Chart Farm, the only pick-your-own rose outlet in the Cape Peninsula, is a romantic garden suffused with fragrance, character and history.
Stop To Smell (And Pick) The Roses At Chart Farm
For anyone who dreams of their own sprawling rose garden, Chart Farm near Wynberg Park is the next best thing. Here one may wander down shady paths with a bucket and secateurs any day of the week to assemble a bouquet or a centrepiece for the lunch table, then catch one's breath on the restaurant terrace overlooking the Constantia Valley's wine farms and mountains, as well as gleaming False Bay in the distance.
Chart Farm has been in the hands of the present owners since 1934, and its 1911 Herbert Baker-designed house was once surrounded by a large garden including a rose garden, of which remnants can be seen today: the pergolas flanking the original lawn, the rambling roses along a low wall, the figs and the stately flowering trees that form a romantic backdrop to the rose-picking area – Cape chestnut, tinderwood, jacaranda, pride of India.
In the 1980s, the garden was replanted with roses, mainly hybrid teas, laid out in a new configuration for the pick-your-own market. The first area to be replanted was the clay tennis court on the valley side, part of whose original railing is still visible.
Half of the jacarandas on the lawn were cut down to make way for roses, and although the owners had intended to plant this entire area, fortunately some remain to provide a shady glen for rose pickers on scorching summer days. The memorial bench on the edge of the lawn, under a spreading Magnolia grandiflora with its lemon-scented flowers the size of dinner plates, is a prime spot for gazing across the wine-farming valley.
To give the feeling of a garden as opposed to factory-farmed rows of roses, the pick-your-own area was beautified with benches, borders of pink Duncan's Roses, arches planted with climbing roses, and concentric circular beds of roses in an assortment of colours, many of them donated by Ludwig's Roses, who now have a rose nursery and a shop stocking gifts and rose accessories on the farm.
As it has for decades, the farmstall stocks fresh produce in season: lemons, limes, vegetables, table grapes including hanepoot, chestnuts from the farm's old trees, compost and mulch, proteas and pincushions, and bunches of ready-picked roses.
Fresh cherries from Klondyke Cherry Farm near Ceres are sold in December alongside an assortment of preserved and bottled goods: cherry jam, quince jam, marmalade and apple jelly, olives, beetroot atchar and pickled vegetables, and chocolate sauce.
The View @ The Terrace restaurant serves homemade cakes, and breakfasts and lunches with a Cape flavour, with offerings such as bobotie and pickled fish salad.
In summer, terrace tables under umbrellas look out onto a verdant windbreak of waterwise plants, including daisies, lavender and rosemary, and a row of old spider gums cut and clipped into domes to form a decorative feature.
And in winter, the wood fire is stoked, turning the glassed-in veranda into a scenic retreat from the wind and rain.
Farm staff tend the roses daily, and additional garden workers are brought in when required. Fullblown roses are deadheaded, a light pruning is undertaken in January, and plants are cut down to a third of their size and pruned at the end of July, only to spring up with renewed vigour the following season.
The farm ihas a supply of borehole water and the Chart Farm rose plants are constantly monitored for aphids, black spot and other diseases; environmentally-friendly products safe for insects such as ladybirds and bees are used wherever possible.
At the entrance to the parking area, repeated plantings along the fence set a feminine, romantic tone: white Icebergs, soft-pink double clusters of climber Clair Matin, deep-pink single-bloom Duncan's Rose, and pale-pink Johannesburg Garden Club varieties.
Under the rhus trees, a short walkway with hydrangeas and a low ivy-clad wall leads to the rose garden with its impressive backdrop of Table Mountain and palm trees.
The pick-your-own area is a jewel box of colours: the yellows of Kristo Pienaar and Johannesburg Sun roses, oranges ranging from the deep coral of Vera Johns to the peachy Janine Herholdt, unusual shades such as the creamy green and pink of 'able Mountain and Frohsinn, and plenty of red roses, from deep red Cora-Marie to softer red Baronesse for Valentine's Day.
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Look for the signboards announcing heavily scented varieties such as deep pink Lady Like, pink-yellow blend Granada and the famous scarlet-tipped cream Double Delight roses.
If you prefer your roses subtly scented, try salmon-pink Penny Coelen and coral-pink Harmony. Sniffing perfumed roses can be a solo weekday pleasure – just beware getting stung on the nose by a visiting bee.
Rose-Picking Tips From The Chart Farm Experts
• The rose season starts from the middle of October and continues until the end of June. Expect a gorgeous flush in early November, presenting a veritable sea of colours. The second flush in January isn't as prolific. In November and April, colours are more vibrant as the sun isn't as strong. In rose country, spring and autumn are the softer seasons.
• For their long vase life, choose these strong roses which don't wilt easily: pink Carina, pale pink Nicolette, intense orange Vera Johns and deep pink to orange Mondiale.
• 'Elina – a lemon yellow rose – opens into a huge bloom, but isn't as long-lasting. It's ideal for a table centrepiece, floating in a bowl.
• Red roses are generally long-lasting. Besides the classic reds, look for the gentler-toned Red Success and the dark red, black-tipped Boksburg Fantasia.
Chart Farm is open 9am to 4.30pm seven days a week during rose season, at Klaassens Road, Wynberg Park, Cape Town. Call 021-761-0434 for more information and to check if the farm is open, and for bookings at the on-site restaurant, The View @ The Terrace, call 021-762-0067.