Scene Seven: Visiting Company’s Garden

Company's Garden

Company’s Garden is named for the Dutch East India Company’s Garden and is part of the original garden, which began to take root on 29 April 1652. The Lords Seventeen council sent instructions for a merchant named Jan van Riebeeck to plant a vegetable and fruit garden. Under this instruction in 1652, the company’s gardener named Hendrik Boom prepared the land so it could produce fresh food for ships stopping in Cape Town. The original garden was a world-renowned lush botanical garden with exotic plants, trees, and shrubs and fruit and vegetable gardens. We visited this garden as a suggestion from one of our sponsors, Clive, to gain insight into the way gardening, specifically food, can fit into a pathway in Maitland Garden Village.

Cast of Characters:
The trip to Company’s Garden was a team effort prompted by our sponsor meeting with Clive, Juan, Crispin, and Megan on Monday, 22 October. Clive hoped that we would visit Company’s Garden to help us gain more information on biodiversity gardens and pathways. We did not interact with anyone regarding the garden and its features, as its features are quite easily found and laid out, and there are many plaques that help tell the the garden’s story.

The park is quite large and spreads out over several blocks. When we first entered, we were amazed by the sight of a huge fig tree that is from Australia. The base of the tree and the branches twist in a unique and fascinating way and the tree itself is both dark and light brown in color. Once past it, the garden opens up a little bit are we were surrounded by plants and gardens. Mixed in with these, we found a sundial and multiple statues. The first statue is of Jesus mounted on a platform with writing on the base, and beyond it we saw a statue of Cecil John Rhodes towering over the pathway. These sculptures brought the history alive as a complement to the beautiful flora. The physical pathways were not uniform throughout the park as they were built from different materials such as brick, stone, and mulch. A highlight of the trip was visiting the expansive rose garden where a variety of roses were formed in a concentric pattern around a stone structure. A striking and local rose was predominantly yellow with orange hues called “Johannesburg Sun.” The herb garden was another main feature in the garden and our way by passed a unique Japanese lantern made from stone. When we arrived at the herb garden, we were amazed by the smells of the different plants. The smells were quite noticeable and some of us like different plants more than others. Our final stop of the day was the succulent garden, which had a section rose higher off the ground and as overgrown, making it difficult to enter at first. Our observations allowed us to gain a better understanding of plant life that is possible along a pathway, but didn’t necessarily help us with ideas for the pathway itself.

For our trip to Company’s Garden, we all brought our cameras and made sure to visit key features that Clive suggested might be of importance. We learned a lot about the story of the creation of the garden, as well as the international biodiversity that the garden brings to Cape Town. While the idea of the garden, paths, and signs were relevant to our project, the content was not entirely relevant, as our project focuses primarily on gardens for food growing along along the pathway. The herb garden in Company’s Garden was closely related to this focus.

We arrived at the garden planning to explore and make observations rather than ask questions to anyone specifically. Through this we hope to find out:

  • Some history of the garden
  • What features attract people to the garden
  • What surrounds the garden’s perimeter
  • How visitors use the garden

As we were leaving the Environmental and Heritage Management office on 44 Wale Street, the sky began to clear and the drizzling rain lessened. After making a quick stop off of Long Street, we found that our visit to Company’s Garden would be nice after all. We headed down Long Street as the sun heated up, took a left onto Wale Street, and then a right onto Queen Victoria Street, and were pleasantly surprised by the greenery inside the gates of Company’s Garden. We came upon a large Australian fig tree and a statue of Jesus Christ dedicated to a Howson Edwards Rutherfoord Esquire. We noticed numbered plaques, corresponding to the feature numbers on a large map, in front of each of the main attractions within the garden. The plaques also included the name of the feature and a short description on its importance. There was a sundial in the center of a circle of benches and connecting walkways. We discovered more exotic trees, labeled with what type of tree they were and from where they originate. As we continued our walk, we approached a large central statue of Cecil John Rhodes, and were surprised by an enclosed garden with birds and coy fishponds. We looked at a map of the garden to find the rose garden, as Clive had suggested that we visit this feature. Walking to the rose garden, we were impressed by a large aloe tree, and enjoyed seeing the beautiful yellow rose known as Johannesburg Sun. There were many benches all around the perimeter of the rose gardens where many sat and enjoyed the sun as it began to come out behind the clouds. We walked back down towards a map of the garden, and along the way were distracted by a sociable duck. After looking at the map, we decided that visiting the herb and succulent garden would be quite relevant to our project. On our way there we came under the Japanese lantern dedicated by the Government of Japan in 1932 to Cape Town out of appreciation for the hospitality shown to Japanese emigrants and rededicated to the city in 2009 to commemorate the centenary of relations between Japan and the Republic of South Africa. The herb and succulent garden was pleasant; the smell of the herbs filled the air, and the steps up to the area for the succulents were made from sand-colored desert rocks and a stone birdbath sat in the middle of all the succulents. After our relaxing stroll through Company’s Garden, we headed back to the lodge as the sun really began to heat up.

Reflections and Learning
The trip was originally suggested by our sponsors at our Tuesday morning meeting. Although the garden wasn’t directly related to the type of agriculture we are hoping to promote in MGV or have a pathway with any destinations, we still felt like it was worth the trip. We learned about the diverse plants that are capable of growing in Cape Town, which will be helpful as we talk about using gardening to tell a story, specifically about Maitland Garden Village. It was also nice to see a different type of garden that contrasted with Green Point Urban Park, though our conclusion was that Green Point was a lot more relevant to this project. Because of the diversity in different park development approaches, we realize that it will be beneficial for us to see as many parks and gardens as is realistic and relevant to this project. This will give us an abundance of ideas to work with and incorporate into this project. This is especially important because we can gain more images to be used in the potential photo book as a means to communicate pathway visions.

Aside from the garden’s relevance to our project, we thought the garden would be a great place to revisit on our own time. It seemed to have a very relaxing atmosphere with people walking around enjoying the garden. It was also relatively close and not very difficult to find so a trip back would be pretty easy.

Plans for future scenes:

  • Visit other gardens or public parks as necessary for this project or suggested by our sponsors.
  • Research the history of Company’s Garden, specifically the uses of it as a vegetable and fruit garden in the past.