THERE’S a hidden treasure in Main Road, Claremont.
The Ardene Gardens, also known as Claremont Gardens, is like a piece of the fabled eden, Shangri-La.
The Ardene Gardens is 165 years old and has been a spot where families could enjoy family time together, a picnic or have wedding photos taken.
Lisa Conradie, Secretary of Friend of the Ardene Gardens (Fotag) briefly explains that in in 1845 a British settler, Ralph Henry Ardene, bought the land to create his dream garden.
“The garden is now considered a botanical jewel containing six types of champion trees which are trees identified as worthy of special protection throughout South Africa by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry due to their remarkable size, age, aesthetic, cultural, historical and tourist value,” she says.
Conradie adds that this is the biggest collection of official champion trees in South Africa.
The most famous champion tree in the garden, with its massive size and unending branches, is the Moreton Bay Fig tree. It is better known as the “wedding tree” and creates a majestic background for many wedding parties that annually folk to the gardens for photographs.
“This is a people’s garden and here is always such a mix of visitors who love to come here and feed the ducks and fish. It is always great to see that people really feel like the garden belongs to them,” she says.
The exotic garden with manicured lawns, squirrels, ducks, fish and Japanese-styled pond areas creates a beautiful setting for a jog, families to picnic, children to play or just to enjoy a book.
“It is also used for smooching,” a giggling Conradie adds.
Established in 2003, Fotag is a NPO committed to working with the City of Cape Town and works towards improving the maintenance of the gardens and raising public awareness of this lush suburban gem.
According to Conradie, for a period people had stopped using the garden because it had become overgrown and unsafe because of vagrants sleeping in the garden.
However, thanks to improvements made over the last few months, Conradie says: “We have received a lot of good comments from people who are pleased with the safety and clean-up of the garden. Many more people have returned to the garden”.
She says the latest improvements include a notice board at the entrance, a nursery for the restocking of beds, 24-hour security, as well as a massive clean-up by the new contractor.
“I encourage families to come out and visit the Ardene Gardens on Heritage Day because it is a wonderful time of the year where everything is in bloom. Bring your family and picnic basket for a fun day out,” Conradie says.