Camellia Japonica is All the Rage in August

Private Property South Africa
Anna-Marie Smith

The winter flowering season in Cape Town is when many magnificent species that grow prolifically in different garden settings, in the natural surroundings of mountain ranges and reserves, or like the Camellia japonica’s currently in bloom in Somerset West, can be viewed. Some of the Cape’s most spectacular winter flower viewing during the months of July through to August require travelling fair distances up to the West Coast an other regions, but for locals in need of winter gardening ideas closer by, the city surroundings offer a number of choices.

The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, set in a prime residential area located at the foot of Table Mountain, also within close proximity of the University of Cape Town, is where the award winning Cape Floral Kingdom can be viewed. Keen gardeners can see their favourite plant species in this prize environment, and even purchase a wide variety of indigenous Cape Fynbos, trees and flowers from the garden’s nursery, that also provides gardening advice.

Another prime natural garden setting is Somerset West’s historic Vergelegen Wine Estate, located approximately fourty minutes from the city in the vicinity of Cape Town International Airport. An interesting fact not commonly known to many Capetonians and visitors is that these magnificent gardens, best known as home to some of SA’s oldest trees and splendid rose gardens in full bloom during summer, also offers winter viewings not to be missed. Vergelegen is SA’s first and only International Camellia Garden of Excellence, and is where homeowners and keen gardeners can view a collection of over 1 000 pink, red and white blooms of some spectacular Camellia japonica shrubs currently in full bloom.

Somerset West is one of Cape Town’s largest municipal towns that is located within close proximity to the Boland wine region, and is set against the backdrop of the Helderberg Mountains on one side and the False Bay ocean on the other. The area’s weather conditions deemed it perfect for this estate to become home to a vast variety of 550 camellia cultivars from France, Japan, America and elsewhere in South Africa. This magnificent shrub that grows up to five metres high was introduced to the Cape in two stages, and first planted by Cynthia Barlow after her family bought the estate in June 1941.

Previously a common sight in gardens in Pretoria and surrounds, the second part of the collection was established from 1995 when Jan van Bergen donated more than 700 plants, some which were imported into South Africa, others which he bred. Local homeowners say gardening in Somerset West is very rewarding since this town is known for its constant weather conditions, with colder spells during the winter months of June, July and August. While minimum temperatures occasionally drop to below 10 degrees during winter, it seldom gets hotter than 30 degrees during the summer, despite the hottest month there being January.

Summer in this region sees the driest periods during January, February, March, November and December, when homeowners have to irrigate their gardens within the confines of Province’s water restrictions. This area also attracts the services of a number of professional landscapers and gardening centres, where property owners can find solutions and gardening products for all their needs.

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