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Brenthurst Gardens, Parktown, Johannesburg

Nestled snugly in the heart of Parktown, is a lush, hidden oasis. The breathtaking Brenthurst Gardens are a 48-acre private paradise attached to the Brenthurst Estate, the residence of Oppenheimer family.

The eco-friendly gardens are over a century old and have been owned by the illustrious Oppenheimer family since the turn of the century. Harry Oppenheimer, mining magnate, philanthropist and one of the sons of South Africa, and his wife, Bridget, redesigned the magnificent estate in the late 1950’s.

The garden is tended by 45 gardeners!

The gardens range from blissful avenues of planes and oaks, to indigenous grass enclaves, beautifully manicured circular lawns, and several miniature forests. All this is intermingled with gorgeous fountains and sculptures, and several kilometres of stone pathways.

The gardens are the responsibility of Strilli Oppenheimer, wife of Nicky Oppenheimer, who lives in Little Brenthurst. and led by head gardener and horticulturist Dawid Klopper from Kirstenbosch. Strilli is a firm believer in natural gardening, and uses no artificial fertilizers or pesticides. The garden is completely organic! The roses are kept free of bugs with a mix of garlic, milk and copper, and the vegetables are sprayed with a mixture of garlic, onion and vegetable oil. Marigolds and nasturtiums are planted in between the vegetables, to break the predictability of beds and to “confuse the insects”. The gardens are fed by borehole water.

She seeks to combine forces with nature, rather than fight against it, and to explore the boundaries between garden and nature

Brenthurst GardensThe garden is roughly 70 percent indigenous, with trees and plants from Australia, South America, New Zealand and Japan enhancing the overall feel of this delightful slice of paradise.

There is also a lovely holistic garden, in what has been described as Johannesburg’s most splendid garden! The rose garden is truly a sight to see, unusual in its design, it is a spiral circle shaped like a snail’s shell and positioned within a sunken square. Taller roses grow around the outside, with an edging of soft grey lambs’ ears.

The children’s garden, has two spectacular 70-year-old bronze statues of children, namely;  Peter Scott (the late ornithologist Sir Peter Scott, sculpted by his mother Kathleen Scott) and a young girl, called simply The Enchanting Girl (sculpted by Edwin Whitney-Smith). Peter is standing naked on his toes, stretching into the sun with his arms reaching upwards, with the girl down a grassy avenue looking at him from the middle of a pond.

Another garden is dominated by Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s bronze Venus Victorieuse, one of only a few sculptures he did, and completed around 1914. It’s a voluptuous lady, with an apple in one hand, aptly renamed by Oppenheimer as “Eve and the apple”. The garden also contains several Japanese sculptures that have inspired further Japanese themed gardens.

Birds and insects are in abundance in this beautiful Eden

There is a large, striking, two-person sculpture protecting the bottom of the gardens. Named “Man and Woman”, by South African artist Louis le Sueur, and sculpted in 1969. It is made up of of two figures, the female looking up at the male, resting on her arm, which is perfectly aligned with the slightly bent tree behind her. The male figure is over six metres tall, and the sculpture is perfectly positioned, surrounded by emerald lawns and soaring trees.

The gardens are open to group tours, given by Klopper, which usually take about three hours. There is an admittance fee which all goes to the Little Eden Society for the care of persons with mental handicaps. Tea is served and there are books and indigenous plants to buy at very low prices. The garden at Brenthurst is also a Quiet Garden, a project sponsored by the Anglican church as a garden open to visitors for meditation and prayer.

The gardens are open to tour groups as part of a pre-arranged visit only. Please phone for appointment.

Address: 1 Federation Road, Johannesburg. Website. Tel: 011 646 4122

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