Summer is well and truly here and spending time outdoors is once again an appealing prospect. Plants have sprung back to life, the sun is shining and the fields are slowly taking on a green hue.
Johannesburg’s gardens are revelling in the new found warmth but one in particular is absolutely flourishing. I was privileged enough to visit ‘Beechwood’ on Christopherson Road in Hyde Park recently and in my humble opinion have concluded that it must be one of the most spectacular gardens in the country.
The property belongs to Christopher and Susan Greig of Charles Greig Jewellers fame and was recently opened to the public on behalf of ‘Gardens of the Golden City’, an umbrella organisation of Johannesburg’s garden clubs which donates all proceeds to charity.
On entering the sprawling three and a half acre grounds via a sweeping driveway, I was automatically struck by the grandeur of the property. A magnificent country house sporting Tudor-like characteristics such as a steep, wood shingled roof, half timbering and diamond framed windows occupies a sizeable portion of the grounds. However, although the house is outstanding, it is the garden which steals the limelight.
The garden was originally laid out in the 1940’s by Joane Pim, a ‘landscaping pioneer’ who was known for her use of imposing trees. The sheer size of the property’s trees - which included a copper beech and colossal water oak amongst others - attests to the garden’s age and just beg to be sat under with a good book and pillow. A swing had been attached to the boughs of one tree and a number of children took great delight in using it throughout the day.
Visitors were encouraged to begin their tour of the garden with a designated stone pathway which led into a woodlands node. This rustically themed area soon gave way to an open pocket of velvet green lawn bordered by a large mulberry tree, blossoming jacarandas and jewel coloured foxgloves. A plantation bench created the perfect platform from which to soak it all in.
Further down the pathway is the Greig’s water garden which comprises four small dams and waterfalls on different levels. The scene created by this area could have been the inspiration for one of Claude Monet’s water lily paintings. Interspersed amongst the water lilies were fallen purple jacaranda flowers which only added to this area’s ethereal quality. Lower down near one of the waterfalls, a delightful pair of bronze otter statues rounded off the scene.
Incredibly the garden had yet more to offer. A grand columned walkway led to a formal rose garden featuring roses of every hue and scent. This area was particularly popular with patrons for obvious reasons. A fully-fledged, lavender bordered vegetable garden featuring lettuce, tomatoes, cabbages and beetroot lay not far from the rose garden. A remodelled coach house and tennis court is also situated at this node.
Many visitors stayed for lunch which was being served under the trees near the rose garden. A number of tables and chairs had been set out for the purpose and the caterers battled to keep up with demand. I elected to have the delicious buffet lunch under a tree next to the Greig’s enchanting pool. Those with a sweet tooth could take their pick of decadent cakes which were also on sale.
Needless to say it was an enchanting way to spend the day and I felt as if I’d been transported to a European idyll. Such gardens are the stuff of dreams and I had to force myself to leave but I did so happy in the knowledge that the garden is quite obviously in good hands and will hopefully be around for many more years to come.
Those interested in visiting Gardens of the Golden City’s open gardens can go to www.gardensofthegoldencity.co.za for further information.