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Brenthurst Gardens

Listed under Gardens in Johannesburg, South Africa.

  • Photo of Brenthurst Gardens
  • Photo of Brenthurst Gardens
  • Photo of Brenthurst Gardens
  • Photo of Brenthurst Gardens
  • Photo of Brenthurst Gardens
Photo of Brenthurst Gardens
Photo by Donna Dawson
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Brenthurst, the private garden of the Oppenheimers. No photos were allowed but I did manage to get a few that were ok to take. When Mandela was freed he was given some koala bears along with their food, eucalyptus branches and leaves…little did they know that these leaves carried a pest that continued to infect all the local eucalyptus in this area, so many were cut down – some you can see in this very garden. Her own home is filled with artwork. She loves cattle and has many framed works of art on the walls along with masks…all done by the Nguni tribes….just exquisite. Her own office reminded me of Vita Sackville-West and her office – filled to overflowing with books and magazines and dried flowers hanging everywhere.

Brenthurst is one of South Africa's most magnificent gardens. In a city dedicated to change, it has enjoyed a unique continuity. Of all the mansions built for the Randlords a century ago, this is the only one that has survived with its setting intact. Its trees and shrubs, planted over generations, have had the rare luxury of time and space to grow to a spectacular maturity. Within these sixteen hectares of what is essentially woodland, gardens of different styles and moods, formal, informal and wild, have evolved over time and with the help of a succession of remarkable gardeners into a harmonious whole. The 21st century has brought a new era of naturalism - and a pioneering new role for the garden. "Nothing could be more enjoyable or more rewarding for me than to share this garden - and the ideas in which I believe so passionately - with other gardeners and nature lovers. We began the implementation of organic, ecologically friendly garden practices here in 2001. At the same time we have gradually been adapting the planting to its Highveld setting, introducing plantings of indigenous grass and endemic plants. We have seen the gardens come alive in a new and enthralling way, with many new birds and many more butterflies and insects in a rich and fascinating web of diversity. Gardening becomes so much simpler, so much more enjoyable, when you work with nature, rather than against it. A haven for wild life can still be a beautiful garden and we hope you will be able to see the proof of this at Brenthurst and join us in this great adventure." - Strilli Oppenheimer The rewards of nine years of holistic management (first organic, then biodynamic) and skillful indigenous planting are now clear to see in the estate's lively new beauty and steadily increasing biodiversity. The garden at Brenthurst Estate is rated as one of the finest in South Africa and can certainly be placed amongst the great gardens of the world. Its history goes back to the turn of the last century, when the elegant gabled house, now known as Brenthurst, was built for Drummond Chaplin by Sir Herbert Baker.

The dramatic Cape Dutch gables are delicately balanced against a Gauteng kopje, and the house is now set amid a range of formal, informal and wild gardens.

Brenthurst has become what Strilli Oppenheimer planned it should be:

“An inspirational teaching garden that every gardener and every one interested in the natural world can relate to and enjoy.”

With the implementation of biodynamic and naturalistic gardening principles a new aesthetic has come into play. The conservative eye needs to adjust to this approach. Plants that were once considered weeds now belong in the picture. Paths are meticulously maintained but elsewhere there is much less control and cutting back. Fallen leaves and flowers are part of the scene, as are dead branches, seed heads and nibbled leaves. The picture is one to be enjoyed over four seasons. Allowing the plants to fulfill their natural cycle also allows other forms of life to do so. The indigenous, biodynamic approach is aimed at encouraging a web of rich diversity in which all elements thrive.

Written by  Donna Dawson.

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