elgin open gardens - a gardener's bliss

Submitted by MichaelE on Mon, 2010-11-01 11:34

the auldearn garden in the elgin valleythe auldearn garden in the elgin valleyThis last weekend was the first weekend of the annual Elgin Open Gardens. The weather was stunning - perfect for a day out in the beautiful Elgin valley, which is known for its apples and beautiful gardens. The gardens are also open next weekend, the 6th and 7th of November. You pay a small fee ranging from R5 to R20 a person, which is donated to a different charity. This year there are over twenty open gardens that you can visit. It's best that you plan on leaving early and spend the day in the valley, so that you have time to explore some of the gardens. There are some absolutely stunning gardens that are sure to inspire you.

We stopped off and had a leisurely brunch at the Houwhoek Farm Stall, which serves delicious food and has great stall, at which we bought some wonderful dried apricots for the road.

the garden at lorrainethe garden at lorraine

One garden that I was really impressed with was Lorraine, a certified organic apple farm. The garden has an English feel with a beautiful lined driveway, with lovely irises and annuals. There are geese resting by a natural stream that flows down into a stunning dam. The garden features a stunning waterfall and has lovely shady benches in which to sit under the willow trees. Explore the beautiful orchards, and buy some delicious apple juice, crab apple cordial, as well as other delicious organic produce.

The next stop on our tour was Heaven Scent nursery which grows cut flowers for export. The unusual thing about this garden is that they grow all their flowers in the open air, and you can buy posies and plants. They have an inspiring indigenous section and many unusual scented indigenous plants that would look great in any garden. They also had a refreshing beer stall which the men in the group spied with delight – just what we needed on such a hot day!

Along the way we took a beautiful trip down through pine forests (interspersed with bleak logged areas) to Iona, one of South Africa's coolest vineyards. The farm is on a plateau only 400 or so meters above sea level and is surrounded by the Kogelberg Nature Reserve. They have a lovely formal garden as you approach the main building and a small vegetable garden.

Almenkerk wine estate also has the most stunning views and lovely massed indigenous landscaping. Stop off and enjoy delicious home baked treats, as well as fantastic cheeses and wines.

the rambling roses of freshwoodsthe rambling roses of freshwoods

Our last stop of the day was at Freshwoods. This was my favourite garden with its rambling pathways through the very tall pine trees, with yellow primroses, azaleas, rhododendrons, and rambling roses. This is a cool enchanted forest of a garden that I would have loved to get lost in as a kid. Hide and seek would have been pure bliss.

With twenty gardens to choose from, and only so much time, we sadly did not get to see as many gardens as we would have liked. For instance I would have loved to see the Stone Kitchen garden, which has an organic vegetable patch and beautiful indigenous landscaping. I am sorry to have missed their permaculture kitchen garden, which would have been a treat.

So perhaps I'll be heading out again this coming weekend to experience that, and just to spend some more time stopping and smelling the roses in the beautiful Elgin valley.