South Africa’s favourite city of oaks, Stellenbosch, is pulling out the stops for gardeners and lovers of the great outdoors in a new, week-long festival that will transform its streets and surrounding countryside from 30 September to 10 October. Major drawcards include a first-ever Stellenbosch winelands experience featuring SA Michelin star chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen.
The inaugural Garden Week Stellenbosch – inspired by the world-famous flower festival of Girona, Spain – will encompass everything from horticultural tours to landscape art; dining to hiking; and, guest specialists to music in majestic settings.
In addition to a host of highlights for fans of flora and Mother Nature in general will be a flower parade, which officially launches Garden Week Stellenbosch on 30 September.
The event is an initiative of Visit Stellenbosch, a destination marketing organisation comprising the region’s tourism stakeholders with the objective of growing the tourism and experience economy in Stellenbosch for the benefit of all communities.
Furthermore, it represents the collaboration of a multitude of local businesses, including restaurants and activity providers, as well as Stellenbosch Wine Routes, Stellenbosch Municipality, Stellenbosch Visio, Stellenbosch Outdoor Sculpture Trust (SOST), Rama, Remgro, Candide App and Garden Day SA.
“What better way to celebrate the start of Spring than through this one-of-a-kind festival,” says Adv Gesie van Deventer, Stellenbosch Executive Mayor. “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.
“I encourage all residents and visitors to participate in this unique event and to support our local tourism and experience economy for the benefit of all communities.”
Visit Stellenbosch general manager 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”.
Garden Week takes place in the run-up to National Garden Day on 17 October and encompasses the school break. Together, they inspired Garden Week’s educational initiative, organised in partnership with Rama and New Life Microgreens and which provides children with “Microshooters” – microgreen grow kits-in-a-tub.
The project is an extension of Rama’s work with the Department of Education, undertaken since 2017 to help teach school-going children about the value of good nutrition via the Rama Good Breakfast programme.
“We are so proud to be partnering with Microshooters for the Stellenbosch Garden Week, when 6 200 school children will be provided a Rama tub filled with goodies that allow them to experience the wonderful world of growing good food,” says Rama brand manager Sasha Sathianathan. “We are honoured to be part of this initiative.”
Garden Week will also feature several installations to be carried out by landscapers and local botanical artists. Located at landmarks throughout town, these works will not only be part of the pageantry, but also serve to highlight the town’s well-preserved history. Among them will be a giant centre-piece – a plant labyrinth at The Braak, the town’s main square.
Storefronts around town as well as local wine farms will echo the theme with special offers, floral designs, and greenery while local accommodation providers have instituted promotional rates for the run of the festival.
Open gardens and nature walks
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.
Talks and workshops
A renowned centre of excellence, 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. For budding artists, the Stellenbosch Arts Association will present a botanical drawing workshop.
Food and wine
Stellenbosch is the heartland of South African wine and home to leading chefs and restaurateurs too. This reputation will be showcased in festival-inspired dishes to feature on menus as well as a series of garden-and-wine dining events.
Among them is an exquisite Finding Eden experience with South African Michelin star chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen. 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.