Saturday, April 20

Spring garden showcase in the Helderberg

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The Helderberg Open Gardens Festival will feature an array of innovative ways to cope with the drought

Visit 20 vibrant spring gardens which will be open to the public today and tomorrow at the Helderberg Hospice Open Gardens Festival. The proceeds of ticket sales will go towards raising funds for the hospice in Somerset West.

Helderberg Hospice provides care to people facing the challenge of a life-threatening illness. Founded in 1986 and one of the first hospices in South Africa, the hospice has grown and developed in response to community needs.

Festival details

The Helderberg Open Gardens Festival is traditionally held in November, but due to the drought and heat experienced during this period, festival organisers decided to look at an earlier time slot.

“Our focus this year is again on water-wise, indigenous gardens. The open gardens will feature an array of innovative ways gardeners are using to cope with the drought,” said Cheryl Rundle, hospice fundraising and events coordinator.

Buy your ticket at the hospice and enjoy a walk through the peaceful hospice gardens, a main feature of the festival weekend, before heading off to view the private gardens. Books, plants and other goods will be on sale at the hospice.

Gardens to view

Gardens throughout the region have struggled through the crippling drought, but with the good winter rains, plants are bouncing back with new growth and spring buds.

Rundle thanked homeowners for opening their gardens in support of the fund-raising initiative, despite the water challenge.

What can visitors expect to see in the gardens?

Nine of the 20 gardens are newcomers to the festival. Another garden, the Wind Rose Guest House in Gordon’s Bay, has returned after a short sabbatical.

The Milton garden

Trevor and Dot Milton’s garden in Nature’s Valley offer spectacular views of the Helderberg and borders the nature reserve. The garden is 90% indigenous and has coped remarkably well throughout the drought.

“With the rain, it is wonderful to see the seasonal flowers coming through,” said Dot.

She puts out seed and nectar for birds and enjoys an abundance of bees and butterflies in her garden. No pesticides are used and cuttings are chipped, composted and put back into the garden as mulch.

The Lewis garden, new to the festival, is intriguing and has an air of mystery. Picture: Supplied

The Cilliers garden

This award-winning garden, owned by Bart Cilliers, was once filled with Port Jackson willow and pine trees. After removing the aliens, Cilliers developed the garden into a predominately indigenous haven.

With the good winter rains, he said his plants have rallied splendidly. A number of fynbos species are in flower in the garden, including pincushions and the last of the season’s proteas. Show patrons can also visit two shade houses where Cilliers grows an extensive number of clivia.

Charisma Park gardens

Two gardens in Charisma Park in Somerset West are open to the public. At the start of the drought, residents recycled washing machine water to keep the gardens going, but eventually, this wasn’t enough. They later installed four rainwater tanks and revamped the garden with pavers, stones, pots and water-wise plants.

Wendy Koblischke’s garden shows that even on a small plot, one can find space to grow vegetables. She grows kale, spinach, beetroot, tomatoes, lettuce, green beans and herbs in five vegetable boxes made from old pallets.

“Spring has arrived after a fairly good winter rainfall and it’s beautiful to see the colours on the faces of happy pansies, to smell the fragrance of the jasmine and see the clivias and strelitzias in bloom,” said Koblischke, who is a volunteer at the hospice.

You can also visit Lorraine Janse van Rensburg’s garden, situated across the road from the Koblischke residence.

The Van Zyl garden

Located in Illaire, Chris van Zyl’s garden offers a fairy-like atmosphere, with a number of beautiful and unusual elements that will inspire even the most seasoned gardener. The garden showcases bromeliads and air plants.

To maximise space, Van Zyl has included a number of living walls that draw the eye upwards.

He is serious about conserving water and has managed to create a stunning garden despite severe water restrictions. Join Van Zyl at his home for a talk on bromeliads at 2 pm on September 8 and 9.

Festival information

Visit 10 gardens to receive a R80 Benbel Home and Garden voucher and stand a chance to win the R500 Benbel main prize. Tea and snacks will be on sale at some gardens, and the brochure recommends tea and lunch stops along the route.

Gardens are open on September 8 and 9 from 9 am to 4 pm.

Ticket sales: Helderberg Hospice, 21 Old Stellenbosch Road, Somerset West.

Cost: R90 for 20 gardens.

For security purposes, the addresses of the private open gardens, as well as the accompanying map, will be provided once you have bought a ticket.

For more details about the Open Gardens Festival, see or call Cheryl on 0827315736 or Celestine on 0760625855.

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