Still Waters and Green Pastures of Ganzvlei
Ganzvlei – a place steeped in history, set in the tranquil and beautiful Goukamma valley, where the lanquid black waters of the Goukamma River snake through green pastures to the sea.
The farm lies alongside the Goukamma River (which means “fat water” in the ancient Khoi language).
The valley was first settled in the late 1700s and is mentioned in accounts of early travellers. It is a place where David Metelerkamp, as a young child, expressed the wish to live one day.
He remembers setting off from Knysna as a child with his father and brother, winding their way along the edge of the lagoon and crossing the river at the Red Bridge. Instead of going up towards Phantom Pass, they turned towards the sea. From the cleft in the hill, the road wound gently down towards the river.
“We drove under the narrow stone arch where the railway line crossed over the road, and then, suddenly, there was the wide, black river and the green fertile valley stretching before us. My brother stopped humming. Looking over the back seat, I had a perfect view and I let out a gasp. ‘Is this the place of still waters and green pastures?’
We crossed the river and continued up the valley, the glistening water reflecting the deep blue sky and the contrasting shadows of the huge weeping willows growing along the banks. Further up the slope, towards the old homestead, huge oaks beckoned to shady nooks where contented cows lay chewing the cud.
Closer to the road, which had now become a track, the ditches were filled with blazing white arum lilies.
The succulent blue-green grass was knee-high all the way from hill to river and, in some places, stood half-way up the fences, the poles of which were old and gnarled, and covered in moss. I had never seen a pole with moss on it.
‘Stop the car, please Dad, I shouted.’ He was surprised and turned to me. ‘Why’? he asked. ‘Because this is where I want to live’.”
His wish came true when he bought the farm, many years later, in 1978, and has lived there ever since.
The approach to the garden is romantic and timeless – a narrow driveway leads you through a treed area under-planted with a variety of shade-tolerant plants, and then the garden unfolds…
One is greeted by colourful borders flanking the house; they are uncontrolled, yet there is cohesion in the landscape. The colour scheme is vibrant, yet nothing jars the eye. David has created a garden for all seasons: springtime Clivias light up the shady areas under the abundant trees, summer is the time when Hydrangea macrophylla and Hydrangea quercifolia create a serene and cool atmosphere, and come autumn the shady areas become a fairyland of whites, mauves and pinks when a great variety of Plectranthus comes into bloom.
The sunny areas are designated to the large selection of roses – David’s favourite flower. With the help of one gardener, David prunes, feeds and tends to the needs of these noble plants. Old Cape roses cascade from neighouring trees or ramble over fences to frame the more formal plantings. Favourites include specimens given to David by Gwen Fagan; others were obtained from Gwen’s daughter. David also loves modern roses, nothing gives him more joy than to show his newest aquisition, or his favourite rose, and having bowls full of fragrant roses in the house.
The meadow of Inca- and Day-lilies link the garden surrounding the homestead with the arboretum that he created many years ago. In this forested area one can find most of the trees occuring in the Southern Cape – Stinkwood, Yellowwood, Candlewood, Perdepis, Witels, Gwarri and Safron, just to mention a few. Rustic pathways cut through the natural undergrowth, leading to the boundary of the garden.
In front of the house is a large Celtis africana which he planted 35 years ago after he bought the farm. The seating area was carefully placed in such away to afford beautiful vistas of the pastures beyond the garden boundary.
David Metelerkamp is a compulsive plantaholic.
In his nursery, near his office, he grows roses from cuttings, Clivias from seed, Inca lilies and Irises from root divisions, all to keep this ever-expanding garden filled with plants.
This remarkable gardener is 85 but, despite health issues, he has a zest for life, a mind young and informed, a spirit free and uncontrolled … Such is his garden.
Sadly, David passed away early 2015. We pay tribute to a wonderful gardener, a great thinker and a true gentleman.
To read David’s story of Ganzvlei, click on this link: http://ganzvlei.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/DP-Ganzvlei-story-text1.pdf
Text and photographs by Esther Townsend.