The Company Garden is South Africa’s oldest garden, established in the 1650s and originally created to supply the Dutch East India Company’s enterprise as a station for much needed fresh food on long sea voyages. The garden quickly outgrew its capacity to provide adequate crops with the expansion of Dutch trading routes and the start of the eastward development of farming on the Cape Flats and the provincial granting of land to support the building trade industry.
The Company Garden itself is in the heart of Cape Town and has a cosmopolitan feel. Historical elements exist such as the vegetable and rose gardens. A traditional Dutch design was employed with linear paths transecting at ninety-degree angles, creating a series of formal, hedged gardens and “rooms.” Although the Garden has developed over the centuries adapting with the times and evolving with the influence of each ruling nation, the Garden maintains many of its historic aspects.The Garden today has both formal elements, such as a straight central axis, and now features playful meandering paths and a plant palette reaching across the globe. Some examples include Wisteria sinensis (Japan), Norfolk pines (South Pacific islands), Cercis chinensis (China), Pyrus commonus (Eastern Europe to Asia), Magnolia grandiflora (North America), Quercus robur (United Kingdoms), Clivia nobilis (South Africa), and Podocarpus falcatus (South Africa). This assorted plant array tells the cultural history as well as the importance of connecting to the plants where people came from. This diversity of plantings and the having of many mature tree specimens give the garden a feel unlike any of the others visited so far on the trip. The largely divergent planting palette gives rich texture, varying scale, colors, blooms and plentiful experience for the visitor.
The ever-presence of contrast and great diversity has been the continued theme of this trip so far. The Company Garden expresses this not only in its plant use but also by its visitors. A must see for any city tourist or casual Cape Town dweller, the Garden is being explored by people across multi-cultural and socioeconomic spectrums. This is a great resource for the city of Cape Town to have and one that is dearly loved by the community. On a busy Saturday, the majority of lawns, benches and walkways had a steady flow of visitors, lounging, strolling or feeding the local fauna. The homeless sleeping in quiet corners to the dapperly dressed people from other walks of life converged on this space to take in the day and enjoy the Garden’s ambience.