Say ‘Main Road, Claremont’ and the picture most people conjure up definitely doesn’t include greenery. It’s a bustling hubbub of activity, the air consistently rent with the hooting of taxis soliciting business, and the irate response of drivers looking for parking.
But in the midst of all of this is Arderne Gardens, the garden of weddings, a 4.5 hectare garden filled with some 300 incredible trees that is just crying out for use …
Arderne Gardens started life as Ralph Henry Arderne’s ‘The Hill’ (also known as ‘Arderne Dorp’) where the Arderne family set out to create a garden representing all of the flora of the world, which goes a long way to explain the inclusion of cedars of Lebanon, Queensland kauris (these trees have an ancient bloodline belonging to a family of tree that once covered the super continent Gondwanaland), Australian flame trees and a gargantuan Moreton bay fig tree, the roots of which provide the hills and vales of a magical valley for little ones clambering over its expanse.
Weekends bring the gardens to life as the tradition for wedding photographs here continues. It’s a picture-perfect garden with ponds filled with fish and ducks, secluded shady benches, and the constant chatter of birds. Of course, it’s also frequented by the odd shady character, but this shouldn’t prevent its being used more frequently by Capetonians.
We were at Arderne Gardens on a Saturday morning, largely to catch sight of any bridal party prepared to brave the heat, which I managed to miss completely, but also to wander the pathways and explore the park. If you’ve tree-climbing children, then this is a veritable paradise!
And you don’t have to look over your shoulder every five minutes for fear someone will chase you away. It’s a very relaxed set up and there’s a feeling of ‘live and let live’ that you might not find, for instance, at Kirstenbosch.
The morning was a scorcher, but the garden paths were cool, leafy and filled with the pungent smell of toiled earth and fragrant blooms. There’s a rather obscure Japanese garden that might work in gardens like the Durban Botanical Gardens, but here it’s a little out of place. Nonetheless, the curved bridges over the water provide a great adventure for children and lovely photo moments.
To crown it all, entrance to the gardens is completely free. A donation is requested, but there you go, South Africans aren’t usually big on giving away their money, so I’m amazed that the gardens have managed to continue so prettily.
The whole garden is fenced in, and, when the security guards aren’t catching a snooze on a welcome bench, they’re stationed around the gardens and at the entrance to make you feel more secure.
The Ardernes, as with many families in Cape Town during the market crash in 1904 (not to be confused with the major world stock crash in 1929), lost most of the fortune and, despite the fact that they had managed the garden across two, going on three, generations, they had to sell The Hill, and the centre of the family disintegrated.
Today there are roughly seven Ardernes in the phone book, and the garden is maintained by the City of Cape Town together with the Friends of the Arderne Gardens.
The history aside, the garden is well worth a visit. Banana and magnolia strawberry trees hang gently overhead a bench, whilst a flying moth maple and tulip tree get my attention as one of them is in flower, though which I cannot say, and smells heavenly.
An Australian flame tree towers above the reaches of the average tree climber, and I snap a pic to remind me that the one in our front garden could end up being as big, given the chance.
A few people have even dared to come here with a packed picnic lunch and sprawl lazily on the lawns whilst time stand still for a while in the busy heart of Claremont.
Thanks to Vincent Kolbe for his input!
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