By Lorraine Kearney
A special flower parade will officially launch Garden Week Stellenbosch, the inaugural annual event running from 30 September to 10 October.
The festival will transform the streets and surrounding countryside of the Winelands heartland, with major drawcards including a first-ever Stellenbosch Winelands experience featuring South Africa’s first Michelin star chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen.
Inspired by the world-famous flower festival of Girona, Spain, it will encompass everything from horticultural tours to landscape art; dining to hiking; and guest specialists to music in majestic settings.
The plan is to start with a festive and cheerful flowery procession through the town, passing by all the plant and garden installations at the historical points that are participating in the week.
The entire community has been invited to take part either on foot, bicycle or skateboard and to decorate with flowers or plant material. Lots of lucky draw prizes will be awarded to participants immersing themselves in the theme of flowers and plants.
‘Garden Week Stellenbosch has been set up not only because gardening tourism is a growing niche sector and we felt that the time was right to put together an epic celebration including the very popular open gardens concept,’ said Elmarie Rabe, the manager of Stellenbosch Wine Routes, ‘but the time has never been better to host something that is beautiful, inspiring and uplifting and that will relieve stress and bring about a much-needed boost for tourism in a safe, mostly outdoors environment.’
There will be talks, tours and workshops, partnered with Stellenbosch’s restaurants and wine farms to bring an amazing programme of activities. More than 50 venues and over 100 workshops, talks and tours are on the programme, along with hikes and e-bike tours, open gardens and private garden visits.
‘Garden Week Stellenbosch promises to deliver a spectacular offering of all thing garden, botanical, flora and more.’
One of the highlights is Finding Eden with Van der Westhuizen, or Jan as he is best known. This casual tête à tête will take place at Blaauwklippen Estate’s magical Cathedral and will include an exploration of the gardens in Jan Hendrik’s life. From Le Jardin de JAN in Nice, France – his Michelin-star restaurant’s new potager garden and picnic spot – to his new culinary playground in the Kalahari; and, how the journey is documented in JAN the Journal.
Another festival highlight is a seven-course Botanical Banquet prepared by JAN Innovation Studio in Cape Town, which brings the JAN experience to the Stellenbosch Winelands for the first time. It’s a homecoming of sorts; this is where Jan Hendrik attended culinary school and refined his taste in wine. The meal will comprise elements from his award-winning establishments in Nice and the Kalahari, at a table created by renowned floral designer Alwijn Burger a.k.a Blomboy, and inspired by Blaauwklippen’s beautiful gardens and rare finds.
There will also be Land Art installations by eight artists including Strijdom van der Merwe, Gordon Fraud, Cow Mash and Sandile Redebe to name a few. The installations are themed around poetry and will be installed at various spots around town, including the Rooiplein on the university campus, Jan Marais Nature Reserve, Droomstroom in Kylemore and Koloniesland Trail. There will also be a spekboom plant labyrinth The Braak, the town’s main square.
Workshops to look forward to including The Essence of Flowers by Dorita Redelinghuys, A Christmas Floral Design masterclass by Chris van Niekerk, various kitchen garden tours and workshops at Longridge, Spier Estate and Babylonstoren, as well as A Meet the Masters conversational series.
Some of the region’s most splendid public gardens will be open to visitors, including the historic Old Nectar estate in the Jonkershoek Valley; the Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden in Paradyskloof; Spier Wine Farm, whose workshops include one for children; and, Delaire Graff Estate. The owners of some 20 private gardens will participate too, giving visitors a rare glimpse of exquisite and usually inaccessible spaces.
Guided walks give visitors the chance to enjoy the gardens in the company of guides while the more energetic might wish to undertake fynbos wilderness hikes on offer.
In addition, the Stellenbosch Botanical Gardens has compiled a special programme of daily walks and talks to be presented by acclaimed specialists. Workshops are also to be presented at the Rupert Museum; Blaauwklippen Wine Farm off the R44; Jordan Wines; Spier Estate and Babylonstoren, where tours will be presented by Ernst van Jaarsveld. Topics include flower arranging, dye art, photography, growing-your-own and learning about bees.
‘What better way to celebrate the start of Spring than through this one-of-a-kind festival,’ says Mayor Gesie van Deventer. ‘As an avid gardener, I regularly get my hands dirty and love the multitude of beautiful gardens we have in our area. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting residents who take great pride in their gardens – from lush traditional havens, to smart waterwise and newly established green paradises.’
Visit Stellenbosch CEO Jeanneret Momberg says that after many challenging months, Team Stellenbosch has “really pulled together for what promises to become a major annual highlight in the Cape and much-needed boost for the tourism economy.
The event is an initiative of Visit Stellenbosch, along with its partners.