SARDA offers a gardeners escape at Water Oak Farm

The gardens at the Water Oak Farm in Klein Constantia will be opened to the public to raise funds for the South African Riding for the Disabled Association on Saturday October 22.

Every gardener knows it takes time, labour and love to nurture any garden but when it comes to six acres, you need all three of those qualities in spades.

The garden that will host the South African Riding for the Disabled Association’s (SARDA) annual open garden is such a garden, lovingly created by Wendy Floquet.

She’s humbly offered up her garden for the event making a comeback after a two-year hiatus and promises to satisfy even the most critical gardeners on Saturday October 22, from 9am to 5pm, at the Water Oak Farm.

Ms Floquet, an ardent gardener, has cultivated and pored over this garden for more than 20 years.

With her husband, Winston, they will open their labour of love to the public to aid SARDA, an NPO in Brommersvlei Road, Constantia, which offers free equine therapy through horse riding to children and adults living with intellectual and physical disabilities.

The grounds cover six acres and contain a tapestry of varying colours and textures. So much so , that every couple of square metres it seems like you’ve entered an entirely different garden.

The entrance is lined with an avenue of water oak trees, from which Water Oak Farm lends its name. There are rolling green lawns reminiscent of Kirstenbosch gardens, an herbaceous pond, a meadow, a succulent-and-cactus garden, a fynbos garden and even a touch of France with lavender and a tiny vineyard where muscat grapes grow – the variant of grape used in the heritage wine of Klein Constantia, Vin de Constance.

The best thing about the property, according to Ms Floquet, is the 360 degrees view. A walk around gives the backdrop of its extraordinarily beautiful surroundings, including the back of Table Mountain, Vlakkenberg, Constantiaberg and Muizenberg.

While still in its relative infancy, the garden has welcomed international garden tour groups, but Ms Floquet argues: “It’s a newish garden even today, it is only 21 years old. There were no trees on the property at all. The garden started with pure clay, no plants at all, except for a few cypresses, we had to bulldoze the ground to get the foundation going.

“I just went out there with a hosepipe and the beds were sort of wide. We planted hundreds of shrubs, probably 30 here and 20 there. So that’s how we’ve got all these pink escallonias, the size that they are.”

Besides the cypresses, Ms Floquet says she has planted every single tree herself. “The water oaks were saplings and struggled for years. Same with the celtis sinensis tree in the courtyard, it was my height, or maybe not as tall as me. But everyone always asks how did you get this tree here. I said it was a sapling and I planted it,” she says proudly but admits she still means to count all the trees within the garden.

That said, the job of a gardener is never quite done. “It can be very heartbreaking and certain plants do have a lifestyle, like a lavender, give it three, maybe four years then you’ve got to replace it. A lot of these shrubs are 22 years old, they have done their job,” Ms Floquet says.

Some changes are inevitable, with no guarantees it will look the same next year. This year’s open garden gives the public one last chance to see the garden in its current lifestage. “A garden evolves, and this garden has a long way to go. At least I hope it has…”

SARDA’s Open Garden is taking place on Saturday October 22, from 9am to 5pm, at Water Oak Farm, 91 Klein Constantia Road, Constantia. Entry is free for children under 10 and R50 for adults. For more information contact 082 795 4074.

Her garden draws on inspirations from far and wide, even France. The garden’s tiny vineyard has a variety of grapes including Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat.
The passion Wendy Floquet has for her garden is shared by her two golden retrievers, who accompany for a walk around the Water Oak Farm grounds.
Visitors to the open garden can find some shade on a bench under the tree surrounded by the pond.
The view from the herbaceous pond overlooks luxuriant rolling green lawns.