A hidden piece of paradise in Constantia

Wendy Floquet is excited about the succulent-and-cacti garden.

This weekend it is time to spend a couple of hours strolling around a piece of paradise in the heart of Constantia vineyards and under the watchful Elephant’s Eye for a good cause.

Droughtnotwithstanding, Wendy Floquet is opening her beautiful garden in aid of the South African Riding for the Disabled Association (SARDA).

Because of the drought and the water restrictions, Wendy wrestled with the dilemma of whether to go ahead with the open garden this year.

“I have borehole water but use it sparingly. I also realised that Sarda is reliant on me to help them raise very necessary funds,” she says.

Sarda’s Carol de Gendt says Water Oak Farm is one of the gardens on the list for international tours and never fails to delight.

Wendy says people often stay for hours, strolling around, sitting on plump cushions in shady areas located around the garden, before having a cuppa surrounded by exquisite views.

“Last year a German couple came with backpacks, books and a flask and spent hours under a tree,” says Wendy.

With cows, pigs, horses and birdlife everywhere you may be lucky to see a lynx or baboons.

Wendy has opened the garden to Sarda for the past six years. This is the fourth time it has been held over a weekend. Each year there is something new. This time she is excited about the succulent-and-cactus garden which she has extended.

“I had no idea how many amazing succulents can be, especially shade-loving ones. They said a cacti garden couldn’t be grown in Constantia but come and see, it will inspire you,” she says. The irrigation system in this section has been removed.

From fairy plates to agaves and mother-in-law’s armchairs, Wendy has collected the cacti from all over and many of her plants are now having babies.
The cacti garden was inspired by The Huntington Library, Art Collection and Botanical Gardens in California, the equivalent of South Africa’s Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden.

Another section is inspired by French impressionist Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny – a meadow planted with olive trees and a mixture of flowers grown from seeds collected at his home.

Closer to home is a bank of hydrangeas inspired by Vergelegen, Somerset West.

The farm is named after two rows of water oak trees planted 18 years ago once 1m high and now forming an avenue of shade leading to the house.

Wendy recently re-laid and landscaped the path on the south side of the house, below the lawn where the tea is served, between the garden and vineyards. “As a result of drought conditions, I’ve tried to encourage planting of water-wise plants,” says Wendy.

She also recently started using a new natural product to prepare the soil which uses layers of lucerne followed by worm compost and worm tea finished with a layer of old thatch (reeds). This mulch keeps everything cool and moist and feeds the soil although it does not look very pretty, according to Wendy. In the rest of the garden, she now leaves cuttings on the soil after pruning.

“Hopefully, garden lovers will visit for the pleasure they can derive from a garden that has also had to come to terms with drought conditions. I hope it will be an inspiration for all garden lovers,” she says.

Water Oak Farm open garden takes place over the weekend of October 14 and 15, from 9.30am to 5pm, at the end of Klein Constantia Road. Entry is R30. Tickets can be bought at the gate, and refreshments will be on sale in the tea garden. Contact Carol at 072 778 4711, or Sarda at 021 794 4393, or visit www.sardacapetown.co.za