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“I am in awe at the vast, limitless space. The formal design, framed by the surrounding mountains and lit by the sunrise in the mornings, is unbelievable.”
So says horticulturist Chris Randlehoff about his new workplace, the exquisite gardens of 322-year-old Vergelegen wine estate in Somerset West. Chris took up his new post in March this year and is responsible for maximizing the floral features of this beautiful property, which is a provincial heritage site.
He will also oversee plant propagation and the production of cut flowers, as well as the fruit and vegetable garden, which supplies the estate’s chefs and community outreach projects.
Chris holds a diploma in horticulture from Tshwane University of Technology and his passion for plants has enabled him to work both in KZN and the Western Cape, and overseas in France and Comoros. For the past five years, he was the garden manager of Avondale gardens in Durbanville.
Chris brings a range of skills to Vergelegen as he has worked on projects that include a rose nursery, commercial production of eucalyptus clones for a timber plantation, and overseeing the flower section of five retail stores in Cape Town. He was a co-designer for the South African National Biodiversity Institute, at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea flower show in London. “Some 250 boxes of cut flowers were flown overnight and we had five days to set it up. This was worth it though as the stand won a gold medal in both 2018 and 2019,” recalls Chris.
Says Vergelegen MD Wayne Coetzer: “We are delighted to welcome Chris to our hard-working horticultural team, as we are intent on making Vergelegen a truly world-class destination for garden lovers. Chris’s plant and landscaping knowledge will complement the skills of our long-established horticulturist Richard Arm.
“We chose to view the closure of the estate to visitors during some weeks of 2020, due to the strict Covid-19 lockdown, as an opportunity to reassess the gardens. We are now well-positioned to build on the horticultural legacy of this remarkable estate, in keeping with its status as a showcase of the best of South African heritage, culture, and sustainability.”
Vergelegen is self-sufficient for all its water needs and its magnificent gardens range from a formal rose garden to an International Camellia Garden of Excellence, one of only 39 in the world.
Chris, an accredited judge with the South African Orchid Council, of which he is the Western Cape regional chairman, particularly loves the historic Octagonal Garden, which has two luxuriant herbaceous borders flanking the path to the historic homestead.
“I’m enjoying beautifying the garden and helping to bring it back to its former glory as an authentic, old English heritage garden. Of course, it’s a long process, as plants grow slowly. In three years, the garden will look unbelievable when mature plants are nestled in.”
Vergelegen offers garden and heritage walking tours daily, depending on the weather. Highlights include the gardens, significant trees, the homestead, and the library. The cost is R50/person and the duration is approximately one hour. To book, contact the Wine Tasting Centre (021 847 2122) or email@example.com.
Vergelegen is open daily, apart from certain public holidays, from 08h30-17h00, the last entry is at 16h00. To find out more about Vergelegen’s gardens: https://vergelegen.co.za/gardens/