Wine and roses

A few of weeks ago, I attended the launch of the exquisite new Rose Garden, at Vergelegen Estate in Somerset West.

This gracious, 316-year-old wine estate is one of my favourite venues to visit in the Helderberg and Boland, and this latest work of landscape art is one of 18 gardens they have, all well worth visiting.

This new venture was no small undertaking, and involved bringing in 1 200 tonnes of virgin soil, 90 tonnes of peach pips, 40 tonnes of compost and 1 500 new roses.

As we wandered around between the blooms, I couldn’t resist burying my nose into the petals, and taking in their glorious scent, to the point of making myself quite dizzy (and given my allergy to bees, possibly quite risky behaviour).

On display are miniature roses, rambling climbers, heritage blooms and newly-bred hybrids, all laid out in what will be a familiar (and trademark) look at Vergelegen: an octagonal shape, with a colour palette that transitions spectacularly from reds, oranges and yellows to whites on the right, and from purples, deep and light pinks to white on the left.

The striking central feature is a bronze sculpture of a woman, titled Aphrodite (the Greek goddess of love and beauty), created by Kenyan-born artist Stanislaw Trzebinski, who was there to share some of the symbology behind his sculpture, from which water cascades, into an octagonal pool of water.

“Aphrodite was born from sea foam. As she emerged onto the seashore, the foam falling off her body sprouted into the first white roses as it landed on the sand,” he said.

On a sensory level, there is no shortage of stimulation, with sight, scent and hearing all amply catered for, and for those who wish to experience a soothing, gracious space, this is where I’d recommend you head to for an unforgettable excursion.

Vergelegen horticulturist Richard Arm, who was closely involved in the project from inception, with particular responsibility for the landscaping and irrigation, was also on hand to talk about his passion for gardening, and I must conclude, there can be no place more lovely to spend one’s day toiling, so to speak, than here.

A cottage-style herbaceous border of heritage roses, indigenous bulbs, foxgloves and other perennials frames the estate’s picnic building at the far end, with persimmon and avocado trees and a hedgerow completing the picture.

Afterwards, we were treated to a picnic lunch in the camphor tree forest just beyond, among the younger generation stemming from the five enormous camphor trees, declared national monuments in 1942, which are located nearby.

The occasion also heralded the season’s start of the famous “white tablecloth picnic” held in the dappled forest, which is the perfect foil for the summer heat, and adds an air of enchantment to the whole experience, in a peaceful grotto.

As I mentally brace myself for the annual festive season, and the crowds and busyness that implies, it struck me that it is one of the utter joys of living in this area, that these tranquil settings abound where one can retreat to with loved ones, and bypass some of the frenzy.

The picnics are served in traditional picnic baskets, and enjoyed in fine style at tables and chairs, shaded by umbrellas and the natural tree canopy, blessed relief.

The platters that were brought out were laden with sumptious fare, much of it locally-sourced and -grown (the bread is made in Stellenbosch by an artisanal baker, and I had to restrain myself from filling up on that alone, it was so delicious).

As the year starts to draw to a close (and what a tumultuous year it has been), Bolander will keep our readers informed of many of the little and large pleasures on hand, the anticipation of which may go some way towards counteracting the fatigue we all seem to feel at this point in proceedings.

I grew up on a farm called Shalimar, named so because of my mom’s love of gardening. The original Shalimar Bagh garden was in India, and Emperor Jahangir said in 1619… “If there is a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.” Indeed.

Carolyn Frost: Editor