind in a suburb, Kenilworth, where once, gardens and mature trees formerly abounded. Since Cape govenor, Simon van der Stel, granted the estate to Jacob Vogel in 1697 (before it later transferred to Simon’s son, Frans, on favourable terms), Stellenberg has breathed its rich beauty into Cape Town.

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It has played host to many notable owners – including freed slave woman, Christina van Canarij, John Stanton White (Jan de Wit), Charles van Cahman, Johan Isak Rhenius, the Feltham family, Professor C.F.M. Saint, Robin Stratford and finally, the Ovenstones – and has been inspired by many talented landscapers and architects too.

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While most of the original land has been sold off over the years, the original werf and glorious gardens of Stellenberg remain. These have been tenderly preserved and enhanced since the 1950s by Andrew and Sandy Ovenstone. It is clear, even as a fresh-eyed visitor, that they have poured their heart, soul and passion into Stellenberg.

Stellenberg Open Gardens, Cape Town: Savouring Every Garden Section

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Today, when visiting Stellenberg Open Gardens, you encounter sixteen uniquely individual garden sections and the Nursery. Each offers its own sense of style, beauty and tranquility.

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The garden sections (excluding the nursery) are divided up as follows:

  • the Garden Entrance;
  • the White Garden (near the main building at the front, where the snapdragons start);

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  • the Parterre Garden (this offers beautiful views);

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  • the Vegetable Garden;
  • the Garden of Paradise (home to the tea garden area);

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  • the Herb Garden;
  • the Shady Walkway;
  • the Main Lawns (spread on either side of the homestead) and facade;

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  • the Wild Garden and Reservoir Walk;

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  • the (Upper) Stream Garden;
  • Lower Stream Garden;

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  • the Lime Tree Walk (just before the walled garden entrance, after the main lawns);
  • the Garden of Reflection (where the water ponds and Delft garden tiles lie);
  • the Vine Walk allée (behind the walled garden);

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  • the Walled Garden (this is a stunning part, my favourite of all);

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  • and the Pool Garden (a nice surprise by all accounts).

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My Favourite Garden Sections

While I loved each of the garden’s sections, I will touch on a few of my personal favourites below. (In the order that we explored them.)

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1) White Garden

The White Garden, flanked by the majestic Stellenberg manor house, was one of the most enchanting sections of the garden. It’s almost the first you encounter and as you enter, you are greeted by a mass of beautiful white flowers, most notably snapdragons, and the majestic homestead.
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It is peaceful and pretty… And although is serves primarily as a passage from one garden area to the next, I found it absolutely enchanting. Especially the gateway, where the white columns rise proud and tall, adorned by climbing roses.
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2) Main Lawns 

The main lawns are truly magical. Offering unique artwork and vast trees, they are perhaps the ‘barest’ part of the garden, though still undeniably beautiful.
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I loved them… I loved the sense of freedom they gave. As much as the way I felt transported immediately to the English countryside… As if the prospect of a Jane Austen-style garden party loomed just around the corner.
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Three aspects I especially love here are: the views of the manor house; the beautiful white columns, proudly topped by statuesque wreathed vases; and the shady corner amassed with hydrangeas of every colour.
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3) Citrus Lime Walk 

This is a small but Secret Garden-esque part of the garden. To me, it feels somewhat wilder than the other parts of the garden and there is an air of intended ‘forgottenness’ to it.

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Directly after it, you find the garden’s focal point for the 2019 edition of the Stellenberg Open Gardens: the Walled Garden.

4) Walled Garden

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The Walled Garden is surely the most colourful, magical and enchanting part of Stellenberg Gardens. It has such a heightened sense of ‘lazy days in the sun’, fresh air and vibrancy about it. So it is impossible not to be drawn to every corner of this beautiful, carefully maintained space.

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Standout features include the arching rose walkways; whitewashed wall that encloses it in (revealing etched initials and secret benches); asymmetrical hedges; heritage climbing roses and breathtaking flower displays.

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This particular part of the garden was designed in 1989 by English designer, David Hicks. It was created as a space of love, to celebrate the 25th wedding anniversary of Andrew and Sandy Ovenstone, so it is no wonder it has such a romantic garden bower ambiance.

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The colours, sights and smells from the Walled Garden are heady, entrancing and utterly beautiful… It was easily my favourite part of the whole garden.

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5) Pool Garden 

The Pool Garden, set just above the Walled Garden, is another unexpectedly lovely, almost quaintly English part of Stellenberg.

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It feels private and tempting, with its shimmering pool and surrounding shrubbery… and yes, I could easily take a dip here in summer.

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6) Vine Walk 

The vine walk, located just behind the Walled Garden, is a small but interesting part of the garden, where old, lichen-covered stone benches and beautiful vine-covered archways can be found.

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Here again, David Hicks’ handiwork can be evidenced… It is enchanting and fun to walk down.

7) Garden of Reflection 

This is one of the more impressive parts of the garden in that its simplicity and tranquility speak volumes for it. With the interesting square garden ‘ponds’, as I refer to them, and gorgeous Delft garden tiles pressed into the lawn steps, this is indeed a place of quiet reflection and spiritual calm.

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For the design of this section – along with the White-, Stream- and Vegetable-Gardens – Francesca Watson played an integral role.

