Friday, 21 October 2011

A morning at Brenthurst gardens...

A friend of mine invited me to a fundraising walk at a garden, with some tea at the pool to finish it off. Still being fairly new to Jhb, I had no idea what to expect, except for an approximately 3 hour walk (so it must be a big garden, I thought). It was 16 hectares big actually.

When we arrived at the parking area this morning, we drove past Strilli Oppenheimer. I recognised her from a magazine article I once read about her groundbreaking indigenious gardening. I was amazed that she took the time to personally welcome us (a little group of 20 Moms geared with broadbrimmed hats and sandals) to the estate that's been the home of Oppenheimer family since 1920. I enjoyed how natural and unassuming she came across. There were (understandably) no camera's allowed, and I surprisingly enjoyed just walking and enjoying without needing to photograph the beauty around every corner.

The walk was an absolute feast of sights, fragrances and interesting stories, our guide having been in charge of the gardens for a few years (hope I have that right!). Like the story of how the 2000 year old Cycad (carbon tested), was swopped for one of the Oppenheimer horses (since no money in the world could buy either one).

I especially loved the sculptures and their stories. The Renoir sculpture, {yes, I saw a Renoir!!!, yes, he sculpted too!} was done towards the end of his life, sitting in a wheelchair, and using a bamboo stick to point a student to what needs to be carved away. Her cheekbone is done is such a way that she looks like a young woman from the side, but as you come around the corner, she looks much older.(That's a photo of her in the brochure at the top).

 The sculpture of Scott's (think South Pole expiditions) son, done by his mother. Loved this because my husband has such an interest in the story. And the 6 metre high man and woman scullptures, expressing both the story of Eve made from Adam, and the deeper (and for years not known ) story of the artist's pain of losing their firstborn to adoption was quite moving too.

I loved the old trees: the purples, blues and deep reds. The grasses with little bell shaped flowers, tasting a sour "spekplantjie". The organic vegetable garden, how they work with nature. The arches and little paths. The changing moods of the different gardens. The fact that it is allowed to put on a seasonal coat. Birdsong and butterflies...I loved hearing that by not fertilizing your plants, it's allowed to become stronger.

The pool at the end of the walk was of course nothing like the picture I originally had in my mind. It wasn't blue or square :) It had lillies floating on the water, and irisses flowering in purple. We quenched our thirst with homemade mullberry juice.

I love natural gardens, and I love stories. This garden for me is the story of the power of a woman. From that first Eve who misused her power, or didn't realize the extent of her power, to the power of the Lady (don't have her name now) who rode her horse to the top of that hill, loved the view and persuaded her husband to build a house there, resulting in the sought after Parkhurst neighbourhood. To the creative power of renowned garden designer  Joanne Pim, and Mrs Scott, who made the statue of her sun loving son, to the power of a mother's love portrayed in the Man and Woman statue. To Strilli Oppenheimer who used her power to create something so beautiful, something that reminds us that our view of what beauty is have been corrupted, and taking it back to what is natural, as God intended it. It reminds me of every woman's power, that God calls us (His Bride) a garden (Song of songs 4 & 5). That He made us for delight. "Let the beauty and delightfulness and favour of the Lord our God be upon us.."! Ps 90 v 17.

If you would like to go feast your eyes, visit their website here:  and take the time to look at the gallery and also the descriptions of the statues, and various wild, informal and formal gardens.

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