Africa’s only camellia garden is in full bloom

Posted by Anita Froneman on 17 August 2021

Many people have a newfound enjoyment of the outdoors, and are discovering beautiful local places that they might have been unaware of pre-pandemic.

One of these lovely natural treasures is the International Camellia Garden of Excellence at Vergelegen wine estate in Somerset West – one of only two in the southern hemisphere, and the only one in Africa. The good news is that these magnificent pink, red and white blooms are at their best in winter.

While the 321-year-old estate is not planning an annual Camellia Weekend as in previous years, guests can book for the daily heritage and garden tour, or simply wander through the gardens and view the magnificent camellia display.

Chief horticulturist and gardens manager Richard Arm says that the history of Vergelegen’s camellias goes back decades. The earliest camellia plantings consist of classic, pre-1940s Camellia japonica cultivars, most of which are now mature shrubs reaching up to heights of five metres. Most of these camellias were planted by Cynthia Barlow after her family bought Vergelegen in 1941.

“That initial collection has been expanded through both donations and estate purchases. We now have a  remarkable collection of about 550 camellia cultivars making up a collection of about 1000 specimens. These have been sourced locally and as far afield as France, Japan and America.”


The camellias flower until early spring in three areas: the Barlow camellias at the bottom of the Great Lawn; near the Camphors restaurant; and near the banks of the Lourens River, the only South African river that is officially a Protected Natural Environment.

“To add to the experience, our Stables restaurant now has a barista station – great for a takeout coffee while you wander among the camellias,” says Vergelegen MD Wayne Coetzer.

Visit Vergelegen: The estate is open Monday-Sunday 09h00-17h00 (last entry 16h00).

Entrance R10/adults and R5/pensioners and scholars, pensioners free on Mondays.

Heritage and Garden Tour bookings 021 847 2122, email [email protected].

Stables Restaurant 021 847 2156 | [email protected]


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