Spend enough time in a garden with a friend and you will witness something rather peculiar take place. A sort of transformation… Because it’s not possible to enter the space of enchanted forests and blossoming rose orchards and not feel a change take place inside you. I noticed this in my own nearest and dearest on a stroll through the gardens at The Cellars-Hohenort in Cape Town.
While my camera and I immersed ourselves in the estate’s rose, herb, vegetable and citrus tree gardens, I couldn’t help but notice something a little less expected.
I saw friends, usually quiet and composed, frolicking like fairies. I saw the talkative turn silent. I saw city folk soften with the touch of nature. I saw the tired come to life. I saw followers become leaders, racing along the winding paths and encouraging others along. I saw children where adults once stood.
Quite simply, I’ve noticed, you never leave a garden the same person you enter as. Of course, it isn’t just any garden that creates such an effect. It takes one like The Cellars-Hohenort’s – with its bougainvillea, agapanthus, plectranthus, hydrangeas, clivia, camphor trees and daffodils; its resident porcupine and duck family, Cape Dwarf Chameleon colonies, squirrels and Cinnamon Dove, Cape White-eye, Lemon Dove, African Paradise-Flycatcher, and Forest Canary; and its 950 wine-producing vines.
While initially birthed under the curation of Liz McGrath and with the caring hand of co-creator Jean Almon, today the gardens are maintained by Head Gardner Leigh-Ann Louw and her team.
We’ve caught up with a few of the greenfingers that have contributed to the making of The Cellars-Hohenort gardens over the years – namely Jean Almon and Niall Mckrill – and today we share insight into Leigh-Ann, the woman helping to transform all who walk through one of South Africa’s most beautiful gardens.
Q&A with Leigh-Ann Louw
What’s your favourite part of The Cellars-Hohenort garden?
There are so many… but I have to say the herb garden because as soon as you step into it, the scent of all the different fragrances is so amazing. I also enjoy having the chefs of The Conservatory and Greenhouse invading the garden too.
What are some of the summer highlights in the garden?
It’s the flowering time of many of the plants, and I love the sound of the bees buzzing around the blooms.
What’s popping up in the veggie garden at the moment?
Lovely fresh spinach, cabbages and green peppers.
Do you have a favourite gardening quote to share with us?
‘Gardening always has been an art, essentially.’ – Robert Irwin
Your perfect day looks like…
Coming in early in the morning and walking around the property to think about the week ahead. I have a wonderful team where I set out the work for each gardener as well as for myself. Just working in the gardens makes my day more than perfect.
Your top three Cape Town gardens are…
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Green Point Urban Park
Any advice for novice gardeners wanting to improve on their gardens?
When you pick your plants choose ones that are adapted to your climate, the soil type and the amount of sunlight that enters your garden. It’s always best to do the research first. And… never forget to take a moment to look and smell at whatever you’re growing in your garden.
Describe yourself in three words
Honest, trustworthy and a hard-worker