I can very confidently say that I do not have green fingers. I literally struggle to keep succulents alive! That does not mean, however, that I do not enjoy gardens! One of my very first memories of Stellenbosch is heading to the Botanical Gardens and just spending some time in the tranquillity with the sound of cicadas in the background.
And then last year I attended my very first Open Gardens event in Elgin and I was immediately hooked. It is such a great concept; across the nine provinces, people open their beautiful gardens to visitors. This ensures that these gardeners get some exposure for their hard work, but it also promotes getting outdoors and spending time in nature, especially in our beautiful country.
As we head into spring, I’ve made a list of some of my favourite places where you can attend an Open Gardens event in the Western Cape. Most of these Open Gardens are situated in tourist hotspots, so it is also a great way to explore a region and it is, of course, also totally family-friendly.
Elgin Open Gardens
26 – 27 October and 2 – 3 November
The Elgin and Bot River region boasts eight Open Gardens over two weekends. Apart from being able to take long, luxurious walks through the gardens, you are also able to purchase a few unique plants and stop by some of the gardens for a light lunch and some tea. The Elgin region is also known for its cooler climate and white wines and therefore you can also stop by one of the several wine farms on the way as well. The best part of all? It’s a mere hour’s drive from Cape Town CBD!
Where to stay? The exquisite Wildekrans Country House is situated in the little Houw Hoek village and apart from their impressive gardens, they also have an extensive art collection which includes beautiful sculptures that can be found in the gardens.
What to do? Bordering the Kogelberg Nature Reserve is Rosenhof Organic Farm which is home to Her Harvest, a plant-based restaurant with ingredients from their very own garden.
Barrydale in Bloom
12 – 13 October
If you have ever paid the little Klein Karoo town of Barrydale a visit, you’ll know that the town’s climate allows for the production of not only fruits, veg and grapes but also unique plant species, big trees and luscious gardens. A little known fact is that the lei water system in the town is still functioning in the older parts of town, while also feeding untreated mountain water to the farms bordering the town. The town itself has a heritage garden that you’ll be able to visit and attendees of the event walk from garden to garden – even venturing into Smithville (the informal settlement bordering the town).
Where to stay? The Blue Cow Barn is situated on a working farm only one kilometre from town. From there, you’ll be able to join the Barrydale in Bloom walk, while also enjoying the scenery of carrot and onion seed plantations on the farm.
What to do? The Mez Karoo Kitchen in the heart of Barrydale is a must-visit. It’s important to book ahead as this restaurant, serving Mediterranean, Mexican, African and South African dishes gets quite busy over popular periods.
21 – 23 September
Arguably my favourite Western Cape town, this semi-Karoo heritage village is situated just outside of Robertson, not far from Bonnievale. Over the course of the weekend, you can view over thirty gardens in this charming little town. The organisers usually distribute the activities in seven different categories ensuring that you get a wide variety of activities throughout the weekend; namely conservation, food, knowledge, gardens, water, heritage and arts. The event is also happening over heritage weekend, so it’s the perfect opportunity for a getaway!
Where to stay? Le Bonheur Guest Accommodation in McGregor is a small town weekend dream! The entire house is built to support green building techniques, which means it is cooler in summer and the bathrooms use less water naturally – to name just a few.
What to do? In the heart of McGregor is the most beautiful little wine bar where you can find a hand-full of locals and tourists winding down with a glass of wine and bubbly on any balmy night. Grape DeVine is a must-visit and their wine selection includes a few favourites from the area.