 

8, 9) Upper and Lower Stream Garden 

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These two sections that flow into each other are beautiful and have a kind of jungle feel to them. I especially loved the little stream and garden bridges that enhance them. (Also, keep an eye out for the dancing bunny…)

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10) Paradise Garden

The paradise garden, shaded by massive trees and edged by water features, splashes of colour and shades of beauty, was another special part of the garden.marigolds-stellenberg-gardens
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It is here that tea, savouries and treats are offered in this most wonderful garden setting. Tables spread with elegant white tablecloths, vases of flowers and wicker chairs serve as the focal point and allow guests to enjoy their food in classic style.
To enjoy the garden tea, you paid an extra R30 at the gate (you receive a ticket slip) and it was so worth it! I strongly recommend it.
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We had a choice between either coffee, tea or juice, which was handed to us – and then there was a fine spread for you to help yourselves to. Delicacies included everything from dainty sandwiches to millionaire shortbread to bites of carrot cake and an assortment of savouries, plain cakes and other treats too.
We first sat on a garden bench, munching away contentedly and soaking up the peaceful garden scenes before sharing a table with another lady. Seating is limited and hard to come by so, especially if you are a smaller group, you may need to share.

Supporting a Wonderful Cause

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With a small entry fee (at the time of our visit, we paid R50 for our day ticket), Stellenberg Open Gardens is one of the most affordable and beautiful outdoor experiences that you can enjoy in Cape Town’s leafy Southern Suburbs.

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It is completely family-friendly as everyone, from toddlers on uncertain legs to the elderly to young groups of friends and family, can enjoy this beautiful garden. (Note: Children are welcome but must be under adult supervision at all times.)

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Most poignantly of all, proceeds are donated to the St Joseph’s Home for Chronically Ill Children so it is for a most worthy cause.

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Garden Visits Throughout the Year

If you cannot make the annual Stellenberg Open Garden, fear not! You can still visit the garden throughout the year, thanks to their dedicated garden tours.

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Garden visits, however, are by prior appointment only. Visits are only offered on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 08:30 am – 15:30 pm.

And if you wish to arrange a guided tour of the garden, advance notification is required when booking.

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To book a garden visit or guided tour, please contact the Nursery Manager/Stellenberg Gardens on: +27 (021) 761 2948, stellenberggardens@ovenstones.co.za or refer to the Contact Form on their website

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Candles, Cottages and The Book

What’s more, Stellenberg also offers a lovely nursery, where you can shop for your own plants and flowers. Established in 1996, it specialises in herbaceous perennials and hedging plants.

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You are welcome to browse the nursery, which is open Monday to Friday, from 08:30 am – 16:30 pm.

If you don’t go potty over the garden samples, you might find something else you like, as they also sell beautiful Stellenberg candles and the book, Stellenberg: The Story of a Garden, here. (Note: Credit- and debit-card payments are available.)

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The Stellenberg scented candles – which are truly beautifully packaged/designed and smell good to boot – offer a choice of six fragrant candles, perfect as gifts or cherished home additions. (These can be bought at the Stellenberg Nursery and in locations across Cape Town.) For more information on the candles, see here.

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But that’s not all though, because Stellenberg also offers four, secure estate houses. Each has its own garden and pool for guests to enjoy, as well as a dedicated staff member for assistance. Every so often, these houses are available for rent, though please be advised that long-term rental is preferred.

For enquiries, please contact: +27 (021) 762 7733, stellenberggardens@ovenstones.co.za

What You Need to Know About Stellenberg Open Gardens

Although it only comes around once annually, Stellenberg Open Gardens is an occasion to be celebrated and enjoyed by local residents, travellers, international visitors and garden lovers.

In my experience, it is a wonderful outing for everyone. What’s more, the staff, who work tirelessly to make this open garden a success, are welcoming, friendly and eager to help.

There isn’t really anything I can fault about our experience; I loved it from start to finish.

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But I can share a few tips and information:

  • If you visit in hot weather, wearing a sun hat/peak cap and plenty of sunscreen is advised. It was very hot on the day of our visit and, despite the shadier parts of the garden, you would burn easily.
  • Dress comfortably in clothes and shoes that are easy to move around in. The garden takes roughly an hour to two hours to cover completely – but it’s worth savouring at leisure and moving liberally.
  • Bring cash with (there is an entry fee – and an additional fee for the optional tea garden) or download Zapper. Tickets are purchased at the gate so pre-booking isn’t required.
  • Children under 12, accompanied by an adult, enjoy free entry.
  • Regrettably, no pets or picnic baskets are allowed in the garden.
  • Opening hours for Stellenberg Open Gardens are from 09:30 am – 17:30 pm. (If it is particularly hot out, I recommend visiting early in the morning or later in the afternoon when the sun isn’t at its full strength.)stellenberg-gardens-flowers-white

Contact Information

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For more information on Stellenberg Open Gardens (and Stellenberg as a whole), please contact: +27 (021) 762 7733 or +27 (021) 761 2948, email them at stellenberggardens@ovenstones.co.za or visit their website.

Stellenberg Gardens can be found at: 30 Oak Avenue, Kenilworth, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa. 

Stellenberg Gardens is also on Instagram, so be sure to connect with and follow them there. 

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Author: Tamlyn 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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