It’s known as the Versailles of South Africa, where every owner of Vergelegen has left a mark on the wine estate’s world-class heritage gardens…
Dutch governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel built the walls surrounding the octagonal garden east of the main house at Vergelegen high enough to keep out lions, as this was where his cattle were kraaled for safety each night at the turn of the 18th century, outside what is now Somerset West.
By the time Sir Lionel and Lady Florence Phillips were in residence some 200 years later, the kraal was a lovely (certainly well-fertilised) formal garden. The lady of this grand estate added a couple of marble urns picked up on a trip to Italy, as well as a couple of antelope sculptures, which are copies of a buck found at the base of Mount Etna, perfectly preserved in the volcanic ash.
“She had an eye for beautiful art,” comments Vergelegen’s horticulturalist, Richard Arm, on one of his entertaining tours of the gardens of the renowned wine estate, now owned by Anglo American and maintained as a heritage site that reflects the layered history of our country.
Each owner has added a touch to the garden, which tells the story of the grand estate and feeds the soul. Wandering its paths, you can’t help pondering the changing times, right from when commercial agriculture was first established at the Cape under the controversial Van der Stel.