I’ve mentioned in passing that I might be heading over to the US in July to attend an expo for business purposes, and as such I obviously needed to pick up a US visa – a story I still need to get around to telling in these pages. Anyway, I went through the process and instead of having it delivered to my door, I opted to pick it up directly from DHL, ostensibly because I wanted a reason to make a weekday trip through to Stellenbosch so that I could wander about the beautiful University of Stellenbosch Botanical Garden without having the girls running around under my feet!
Located in the historical center of Stellenbosch and open to the public, the University of Stellenbosch Botanical Garden is in fact the oldest university botanical garden in South Africa, having been first established at its current site in 1922, but with a history that dates back to 1902!
The botanical garden is extremely compact, yet it is packed with a massive variety of thriving plant life, with plant species that are both indigenous or introduced. There are a number of theme gardens on the site, including a bonsai-en, bulb beds, waterliliy ponds, rockeries, fern house, tropical glasshouse and arid glasshouses. Many of these theme gardens date back to the founding of the Botanical Garden and some are still used by university students for practicals while others fulfill a purely aesthetic purpose.
There is a small restaurant situated in the middle of the lush trees (the Katjiepiering Restaurant), as well as a visitor center/shop and a plant sales section.
The garden is extremely lush, superbly maintained, and the plants are well signposted, making exploring the garden a delight. If you are a more serious plant explorer, the University of Stellenbosch has invested in and released a Garden Explorer tool, which essentially provides a digital plant map for you to work with.
There are some spectacular and massive trees in the garden, including a huge California redwood that I took quite a liking to. The garden also hosts a lot of sculpture and art, so there is quite often some interesting pieces to stumble across as you work you way through the site. As you might expect then, the garden is a fantastic little spot to escape to in order to get away from the hustle and bustle of busy Stellenbosch, literally a small piece of green paradise in the middle of a very beautiful town!
There is no entrance fee, so if you love gardens, then I can highly recommend taking the time to pop in when you get a chance.