Lifestyle extravaganza offers spectacular array of walks, talks

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BREAKING NEWS: Tokara is number 47 on the World’s 50 Best Vineyards list, announced on October 26, 2022.

Garden Town is happening in Stellenbosch until this Sunday, October 30 and it’s well worth a visit. My advice is to get there early and plan well. I did neither, and ended up visiting only Tokara but I have no regrets.

I know the farm for its wines, its olive oils, the restaurant, and deli, so when I was directed to drive farther up the road and discovered the Open Garden, I was amazed. At one point I bumped into owner Anne-Marie Ferreira and conveyed my feelings to her. “I had no idea this existed,” I said, with awe. The reason for this, which I had just earlier been told, is that it’s because it’s their private garden, open to the public on special occasions. The likes of me cannot even contemplate what it must be like to have daily access to such riotous flora.

It’s incredible, but there it is for us to enjoy even for a short time. At the entrance you’re given a map, which is helpful, and also indicates how big it is. Allow me to repeat: it’s so big you need a map. I wandered around according to this guide until I accidentally happened upon the moss garden, where I was invited to join the guided tour.

Gert van Tonder demonstrated how moss which had been out in the sunshine came alive and green within seconds of having water splashed on it

I met Gert van Tonder, who has spent three years so far creating this Japanese-style garden planted with indigenous moss. In his previous life he was a robotics engineer and a neurologist, spent 30 years in Japan and has lectured at universities all over the world. He gave it all up to follow his dream and passion to create this garden, and if that’s not a career 180 I don’t know what is. It was fascinating, but the hot sun drove me to seek the shadows along the mountain stream walk. I also think this location is a missed opportunity for a refreshment station, preferably with wine; the deli is very far away.

Earlier, I’d crossed the immaculate lawn where an enormous sculpture of Dionysus gazes contemplatively. I had no banana for scale (the internet unit for size) so the photo doesn’t adequately show how large he is. Even so, he is dwarfed by his surroundings, and entirely appropriate for them, being a nature god of fruitfulness and vegetation, and especially known as a god of wine and ecstasy. Other sculptures of real world scale can be seen in other locations in the garden.

There’s an indigenous garden with strelitzias – bird of paradise – and clivias; a wisteria walk which must be breathtaking when in bloom, a lily pond, flower terraces, fruit and food gardens, and indigenous wetland. I concluded by walking around the dam (678m as the map informed me; it did not alert me to the steep uphill on the far side but the view was marvellous). What a privilege to have been able to experience this.

Garden Town is organised by all the town’s main tourism stakeholders, and draws in many well-known names including the Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden, Rupert Museum, Quoin Rock, Ernst van Jaarsveld, Lanzerac and Babylonstoren, while also touching the lives of people in communities such as Dwarsrivier, Pniël, Jamestown, Kayamandi, Ida’s Valley and Klapmuts, to name a few.

It encompasses activities from horticultural tours to floral art; dining to hiking; and, guest garden specialists too. Experience DIY vegetable gardening, wine tasting, painting, guided bird walks, wreath making, moss garden tours, and much more. The Stellenbosch CBD will be decorated with colourful craft flowers, upcyled flower garlands and mobile installations, so come even if it’s just to see the spectacle.

This year, Garden Town Stellenbosch collaborates with KAMERS/Makers, hosted at Blaauwklippen Wine Estate from 25 to 30 October. On offer is a combo ticket that provides entrance to both KAMERS and home gardens. KAMERS/Makers is South Africa’s biggest retail pop-up, and between the trees and flowers guests will have hours to search for the most unique and proudly South African products.

The full list of activities, times, dates, locations, relevant costs and reservation details are listed on the Garden Town website. For more information about all the upcoming garden festival events and bookings, click here, or call 021 886 4310.

PHOTO CREDIT: Bianca Coleman ©

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