Richard Arm is the very friendly horticulturist at Vergelegen in Somerset West. “ Every season has it joys” he says, with a big smile and no hint of irony. “What’s joyful in winter?” I ask. “ The camellias”, he replies ”they’re even better on a grey day because the flowers seem to shine more.”
The International Camellia Society recognized Vergelegen as an International Camellia Garden of Excellence in 2010. It is the only one in Africa and to date there are only 40 worldwide. The accolade is well deserved. There are over 1000 Camellia plants, and over 550 varieties, some with huge extravagant double flowers, others with very tiny flowers in colours that range from white through pink to deep crimson. Known as the winter rose, Camellias bloom from mid June through to the first half of September, and the display at Vergelegen definitely makes it worth wrapping up and braving the winter weather. Afterwards you can enjoy a glass of Vergelegen V, a fine Bordeaux blend, to chase away the chills.
Come summer this year Vergelen will have another treat in store. Richard has redesigned the famous rose garden, planting a wide array of old English varieties. All of them have been selected for their fragrance, so it’s definitely the place to stop and smell the roses. And if you can’t wait till then, spring is the best time to visit the walled octagonal garden behind the Manor House, where foxgloves and delphiniums and flowering borders, all meticulously tended by a dedicated team, will welcome you with a cheerful splash of colours.
Rustenburg in Stellenbosch has a stunning English style garden. The garden is situated next to the Cape Dutch homestead Schoongezicht, originally built in 1814. It has the Simonsberg as dramatic backdrop. There are flowers in abundance, a beautiful pergola and formal paths that lead you through the four distinct areas. What a pleasure to sit on one of the benches and listen to the birdsong and, for once, to contemplate what’s right with the world.
Then there’s DeMorgenzon, the winery that describes itself as “a 91 hectare garden interspersed with 55 hectares of carefully tended vineyards”. Blues, whites and purples dominate the palette here, with cypress and olive trees framing the views. There are abundant roses, cornflowers and poppies, while wild flowers grow between the vineyards and baroque music is played to the vines through loudspeakers. It is exuberant, celebratory even.
The bonus of all three gardens is the excellent quality of the wines you will find in all three tasting rooms. International award winning wines, many of them. So these are the wineries to bring your godmother to visit, but in truth anyone with a love of flowers and a love of wine will have the best time ever, no matter the season.