Steen­berg gar­dens’ me­dieval-in­spired potager gar­den

earthly de­light

Condé Nast House & Garden - - CONTENTS -

Tucked away in the north-eastern cor­ner of Stel­len­berg Gar­dens in Cape Town, un­cover the sym­bol­ism and ro­mance in a kitchen gar­den in­spired by an­cient me­dieval prin­ci­ples

The walled gar­den on the south­ern side of the Stel­len­berg prop­erty – now called the Gar­den of Re­flec­tion – was orig­i­nally ear­marked to be the site for the kitchen gar­den by the late highly-ac­claimed de­signer, David Hicks. Ideas evolved over time and ul­ti­mately an unutilised 17x12m area to the north-eastern bound­ary of the prop­erty was felt to be more man­age­able in size and known to re­ceive just the right amount of morn­ing sun re­quired for plant­ing veg­eta­bles, fruit and medic­i­nal herbs. The new po­si­tion max­i­mized the avail­able space and forced a more con­sid­ered plant list where noth­ing would be wasted. ‘Ev­ery­thing that is planted is eaten or used in some way in the gar­den’ says head gar­dener, Athol Mclag­gan.

The gar­den ref­er­ences an­cient me­dieval monas­tic gar­dens of the fif­teenth cen­tury and is in­spired by the more re­cent or­san Gar­dens at the Prieuré d’or­san in cen­tral France. Tenets of the monas­tic gar­den state that ev­ery­thing grown should not only be prac­ti­cal and use­ful but also dis­play a beauty and sim­plic­ity that speaks to the heart and soul of the gar­den. In this kitchen gar­den it is the sim­ple de­tails that echo this sen­ti­ment, such as the crafted plant sup­ports by gar­dener Sikhangele Langa, topped with Eu­ca­lyp­tus pods ‘to pre­vent one from be­ing poked in the eye whilst pick­ing veg­eta­bles and herbs,’ he says.

The de­sign el­e­ments also hold true to the me­dieval sen­ti­ment run­ning through the gar­den. The main ac­cess paths were de­signed to re­flect the sign of the cross and a hand-chis­elled stone wa­ter fea­ture, cen­trally po­si­tioned, em­bod­ies the monas­tic prin­ci­ple of wa­ter be­ing the source of all life.

In terms of plant­ing, the gar­den is as it should be – an abun­dance of sea­sonal veg­eta­bles, fresh fruit, medic­i­nal herbs and flow­ers. Quince trees hedge the western side, bright straw­ber­ries cover the beds in sum­mer, rhubarb, leeks and salad greens jos­tle side by side in di­ag­o­nally planted beds and the fra­grant, colour­ful blooms of rose, vi­ola and fox­gloves pop through rows of medic­i­nal com­frey, sage and the all-heal­ing Prunella herb. This cor­ner is very much a func­tional and hard­work­ing area of the gar­den – pro­vid­ing an end­less sup­ply of fresh, sea­sonal pro­duce to the fam­ily kitchen.

de­spite all this ac­tiv­ity it re­mains a tran­quil and re­ju­ve­nat­ing space true to the spirit of me­dieval gar­den­ing. nour­ish­ment for mind, body and soul.


clock­wise, FROM TOP left Del­phini­ums; metal-edged path­ways re­tain the loose gravel sur­fac­ing and lend an air of for­mal­ity; rhubarb

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