Vergelegen’s camelias bloom
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. vergelegen.co.za , or email info@ vergelegen.co.za
Vergelegen horticulturist Richard Arm admires ‘Laurian Brown’ ( RSA)