Vergele­gen’s camelias bloom

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

WHEN the grey skies are get­ting you down, add a splash of colour to your life by vis­it­ing Vergele­gen wine es­tate in Stel­len­bosch for a gar­den me­an­der. This is the best time of the year to see the dis­tinc­tive pink, red and white blooms of South Africa’s only In­ter­na­tional Camel­lia Gar­den of Ex­cel­lence.

The es­tate re­ceived this ac­co­lade in 2010 from the In­ter­na­tional Camel­lia So­ci­ety.

To­day and tomorrow, the es­tate’s hor­ti­cul­tur­ist Richard Arm will lead guided tours of the camel­lia gar­dens, which de­part from the Sta­bles restau­rant at 9am and 2.30pm. The tour lasts about one and a half hours and upon re­turn­ing to the restau­rant, tea, cof­fee and cake will be served.

“This is the prime time to view th­ese beau­ti­ful blooms against their strik­ing green fo­liage,” says Arm. “We have more than 1 000 camel­lia bushes at the es­tate, com- pris­ing about 550 cul­ti­vars, from as far afield as France, Ja­pan and Amer­ica.”

Some of the most beau­ti­ful and rare spec­i­mens in­clude Lau­rian Brown from South Africa, Tama Elec­tra from Ja­pan, Fran­cie L and An­tic­i­pa­tion from New Zealand and Grace Albrit­ton, Tif­fany and Lasca Beauty from the US.

“The early va­ri­ety of Camel­lia sasan­qua has been bloom­ing since April, and we have al­ready been wel­com­ing lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional camel­lia ad­mir­ers to the gar­dens,” said Arm. “The camel­lias should be a mag­nif­i­cent sight un­til early spring.”

The shrubs can be viewed in three main ar­eas: at the bot­tom of the Great Lawn in front of the home­stead; near the es­tate’s sig­na­ture restau­rant, Cam­phors; and below an ex­panse of yel­low­woods ac­cessed by a swing bridge over the Lourens River.

Camel­lias were in­tro­duced to Vergele­gen in two stages. The Bar­low camel­lia plant­ings con­sist of clas­sic, pre-1940s Camel­lia japon­ica cul­ti­vars, most of which are now large, ma­ture shrubs up to five me­tres high. The sec­ond part of the collection was es­tab­lished from 1995 on­wards with do­na­tions to the es­tate.

Vergele­gen has 18 di­verse gar­densl, planted on 10 hectares within a cul­tural her­itage area span­ning 60ha.

In re­cent years, hor­ti­cul­tural ad­di­tions have in­cluded the East Gar­den, which fea­tures some 14 000 aga­pan­thus, a maze, walk­ways, wa­ter fea­tures and an in­no­va­tive children’s ad­ven­ture play­ground; the herb and veg­etable gar­den has been en­larged and re­planted; and an oak ar­bore­tum es­tab­lished.

To book for a camel­lia tour (R100 in­clud­ing en­trance to the 316-year-old es­tate and post-tour re­fresh­ments) call 021 847 2156 or e- mail: sta­bles@ vergele­gen. co. za. The camel­lias can be viewed at any time till early Septem­ber. The es­tate in Lourens­ford Road is open to the pub­lic Mon­days to Sun­days 9.30am till 5pm (last en­try at 4pm). En­trance is R10 for adults and R5 for pen­sion­ers and schol­ars.

Pen­sion­ers free on Mon­days. Daily her­itage and gen­eral gar­den tours (one hour) de­part from the wine tast­ing cen­tre daily at 10am at R20 a per­son.

Gar­den clubs can or­gan­ise tours by ar­range­ment. For more in­for­ma­tion call 021 847 2122, go to www. vergele­ , or email info@ vergele­

Retic­u­lata, Camel­lia PIC­TURE: VERGELE­GEN

Vergele­gen hor­ti­cul­tur­ist Richard Arm ad­mires ‘Lau­rian Brown’ ( RSA)

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