The first pink, red and white camellia blooms of the winter are blossoming at South Africa’s only International Camellia Garden of Excellence – and flower fans are already booking to attend the highly-anticipated annual Camellia Weekend at Vergelegen Estate in Somerset West open to locals only.

This garden ‒ one of only 39 International Camellia Gardens of Excellence in the world, and one of just two in the Southern Hemisphere ‒ boasts a remarkable collection of about 550 camellia cultivars. These have been sourced both locally and as far afield as France, Japan and America. There are about 1 000 specimens in total, with glossy foliage and a glorious array of blooms that can be viewed from now until early spring.

New blossoms in the Camellia Garden of Excellence.

While the 319-year-old estate is open daily for visitors to enjoy the flowers and numerous other attractions, camellia fever will peak during the Camellia Weekend on July 27 and 28. The estate will offer two daily guided tours of the camellia garden on both Saturday and Sunday, followed by refreshments in the Stables family restaurant.

The tours will depart from Stables at 9am and 2.30pm. Each are led by estate horticulturist Richard Arm, are one and a half hours long and accommodate 25 people. 

Booking is essential. The cost is R140/person and includes the entrance fee, tea/coffee and a selection of cakes at Stables. 

“Vergelegen received this international garden accolade nine years ago, but the history of camellias at Vergelegen goes back decades,” says Arm. “The earliest camellia plantings consist of classic, pre-1940s Camellia japonica cultivars, most of which are now large, mature shrubs of up to five metres in height. Most of these camellias were planted by Cynthia Barlow after her family bought Vergelegen in 1941.”

That initial collection has been expanded through both camellia donations and estate purchases. Guests can now view the camellias in three areas: the Barlow camellias at the bottom of the Great Lawn; near the Camphors signature restaurant; and near the banks of the Lourens River, the only South African river that is officially a Protected Natural Environment. 

The estate is open Monday-Sunday from 9am to 5pm, with last entries taken at 4pm.

Entrance: R10/adults and R5/pensioners and scholars, pensioners free on Mondays.

Bookings for the Camellia Weekend can be made via 021 847 2156 or [email protected]  

More information on Vergelegen: 


Pictures: Supplied

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