Stellenberg’s history and gardens: The Ovenstones tell us more about their magical home

Stellenberg homestead

The Stellenberg homestead

More than R80 000 has been raised for St Joseph’s to date by the virtual tour of the Stellenberg Gardens. Since 2015, Stellenberg Gardens in Cape Town has held Open Weekends in aid of St Joseph’s. However, due to the pandemic the gardens have not been open to the public for some time and the virtual tour was launched to enable the fundraising to continue online.

Andrew and Sandy Ovenstone tell us more about Stellenberg’s history and the gardens.

Some history about the Stellenberg property.
The origins of the Stellenberg estate date back to the seventeenth century and early owners under Dutch rule included Francois van der Stel, son of Simon van der Stel, the first governor of the Cape. Jan de Wit and his son Petrus owned the estate from from 1742 to 1767, and built the present manor house. The arrival of the British in 1806 marked the beginning of more than a century under direct British rule and understandably, British influence increased at the Cape and the Regency and Victorian styles started to supersede the local Cape Dutch buildings, which became dated, and even dilapidated. However, Stellenberg was maintained to the highest standards of authentic Cape Dutch style by subsequent owners.  

Stellenberg old manor house

Stellenberg’s old manor house

When the Ovenstone family came to Stellenberg in 1953 they found classical Dutch architecture, already featured in books and paintings and gardens fashionable in the 1930s and 1940s: The original werf or square with its well and surrounding 18th century buildings, old walls, benches, and bridges. This was also the beginning of a period during which the restoration of Old Cape Dutch and Cape Regency buildings was encouraged. And to this end, some, including Stellenberg, were given national monument, now the Heritage status.

Andrew and Sandy Ovenstone returned to Stellenberg in 1973. After undertaking the restoration of an important outbuilding, which had been damaged by fire in 1971, Sandy understood that she did not have a blank canvas on which to redesign the garden, which at the time comprised lawns, English Oaks, rows of Hydrangeas and a large shrubbery with mature trees. She took her time, and only made minor changes for more than a decade, until she felt ready to embark on her garden story, by which time there was no doubt that she would use what was there as central to her design ideas.

Today, after some 48 years of hard work and dedication by the Ovenstones and their staff, incorporating a variety of ideas and inspiration, drawn from Andrew’s Scottish heritage and gardens in England, France and Italy which they visited frequently. There are 16 distinct areas in the gardens, namely the Garden Entrance, the White Garden, the Parterre Garden, the Vegetable Garden, the Garden of Paradise, the Herb Garden, the Shady Walkway, the main lawns and façade, the Wild Garden, the Upper-Stream Garden, Lower-Stream Garden, the Lime Tree Walk, the Garden of Reflection, the Vine Walk allée, the Walled Garden and the Pool Garden.

The Stellenberg Garden Plan

The Stellenberg Garden Plan

Where did the idea of opening up the gardens come from?  How many people have visited the gardens over the years?
A: We opened the gardens for charity in 1991, and were amazed to receive over 400 visitors to our first open week end. Since then the gardens have been open for charity every year until COVID’s intervention. Based on ticket sales, and an estimate of accompanying children who do not pay, approximately 2000 people now visit the garden over an open week end in favourable weather.

What part of the gardens is your favourite for either of you and why?
A: I am sure that Sandy would say that her gardens are like her grandchildren. She loves them all equally. My favourite sections are the stream gardens, quite  masculine, and wild but with enough continuity and structure. In the winter the stream gardens are at their best, while the walled garden becomes different, but Sandy loves its structure and the bare soil duly mulched in most of the planted sections.

How important are water and colour to the design of the gardens?
A: Colour and water are both important. Sandy has moved from bright colours to shades of green and white in some sections, with shades of green and blue in the pool garden, and brighter colours with shades of green in the walled garden. Eleven ponds or water features including the stream speak for the importance of water in the gardens. Sandy finds the sound of water calming.

How did you manage during the drought that we had in Cape Town a few years ago?
A: The drought was difficult. Even the old wells could not cope. Historically, parts of Stellenberg, including what are now the impressive Arderne Gardens, were known as the Stellenberg marsh. A high water table results in the gardens being wetter than normal in winter and not as dry in winter. We resolved not to change the design of the  gardens but to improve the efficiency of our irrigation practice with less daytime irrigation and more computerized night time watering, and to let the lawns take the strain.

Tell us more about your staff and their contribution to keeping everything so beautiful, especially during the pandemic?
A: We pay tribute to the dedication of our staff in the video. They all make a contribution, as do our regular contractors who maintain the property and the houses thereon. We like to believe that with time, they become skilled enough to more than hold their own anywhere.

