STEENBERG Hotel & Spa is an idyllic retreat and one of the jewels of the Constantia wine valley. Catherine Schulze, the general manager, has been the proud custodian of the property for more than a decade, melding its 17thcentury origins with modern day, world-class hospitality.
Schulze has blossomed in her time at Steenberg and her signature style is evident in every aspect of this luxury 24-room boutique hotel. The extensive garden surrounding the original werf is one of her passions and has evolved to better frame the buildings and serve the birds, bees and guests at Steenberg.
Childhood nostalgia for her farm home, the splendour of her grandfather’s garden and the history of Steenberg have all been sources of inspiration and have influenced the landscaping and choice of flowers and plants across the hotel grounds at this, the oldest registered farm in the country.
“As a child, I was surrounded by family members who communicated their artistry and creativity through their gardens. During my holiday visits to ouma and oupa’s thatch house in Hermanus, we were welcomed by a flourishing garden with pastel hues of pink and blue hydrangeas. My holiday chore of watering the gardens left me happily drenched as I played on hot summer mornings, and then later so proud of my contribution as the house was filled with vases of freshly cut flowers,” she says.
The year-round supply of colourful blooms and fresh greenery that come from the well-planned garden at Steenberg, supports Schulze’s passion for flowers that welcome guests into the different spaces, creating a home away from home with personalised arrangements in the suites, rooms and spa.
“Freshly picked flowers are beautiful, reflecting the season and care with which the garden was created and nurtured. Anything intentionally done purely for the absolute pleasure of our guests I believe is felt at a deeper level, so handpicked blooms from the garden arranged with love will always outweigh a store-bought arrangement.”
The historic white washed buildings that surround the werf are framed by long beds of whites and greens with bursts of blues and pinks. “As a hotel on a farm, things need to feel natural and not overly orchestrated so that our guests feel that the gardens are in harmony with the scale of the buildings, within their vineyard setting and the magnificent Constantia Valley, but are still intimate and interesting enough for them to feel at home.” explains Schulze.
Over the years, the velvety soft waves of the Salvia Leucantha, also known as Mexican Bush Sage, have become synonymous with Steenberg Hotel & Spa. This showstopper has been a hero backdrop of many memorable holiday moments and bridal photographs. The deep purple salvia bursts through the pastel shades of the gardens and neatly fences the surrounding pathways that wrap around the lawns. These perennial and hardy shrubs are in full bloom from spring through to autumn and are a prolific source of nectar for local pollinators.
“The beauty of salvia is not only its striking deep purple hue, but its velvety texture too is unmistakable, and at the start of a new day, the morning dew clings to every bloom glistening in the early morning light,” adds Schulze.
Roses – pictured at the top of the page – are the darlings of Steenberg and are among the many soft floral scents rising from the garden beds. A wide variety of roses from white iceberg to pink simplicity, pearl and ivory can be found across the property; some acting as a deterrent and signal to protect the vines from bugs, others grown for sheer beauty or blooming generosity.
“Some roses have been planted for sentimental reasons, as a reminder of those who have walked before us. At Steenberg, the sense of history is never far away,” says Schulze.
The decision to plant plum and nectarine trees behind the formal garden came about after Schulze brought home fragrant blossoms from a visit to her family’s farm. “They had formed such a beautiful arrangement in my home, that I wanted to recreate this seasonal treat of blossoms for our guests,” she shares.
The grandeur of the old oak trees around the property connect guests to a deep sense of time and to the history of Steenberg. The oaks take on a magical form when lit up, creating a sense of enchantment in the evenings. The canopy of branches of one of these beautiful oaks and their dappled shade was Catherine’s opportunity to create a private garden, a sensorial paradise of plant scents infusing the air while guests enjoy their serene outdoor spa treatment within its confines. This scented garden with its medley of gardenias, pennyroyals, sweet viburnum, lavender and citrus is imbued with the fresh bouquet garni of fragrant herbs from the adjacent herb garden.
Over the years, Schulze has been inspired by guests who share the same love and passion for beautiful gardens and spaces. “Our gardens at Steenberg have been influenced and shaped by the contributions of our guests. Many have shared their knowledge, and ideas from their own gardens to enhance their favourite corner or bed. It is lovely to walk through in the quiet of the morning, before the day begins, and reflect on the richness of collaboration that the garden represents, knowing that some of our ideas have taken root in their gardens too.”
No matter where you wander in the garden there will be a scent to enjoy, a bloom to surprise and a story to discover. And if you are lucky a quiet moment of rhapsody as an owl hoots at dusk and the scents of the softly closing blooms surround you.