It may be the middle of winter here in South Africa, but that doesn’t mean the flowers aren’t ready to bloom, especially if South Africa’s (and Africa’s) only International Camellia Garden is anything to go by…
Flower Spectacle in Somerset West
Africa’s only International Camellia Garden of Excellence is located right here in the Mother City and it’s definitely a spectacle worth witnessing. Vergelegen Wine Estate, a 322-year-old provincial heritage site in Somerset West is home to this glorious garden of around 1 000 Camellia bushes.
There are currently 39 Camellia Gardens of Excellence in the world, and Vergelegen’s camellia garden, and Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens are the only two in the Southern hemisphere, reports Travel News.
Richard Arm, horticulturist at Vergelegen, says that the estate has over 1 000 camellia bushes made up of around 550 cultivars from as far afield as France, Japan, America and South Africa.
According to Arm, the camellia gardens is a magnificent sight from now until early spring. The shrubs can be viewed in three areas on the estate: at the bottom of the Great Lawn in front of the homestead; near the estate’s Café Fleur restaurant; and along a meandering path beside the Lourens River and through the yellowwood forest.
Vergelegen’s stunning gardens cover around 10 hectares within a cultural heritage area. The estate also plans to develop a 54-hectare arboretum, to plant about 7 500 trees over ten years.
Camellia bushes were first planted at Vergelegen in the 1920s by owner, Lady Florence Phillips. The estate was thereafter named an International Camellia Garden of Excellence in 2010 by the International Camellia Society, which is a non-profit organisation founded in 1962.
How and when to see the Camellia Garden
The peak time to view these gorgeous gardens is from June to August and visitors can stroll through at their own pace. Visitors can also opt to book one of the daily garden and heritage walking tours. This tour incorporates the camellias and other plantings, significant trees, the restored homestead and historic library.
The tour is an hour long and costs R50 per person and departs from the wine-tasting centre at Vergelegen at 09:30 everyday. There is a maximum of 20 people allowed per tour and it is weather dependent. Bookings can be made at 021-847-2122.