The Secret Garden of Ellerman House

Ellerman House

As an outsider looking in, it’s a simple thing you see. A garden. But for the insider, it’s not simple at all. They see purpose in every corner, life in every dab of shade. It is the library lonely children retreat to, the playground for overactive imaginations, the church to marvel in, the remote island to find quiet in the storm.

The garden of Ellerman House is no different, whatever age you enter as, 18 or 81. Last year, we at Relais & Châteaux turned 60. And we chose to celebrate it in this very garden at Ellerman House beside the Atlantic Ocean.

Assisting us was one Paul Odendaal. A well-known name in the landscaping and gardening fraternity, Paul planted 60 roses dedicated to Relais & Chateâux in the estate’s indigenous garden for the occasion. We knew our roses were in good hands (or greenfingers) as Paul, together with Keith Kirsten and Raymond Hudson, was also part of the team that created the magnificent gardens at Delaire Graff in Stellenbosch.

Roses at Ellerman House

In the spirit of the Chelsea Flower Show in London this week, we wanted to bring you a special feature from one of our own gardens, on the coast of South Africa. Britta Dahms from Ellerman House shadowed Paul through the green corners of the hotel to find out what he’s currently up to…

“When we caught up with Paul, he was busy planting Agapanthus in the garden next to the bottom terrace. He has chosen Agapanthus Blue Bayou and states that the indigenous plant will compliment the panoramic ocean views and not grow too tall and obstruct the view. He added Dierama (fishermen’s bells) and Wild Garlic to name a few to the mix and noted that it will provide the section with flowers all year round and provide some variety on the terrace.

Paul draws his inspiration from the surroundings as well as the climate and noted that he simply loves the Mediterranean climate in Cape Town as it provides opportunity to plant a variety of species. The brief he received for the garden at Ellerman House was to use only indigenous flora, including fynbos and incorporation some plant material that are sometime forgotten like Belladona lilies.

Fynbos grows in a 150km to 200km belt along the coast of South Africa and forms part of the Cape Floral Kingdom that is part of only 6 floral kingdoms in the world. Paul mentioned that working with Fynbos could be quite tricky as a fynbos garden can quickly look like a veld or grow in all directions at once. His aim at Ellerman House is to make the space look like a landscaped garden and make the Fynbos work with him in creating the beautiful garden.

We are very excited to see how the garden at Ellerman House evolves into a beautiful landscaped replica of the indigenous plants we find all over Cape Town and the surrounds. We will also be keeping a close eye on the Relais & Châteaux roses after the winter so be sure to watch this space.”


“A garden should make you feel you’ve entered privileged space – a place not just set apart but reverberant – and it seems to me that, to achieve this, the gardener must put some kind of twist on the existing landscape, turn its prose into something nearer poetry.”

― Michael Pollan
Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education