It has been three years since renowned jeweller, Laurence Graff, commissioned Keith Kirsten to design and plant the gardens of Delaire, an award-wining Wine Estate situated at the pinnacle of Helshoogte Pass in the Cape Winelands, into a breathtaking landscape. The gardens pay tribute to an exciting estate proving that South Africa's wines and biodiversity is up there with the best in the world.
The team at Keith Kirsten Horticulture International (KKHI) embarked on, what was to be, a labour of love with Delaire & Helshoogte. The site, set against the rolling moutain-side, was a challenge. KKHI's designer and horticulturists, Ray Hudson, Paul Odendaal and TInus Oberholzer, consistently raised the standard in the industry and they injected their own passion to ensure the project's success.
"We were aware of the volatile climate in this region", says Keith, "but had no idea we were about to endure one of the region's wettest winters when we began. With inclement weather causing delays, we laboured on. The gardens have developed perfectly and the timing could not have been better. The Wine Tasting and Restaurant opened in July 2009 and visitors enjoyed a unique dining experience overlooking landscaped gardens and splendid vineyards."
In keeping with the modern Architecture and topography and climate of the region, KKHI's solution is different from landscapes that usually surround Cape Wine Estates. "Genius loci" refers to the locations distinctive atmosphere, or 'spirit of place'. Delaire's spirit lies in the spectacular mountains and treed beauty. Plantings blend with the architecture and surroundings and includes indigenous and excotic plants.
"Indigenous landscapes need not be boring or exclusively fynbos endemic." says Keith, "Many plant species which have become part of our landscape. The plane trees and oaks at the restaurant, although exotic, are typically Cape and provide strength of character and are enhanced with intermediate levels of foliage and robust ground covers, flowering perennials and shrubs."
From the entrance, stone sets the tone with its natural strength. Statuesque trees, aloes and cycads, add drama without forgetting the typical, world-renowned Cape fynbos. These iconic plant forms attracts international visitors who flock to Kirstenbosch to see them in concentrated mass. Plantings of Watsonia, Agapanthus, Plumbago, Pin-cushions, Leucadendrons and Restio grasses provide a unique contrast to stunning form plants. The roadside verge has been rehabilitated with fynbos and the driveway's supporting Gabion walls is softened with Bougainvillea, Plumbago and other trailing plants. The tree-lined avenue is under-planted with Agapanthus and shrubs but still offer glimpses of vistas through the trees. Indigenous bulbs, roses, bougainvilleas and Cape Honey Suckle cascade over and along interior Gabion walls.
A "veggie and herb" garden, a "Helipad" area and eclectic plantings of Aloe, Strelitzia, cycads, Restio grasses, Coral and Cabbage Trees blend perfectly and are also incorporated around the car parks and entrance to the Estate & Winery. "South Africans don't always appreciate our own exotic plants; the vibrant Coral Tree, cycads and aloes and the Strelitzia ("Bird of Paradise") and others." says Keith.
The main terraced entrance has been planted with olive trees and South Africa's own River Date Palms (Phoenix reclinata). This Mediterranean feel is complemented by vibrant and rustic colours of selected Bougainvilleas, Honey Suckles and flowering aloes. Roses make an appearance along the driveway.