Gardens a special place for many

The Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Garden which opened at the end of September in the Arderne Gardens celebrates the 150th year since the birth of Gandhi.

Arderne Gardens, or Claremont Gardens as it is still affectionately known, holds a special place in the minds of many Cape Town citizens as the place where their wedding photos were taken and where they came as children to play and feed the ducks.

Arderne Gardens had its birth as a private garden, bought and developed by Ralph Arderne in 1845. The original homestead and garden was much larger than the space we enjoy today and was originally part of the larger Stellenberg Estate.

When Ralph died, his son, Henry, took over the development and nurturing of the family garden.

During their ownership, the Ardernes created the basis of the garden we see today, planting shrubs and trees from all over the world using their contacts with the shipping trade to bring back trees from South America, Australia, New Zealand, India and China and of course some from Europe.

Many of these trees can still be seen in the garden, along with camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons.

The land was sold originally to a developer in 1919 but in 1926 the Cape Town City Council purchased a smaller portion of the original property with the intention of making it a public garden. Over the years, several changes were made by various council park staff, but sadly during the late 1960s onwards, until the early 2000s, the garden went into a period of severe decline and became very overgrown and unsafe.

The Friends of the Arderne Gardens (FOTAG) was formed in 2004 by a group of neighbours in Claremont whose aim was to secure the garden by fencing in the boundaries, closing the top gate and installing security staff at the main entrance, providing bins to keep the garden clean and keeping the lawns mowed.

In 2014, Fotag launched its Renaissance Project to renew, uplift and develop the garden into the beautiful space we see today.

To do this, funds were raised from various trusts and interested parties. This work is ongoing and the fundraising continues with the support of some wonderful donors, both local and international.

Fotag employs a part-time horticulturist and two garden assistants.

The Hiroshima area of the garden was opened in 2016, and this year we are developing the wetland in the area of the two lower ponds.

The old red-brick structure has been turned into a beautiful seating area, and recently, with the help of the city council and the Indian Consulate, the Gandhi Memorial Garden was created to celebrate 150 years since Mahatma Gandhi’s birth.

The irrigation system was installed by Fotag, along with storage tanks near the toilets, and the council installed a borehole in 2018 to make us as self sufficient and water wise as possible.

Fotag’s objectives are now to maintain this garden and arboretum for future generations.

Such has been the success of our work over the last five years that we attract local and overseas garden clubs and visitors from around the world.