Gnome News

ramblings of a plant lover

Harold Porter Garden (South Africa)

Not to be confused with Harry Potter, this is one of a country-wide network of nine botanical gardens administered by the South African National Biodiversity Institute. It was founded in 1958 and is situated between the mountains and the sea in Betty’s Bay, within the Kolberg Biosphere Reserve, a floral hotspot in the heart of fynbos region. My visit took me there well after peek blooming season in their late summer/early fall, but the gardens and setting still provided an unforgettable experience. Our itinerary got shuffled leaving me short of time to visit the renown Kistenbosch Gardens near Cape Town and while quite disappointing, this provides a good reason for a second visit to South Africa.


Grande Provence Wine Estate (South Africa)

300 years of history, surrounded by 47 acres of lush vines, near the quaint village of Franschhoek, Grande Provence boasts being one of the top ten restaurants in South Africa. From our experience it should be in the top 3. A spectacular place to spend time and breathe in tranquility. We sat in the garden outside under umbrella’s eating the finest lunch you might imagine and admiring the stunning reality around us. The art collection and gallery shop featured many talented South African Artisans. Right near the place we stayed just outside Cape Town was a great discovery. Set up on the hill overlooking Table Mountain is DeGrendel. The dinner here was so exceptional we cancelled a night in Camps Bay and went back again. A remarkable dining experience and uniquely attractive estate.


Tokara Wine Estate (Stellenbosch, South Africa)

Established in 1994, Tokara is relatively new compared to many of its neighbouring wineries. The maturity of the property and presentation provides a fresh modern vision to the wine tradition of Stellenbosch. It’s named after the children of the owners, Tom and Kara. The estate, its buildings, art, vineyards and olive groves are right out of Architectural Digest. Great effort has been made to complement this spectacular setting in the mountainous Stellenbosch countryside.


Neethlingshof Wine Estate (Stellenbosch, South Africa)

An exceptional landscape demands nothing less than the best garden one might imagine and design. I recently had the privilege of visiting one of the most spectacular places on earth, South Africa. The wineries of Stellenbosch and Cape Town region rival the finest in Provence, Tuscany and Napa. Even if you’re not into wine, the dining, art, gardens, architecture and vistas are well worth the visit. I didn’t anticipate such beauty when we planned our wine tour. I can’t resist sharing some of the photos I took of these special places. Neethlingshof Wine Estate dates back to 1705. With such a long history of wine making they have made a rich contribution to the wine culture of the Stellenbosch region.


Interesting Websites to Check Out

My friend David Graham White, a professor of Photography at Sheridan College, shares a passion for gardens. He has added to his blog some new work which I’d like to share with you:


Is it spring already?! 

Spring cleanup has come early. I stopped counting this weekend after 14 bags of lawn debris, thatch, leaves and fallen branches.

Here we are again and lots of changes ahead. Forestwood went on the market and we’ve started working on our next project, Forsythe. This century home is nestled by the harbour in downtown Oakville, steps from all the charm and convenience of this Lake Ontario community. There will be new garden we’re planning to do over the summer.

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