Escaping from a bustling, cityscaped summer morning in the Cape Town CBD to the sunbathed stillness of the Wellington valley, just an hour away, is a welcome reprieve. It’s home to the tranquil garden at Lelienfontein – seat of the Bosman family for eight generations – and the residence of matriarch Anelma Bosman.
The adjoining ‘sister’ farm Groenfontein became the domain of her son, Jannie, and daughter-in-law, Twinkle Bosman, just over 30 years ago and, together with their talented progeny, they’ve carried on the family heritage in Bosman Family Vineyards. Successful vinegrowers and, now, premium ethical wine producers, the company invests time, effort and love in its land and its community. The same love shines through in Twinkle’s devotion to her garden at Groenfontein.
‘I’ve always loved being outdoors and, as a child, I worked alongside my mother in her garden,’ she recalls of her youth in Barrydale, Western Cape. When the Bosmans moved in, the few trees and surrounding lawns proved a wonderful playground for their three young sons and daughter. As their needs changed, she satisfied her own desire to overhaul the garden completely – something she felt would suit the historical homestead better. Beds were laid in place of grass, and a symmetrical, circular design adopted, along with informal plantings.
It was an experiment of trial and error, she recounts, that has resulted in a fetching palette of predominantly pastel pinks, magentas, myriad purples and whites. A young kapokboom (Ceiba pentandra) stands sentinel in the middle of the garden, trunk densely crowded with thorns, patiently awaiting its first flush of pink blossoms. An Australian frangipani tree in full flower and a blossoming crab apple tree preside over the garden, where flecked foxgloves stand to attention among violet heliotropes, pink columbines, mauve-fuzzed Geranium maderense, and double-layered purple poppies. Tall verbascums with their attractive, woolly grey leaves add a splash of yellow, while phlox run riot in beds with penstemons and salvia.
‘I’m not a disciplined gardener!’ Twinkle confesses, eyeing her self-seeded plants. ‘If they’re happy there, I just leave them. I can’t bear to pull them out.’ She plants what and where she likes, and whatever keeps good company with her beloved old roses, the only kind to grace the ‘formal’ garden. These are mulched with a steady supply of vine cuttings, as are the other rose varieties that she moved to the pluktuin (picking garden) alongside, to serve the floral needs of the house. Here, hedges of pomegranate and rosemary keep beds of herbs and vegetables in check along with the vase-destined blooms.
An orchard with quinces, nuts, custard apples, and different fig varieties supplies regular produce to the table. ‘I apply compost twice a year, in April and August, to give the garden a boost,’ Twinkle says of the piles of organic matter near the pluktuin, which are mixed in with stable manure and the red wiggler-processed kitchen scraps. ‘Nothing goes to waste here.’ In the enormous task of tending not just to her own garden but also to those of her children who live on the estate, as well as assisting with mother-in-law Anelma’s magical garden at Lelienfontein next door, Twinkle has some help from two of the farm staff (when they’re not in the throes of vine grafting). While Twinkle’s garden radiates a quiet charm, Anelma’s shade-dappled garden just a five-minute walk away is somewhat more flamboyant in its plethora of bright crimson and shocking-pink azaleas. Though less mobile these days, at 88 she still keeps her hand in the garden and sees it ever responsive to over 60 years of her gardening prowess. ‘I’ve never had to fuss over my plants; they’re so content here,’ she says of her thriving azaleas, propagating them simply by pinning a low-hanging branch to the ground with a large stone.
They take root, and continue the legacy of their parent plants, some of which are over 30 years old. Anelma’s fervour for gardening began after the untimely death of her brother in an air crash in 1951. His ashes were scattered under a grand oak tree at the entrance to the garden and, with a few established trees as the backbone, she embarked on her lifelong passion for colour and verdance. Anelma shares her garden with a family of giant bergskilpaaie (leopard tortoises), some of which are over 100 years old and which have accompanied her from her childhood.
A resident family of barn owls is testament to her strong connection with nature and animals. White petals drift like snowflakes on the breeze from the crab apple trees and settle in a blanket on the lawn, which slopes down toward the Kromme river. It’s flanked by riots of pink and carmine azaleas that grow in wild and happy abandon. And while the gardens appear to look after themselves, Anelma and Twinkle Bosman know that the lavish displays are the reward of years of tending to a heart’s deep calling. bosmanwines.com
This article originally appeared in the December 2012 issue of House and Leisure.