Where did the idea of a virtual tour come from and who produced the beautiful video for you?
A: We thought about two things, namely, the motivation of our gardeners in the absence of visitors, and our inability to contribute as meaningfully to our charity, St Joseph’s Home, in the COVID-19 environment. The stress in managing the manor house and the gardens with one person, our senior gardener, Jonas, who quarantined here, for four months was great. We decided to make the video as a project to encourage all of us in a creative rather than a financial sense.

The production was done by PMC Films, Popcorn Post Production, Ignition Design and Juice Audio.

How long have you been supporters of St Joseph’s and what about this organisation made you decide to contribute this way?
A: St Joseph’s has been our chosen charitable organisation since 2015.

Anything you would like to add?
A: What were known as the Claremont Public Gardens, now the Arderne Gardens, were originally created by Ralph Arderne on land bought from the then owners of Stellenberg in 1845. These Public Gardens serve all our communities, and have several champion trees, and other areas of interest, including a restored wetland area and Gingko trees directly descended from trees which survived the horrific nuclear bombing of Hiroshima at the end of WW2.

We support the Friends of Arderne Gardens, (FOTAG) without whose work the gardens would be neither as safe nor as well maintained, and encourage our visitors to also visit the Arderne Gardens, or to join one of their regular guided tours.

Stellenberg's White Garden

The White Garden

The Vegetable Garden at Stellenberg

The Vegetable Garden

 

The annual Stellenberg Garden Tour has gone virtual for St Joseph’s Home!

Beauty and history at its best for a great cause!

The annual open weekends of the Stellenberg Gardens in Cape Town have gone virtual and currently everyone can enjoy these spectacular grounds from the comfort and safety of their homes and contribute to a great cause at the same time.

Since 2015, the Stellenberg Gardens, the home of Andrew and Sandy Ovenstone, have held Open Weekends in aid of St Joseph’s Home for Chronically Ill Children, a paediatric care facility giving children with life threatening illness a second chance at childhood.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have not been able to share the beauty of their gardens to raise funds for St Joseph’s Home. Like many charities, COVID-19 has negatively impacted the operations at St Joseph’s who rely on donations to provide free 24-hour specialised and general nursing care and rehabilitation to those who need it most.

Stellenberg Gardens Virtual Tour

Click here for the Stellenberg Gardens Virtual Tour

Magical garden and history

St Joseph’s is very excited and grateful that a beautiful video has been made of the Stellenberg Gardens to enable anyone to visit by way of a virtual garden tour! It can be viewed on the GivenGain fundraising platform where donations can easily be made in aid of St Joseph’s. Thanks to donations from the many virtual visitors to the gardens, more than R80 000 has been raised for St Joseph’s to date.

The origins of the Stellenberg estate date back to the seventeenth century and Sandy Ovenstone and her dedicated team of gardeners have created a magical garden in harmony with the historical homestead that is unique in South Africa.

There are 16 distinct areas in the gardens, namely the Garden Entrance, the White Garden, the Parterre Garden, the Vegetable Garden, the Garden of Paradise, the Herb Garden, the Shady Walkway, the main lawns and façade, the Wild Garden and reservoir walk, the Stream Garden, Lower-Stream Garden, the Lime Tree Walk, the Garden of Reflection, the Vine Walk allée, the Walled Garden and the Pool Garden.

Join them for a leisurely and inspiring stroll through these magnificent gardens by viewing the virtual tour here: https://www.givengain.com/cc/stellenberg-gardens-virtual-tour2021/

The video can also be viewed via the Stellenberg Gardens website at: www.stellenberggardens.co.za by clicking on “Virtual Tour” and there is a donate button that links to the GivenGain fundraising page. All funds raised are carefully monitored and faithfully distributed.

To learn more about the history and the magic of Stellenberg and its gardens, read this interview with Andrew and Sandy Ovenstone on the St Joseph’s Home website. Click here.

St Joseph’s Home for Chronically Ill Children

Up to 500 children a year are looked after by St Joseph’s Home. A well-loved institution in Cape Town, it has provided post-acute, rehabilitative, restorative and palliative intermediate care for children with chronic life-limiting or life-threatening conditions for the last 85 years. The holistic, multi-disciplinary and family-centred intermediate care model further supports the children in their educational and psycho-social needs.

Located in Montana, Cape Town, and established in 1935 by the Pallottine Missionary Sisters, this 175 -bed beacon in paediatric care in Southern Africa has provided 24-hour general and specialised nursing care and rehabilitation therapy for over 23 000 medically vulnerable children. The most prevalent conditions treated are infectious diseases, neurology, malnutrition and trauma related injuries.

