A hidden horticultural treasure at Vergelegen wine estate in Somerset West has recently been refreshed with over 300 fragrant, full-petalled roses.
Words and images by Judy Bryant and Vergelegen
The magnificent gardens at 318-year-old Vergelegen are always worth a wander ‒ in summer you can enjoy vast beds of agapanthus and annuals, and even in the winter months the gardens are ablaze with pink and red camellias.
There’s always something new to discover at this wonderful estate, and the latest area to enjoy a makeover is a classic David Austin rose garden. It lies behind the homestead in a horticultural area surrounded by high walls, originally built to keep lions at bay.
“This rose garden was first laid out when Randlord Sir Lionel Phillips and his wife Lady Florence owned the farm from 1917-1941, and was replanted after Anglo American bought the estate in 1987,” says Vergelegen horticulturist Richard Arm.
Richard and his helpers have retained the central water feature installed by Lady Florence, plus the classic octagonal shape ‒ the enduring symbol of Vergelegen ‒ while replanting the eight segmented beds.
“The ancient walls and narrow gates meant we could not bring in heavy earth-moving machinery, so digging and removing the old soil was done by hand. We brought in about 144m² of fresh soil and chose cultivars in soft pastel colours, with ‘Port Sunlight’ lending a light yellow dash. ‘Glamis Castle’ forms a pure white hedge around the water feature.”
Richard said the next stage of the transformation will be to plant David Austin climbing roses close to the nearby boundary wall. “These will twine up and over an existing, beautiful wrought iron trellis to complement the bed planting. Visitors will be able to walk under a canopy of fragrant roses.”
Richard added that this latest makeover was inspired by the success of a similar rose garden transformation on the estate three years ago. That garden is located near the camphor forest where summer picnics are served. In the centre it has an elegant sculpture of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. You can smell the beautiful fragrances from far away and the garden’s well worth exploring.
Fortunately there is plenty of water to maintain these beautiful roses. An alien vegetation clearing project over 2000 hectares has resulted in increased mountain water run-off into the estate’s large dams and the estate is self-sufficient in potable and non-potable water.
Viewing: Vergelegen estate is open Monday-Sunday 09h30-17h00 (last entry 16h00). Entrance R10/adults and R5/pensioners and scholars, pensioners free on Mondays. Daily heritage and garden tours (one hour) depart from the wine tasting centre at 10h00. Garden clubs can also book tours. Find out more at www.vergelegen.co.za