“We’re all going on a summer holiday. No more working for a week or two.” Yes, that old song is stuck in our heads as we plan our summer holiday and, boy do South Africans love to plan a December break!
In addition to an exceptional coastline and fabulous climate, South Africa is blessed with vast natural landscapes and wide open spaces that are best explored by road. Add to that our incredible biodiversity, and we don’t need an excuse to stop along the way…
It’s no wonder then that South Africa is a popular destination for garden tourists. Candide
– the free gardening app that connects green lovers across South Africa – is doing its bit to champion garden tourism, having created an extensive directory of local sites, including both popular destinations and hidden gems, to encourage plant and garden enthusiasts to discover some of the more unusual garden destinations along their travel route. “The Candide app is a great resource to find all the details you need, from addresses and operating hours to entrance fees and special attractions,” says Roné De Bruyn, Country Manager of Candide South Africa.
Here are some ideas to help you plan your own garden route this holiday. As they say, the journey is the destination…
Garden enthusiasts will be blown away by Mirtehof’s
dreamy gardens, which are both productive and gorgeous. The gardens are intended to “evoke a feeling of abundance, with beautiful colours, textures and aromas to satisfy the senses”. The raised beds and paved areas were designed to enable the owners to be able to enjoy them well into their old age. Water was a key consideration in the garden’s design – there’s a natural pond, Karoo style swimming pool, a square rock pond, large dam and meandering small pebble furrow stream.
We love: How the garden’s style reflects the multiculturalism of the town of Prince Albert and the fascinating techniques employed to ensure lush beds despite the arid climate.
The aptly named La Vista Lodge overlooks the entire bay of Plettenberg Bay and aside from its spectacular views, it’s well known for its edible permaculture La Vista Food Forest.
The team started transforming the natural forest area on the sun-facing north slope into an edible permaculture food forest for guests and staff in 2019, with the aim of growing sustainable resources for years to come and they have done a spectacular job so far.
We love: The fact that you can experience luxury in an environmentally responsible way.
One of the most spectacular geological landscapes in the country can be found at Red Stone Hills
guest farm, near Calitzdorp in the Karoo. Nestled in a valley of vineyards the farm doesn’t have a traditional garden but is surrounded by a range of colourful red stone hills made from iron-rich conglomerates, which were deposited by rivers in the Cretaceous Period about 130 million years ago.
We love: The short hike up Vensterkop, which is well worth it to enjoy the indigenous vegetation and incredible views.
Sanctuary Guest and Adventure Farm
, situated on the banks of the Great Fish River near Cradock in the Eastern Cape, is a working farm and guest lodge, with a luxury camping site and loads of adventure activities. Take a tour of the developed pecan orchard, which produces thousands of pecan trees each year.
We love: The pecan nursery, home to possibly the finest pecan trees in South Africa, where you can buy bare rooted or bagged trees.
The home of one of the rarest butterflies in the world (and a national treasure), the Brenton Blue Butterfly Reserve extends over approximately 2ha and contains a mixture of coastal fynbos and coastal forest - a mosaic of candlewood thickets and asteraceae fynbos.
We love: The challenge to find a small plant with pink flowers, from the pea family - the food plant of the Brenton Blue butterfly. Look, don't touch!
The Garden of Eden on the N2 is great for a pit stop and to stretch your legs. This space is virtually untouched so you can imagine how it used to be thousands of years ago when wild animals lived here. There are two loops of easy walking (500m and 1km) over boardwalks and bridges. It’s a lovely spot to enjoy a picnic in a safe green space before getting back behind the wheel.
We love: The giant moss and lichen covered trees that give the garden a fairy like feel and the fact that wooden boardwalks make this an entirely wheelchair friendly route and a comfortable excursion for all ages - young and old!
If trees are your thing, make sure you do the Tree Walk in Old Nick Village, one of the few historic Cape farms in Plettenberg Bay that is open to the public. Some of the indigenous trees are self-seeded and have been here for over a century. Leaves are the principle markers of identification when it comes to trees, but we can’t always see them from below so the Tree Walk map will help you identify the trees here.
We love: The simple approach – it’s a great way to get kids to appreciate the beauty of the magnificent trees around them.
Thirty minutes from Mossel Bay and the Karoo, Langskuur (which means long barn in Afrikaans) was once a sheep-shearing barn and is now a beautifully renovated romantic guest lodge. The hectares of farmland are perfect for exploring on foot or mountain bike, while the homestead is one surprise after another: an old watering trough-come-plunge pool, an outdoor shower tucked beside giant daisies, an abundance of decorative flowers and green foliage… it’s an incredibly magical space.
We love: Being able to pick and eat from the owner’s herb, fruit and vegetable garden.
Steenbok is home to magnificent areas of original salt marsh, coastal dune and coastal thicket vegetation and also contains an indigenous garden, rich in flora typical of the Garden Route and the Eastern Cape coastal regions, tree copses and smaller cultivated gardens.
We love: The sundial in the Indigenous Garden on the west side of the concrete path. Originally used to tell the time, today it’s largely used as a decorative garden ornament and is a beautiful symbol of timelessness. The sundial was sponsored by Gardening@Leisure, the local garden and social club.
So pack your bags and get on the road – your garden route awaits! Don’t forget to share your garden route with us. Tag us on Facebook and Instagram @candideappza
If you don't already have Candide, download the free app, available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. For more information visit www.candide.co.za