If you are interested in supporting this and other projects for St Joseph’s, there is more information here: https://stjosephshome.org.za/donate/

Contact:

Christa Robijn
Resource development manager, St Joseph’s Home for Chronically Ill Children
Tel. +27 21 934 0352
christa@stjosephshome.org.za 

Stellenberg walled garden

The Walled Garden

The Stellenberg Garden Plan

The Stellenberg Garden Plan

Stellenberg's White Garden

The White Garden

The old manor house at Stellenberg

The old manor house at Stellenberg

The Vegetable Garden at Stellenberg

The Vegetable Garden

St Joseph's Happy Nappy Drive

Changing 500 nappies a day? That’s normal at St Joseph’s!

St Joseph’s annual Happy Nappy Drive is underway

Changing 500 nappies a day may sound like an impossible task to most people but this daily marathon of providing hygiene care to medically fragile children is par for the course for the staff at St Joseph’s in Cape Town. This well-loved institution provides intermediate, post-acute restorative and rehabilitative care for children with chronic or life-limiting conditions.

For the past 85 years, this beacon in paediatric care in Southern Africa has been providing general and specialised nursing care and rehabilitation therapy for over 23 000 children from vulnerable communities.

Their annual Happy Nappy Drive is underway and emphasises the tremendous needs of St Joseph’s in the practical aspects of looking after and taking care of medically fragile children.

“On average children with life-limiting conditions stay for six months at the 175-bed facility, receiving holistic and multi-disciplinary medical treatment free of charge,” says Christa Robijn, St Joseph’s Resource Development Manager.

She adds: “Every 24 hours we use more than 500 nappies and our annual nappy bill is more than R500,000. The Happy Nappy Drive is vital to meeting our children’s needs and keeping them comfortable, and our goal this year is to raise R200,000 and collect over 5,000 nappies.”

Disposable nappies
As St Joseph’s treats children with life limiting and life-threatening illnesses it uses disposable diapers as it has been proven that disposable diapers are effective in decreasing probable sepsis in neonates.

“Using disposable diapers also decreases the number of diapers used per day,” Christa explains, “and also the number of times a nurse comes into contact with a baby, especially during these COVID-19 times. Operationally, our in-house laundry also has limited capacity. Of course, we care about the environment, but we also care about a high standard of critical medical care and disposable items are needed to achieve this.”

Not considered medical
As nappies are not considered medical consumables by the Department of Health, this puts an extra financial burden on parents in the vulnerable communities, especially parents of chronically ill children.

Says Christa: “As a non-profit organisation, St Joseph’s runs a 175-bed facility and we rely on donations from organisations and individuals to enable us to provide the best quality care for our children. We fundraise all year round through various initiatives like our Happy Nappy Drive.”

There are various ways to join the Happy Nappy Drive:

A pack of nappies is about R260, but there is no minimum amount – every little bit helps!

  • Alternatively, nappies can be ordered online at Clicks, Dischem or Pick n Pay and delivered to Joseph’s, 40 Pallotti Rd, Montana, 7490, Cape Town.

For lots more info on the Happy Nappy Drive and St Joseph’s, go to: https://stjosephshome.org.za

Contact:
Christa Robijn
Resource development manager, St Joseph’s Home for Chronically Ill Children
Tel. +27 21 934 0352
christa@stjosephshome.org.za

Thank you Kimberley-Clark!

St Joseph’s would like to express our sincere appreciation for a donation of 809 nappy packs valued at R 180 975.19!

Your donation will be a huge saving to the home, and we are grateful receiving a total of 40 442 nappies. This will stretch the need of nappies in two wards over a period of 160 days.

Calore Donation


Thank you to Calore Fireplaces and Stoves who once again donated 70 (15kg) bags of pellets to St Joseph’s valued at R5 000 to warm up the eco-friendly fireplaces in the wards.  This gesture is much appreciated!

Rheinmetall Denel Munition Donation

Hand sanitizing liquid equals liquid gold during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, St Joseph’s Home for Chronically Ill Children welcomed a generous donation of 21 boxes of 500 ml of bottles of sanitizer from Rheinmetall Denel Munition. Handing over, is Milan Bohacek (CFO) Rheinmetall with Christelle Cornelius (CEO at St Joseph’s) and Matron Audrey Gourrah. St Joseph’s cares for more than 120 patients and has a bed capacity of 175. All its staff of more than 130 are regarded essential and report for duty each day. More than 75 litres of hand sanitizer is used each week! St Joseph’s is situated in Montana and has been under lockdown since the end of March.

Dutch Interns raise more than R40 000

Dutch Interns   Demi, Isabella and Mylene, raised more than R40 000 through crowdfunding to support various needs of the children at St Joseph’s. Apart from toiletries and casual clothes need for the holidays, they also funded the necessary school clothes and SHOES! We thank you and your generous friends!