Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cape Town Open Gardens

Open Garden. Photo: Marianne Alexander

Calling all Cape Town readers:

This weekend, on November 16th and 17th,  four private gardens in Bishopscourt and Constantia will be open to ticket-holding members of the public, in order to benefit some very different gardens on the Cape Flats.

My mother, Maureen Viljoen, is the chairperson for the 2012 Open Gardens. Go, Mommy! Ahem... As an outside insider I know that an extraordinary amount of effort goes into preparing these gardens for viewing, starting months, if not years before the date. Plants need to grow, you know.

The Constantia Valley Garden Club holds this Open Gardens event biennially to benefit two stellar organizations that rely on donations to function: Abalimi bezekhaya, and Soil for Life.

Two neighbouring gardens clubs have joined the effort this year - the Constantiaberg Garden Club and Flourish.

Open Garden

The last Open Gardens, in 2010 (where my mom's garden was open for visits) netted almost R100, 000.00 (about $8,000.00) in ticket sales. This is a significant source of revenue for organizations that provide education and ongoing support for disadvantaged people who grow food to feed their families and also to profit from larger scale organic food production.

Kayelitsha school garden, Cape Flats

Food gardens in the impoverished parts of the Cape Flats need a great deal of support in terms of materials, knowledge and infrastructure. The more visitors attending the Open Gardens, the greater the size of the cheques that can be handed over to nurture gardens that perform an essential, grassroots role: growing food for those who are hungry, and providing occupation and income for those who have no employment.

100% of the earnings from the weekend is donated. You can't say that about a lot of charitable giving.

Abalimi bezekhaya food gardens on the Cape Flats

Tea and cake will be served in one open garden and at another you may buy locally grown, organic produce from Abalimi bezekhaya.

12 Nahoon Ave, Constantia:
A rose and shrub garden bursting with colour leads into a sunny north-facing main garden of mixed borders and tranquil corners and pretty, productive vegetable garden where the rabbit and chicken enclosures give a rural touch.

21 Canterbury Drive, Bishopscourt
A steep ascent to floral formality giving way to a woodland ramble. The terraces in this garden, which has be revitalised with a new design, include a formal garden with tumbling English borders, lavender and a gazebo, a shaded informal shrubbery and a wooded meander. Tall trees frame secluded mountain views.

9 Romany Walk, Constantia Hills
Under the shade of established trees this first-time gardener has created a tranquil, green front garden with a cool water feature which is graced by an elegant fountain, around the back of the house is a herb and vegetable-filled courtyard.

6 Ave Beauvais, Constantia
Stately trees surround this large established garden with its masses of roses, inspiring focal points and vistas, clipped hedges and several recently revamped areas, both formal and informal. An orchard and walled potager complete the picture.

Photo: Marianne Alexander

Tickets are R50 and include tea (and cake, don't forget the cake!).

Friday, November 16th:  2pm – 5.30pm
Saturday, 17th November: 10am – 5pm

For a map of the Open Gardens, here is link to a pdf. Street addresses are also printed on the tickets.

For tickets call Gail: 021-712-5668

...or buy them at these local merchants: Ferndale Nursery, Brommersvlei Road / Sherwood Hardware, Bergvliet/ Peter Gilder Jewellers, Constantia Village/ Montebello, Newlands /Vierlanden Nursery, Durbanville.

For more info email Glenda: glendab (at) acenet (dot) co (dot) za

William Monami, Nyanga

If you live in the States or in the UK and would like to donate to Abalimi bezekhaya, you may do so at Global Giving. An anonymous donor is matching donations, so this is a good to to contribute.

This is what your money will do:

$14 Supports one micro-farmer with all necessary essential services, to develop his/her micro-farm sustain-ably for one month.
$20 Plants one tree in a disadvantaged township, and includes training and follow-up.
$42 Establishes one new township vegetable garden, and includes training, resources and follow-up.

Click here for the UK link.

Here is a story I wrote for Soiled and Seeded about Abalimi's work. I know some of the people involved, and trust me, these are not fat cats getting cushy jobs from a not-for-profit. The money goes where it is needed: straight to the microfarmers and their support network.

The Cape Flats are dry, sandy, barren, windswept. Growing vegetables in these conditions is difficult. Water is needed, via irrigation, netting to protect young plants from flying sand, tunnels, in some cases, fertilizer, compost, seedlings (Abalimi has its own nursery) and a distribution network for the crops.

Here are some pictures I've taken over the last two years of Abalimi's microfarms.


  1. Is there anyway to make a contribution from abroad?

    1. Hi Ellen - That's a kind thought. I'll ask. I'm not sure that they are set up for it.

      On Abalimi's page they have info about donating in this link:

    2. Ha, found something useful, which I'll add to the post. Thank you for asking!

  2. Why does it nt surprise me that you and your mother are promting this worthy ànd useful event? Hope they do very, very well.

  3. I saw the notice in Peter Gilder's Shop window, now I know more I will go get my ticket for Sunday as I have a function all day on Saturday...they say 20% chance of rain for Saturday...I hope they are WRONG! They usually are when it does not matters this week-end!

  4. Wow ! That's my girl. Thank you - wonderful plug and to think it comes all the way from New York

  5. Thanks Marie, that's how I gave before and I'd misplaced the link. Nice to look at your images from the farms.

  6. Sorry to have missed those fabulous gardens- was perfect weather for it, I can only imagine how wonderful your mom's garden looked x


Comments on posts older than 48 hours are moderated (for spam control) . Yours will be seen! Unless you are a troll. Serial trollers are banned.