Champagne corks popped at Vergelegen Estate this month as a new oak arboretum was officially launched at the historic Somerset West wine farm.
A board member of the International Oak Society, Shaun Haddock, planted a young oak to mark the occasion. He was assisted by a German-based Society member, Anke Mattern, and a group of about 16 German garden enthusiasts.
The oak arboretum forms part of the new East Garden (the 18th on the 312-year-old estate) which is currently under development. The arboretum is located between two windbreaks (one of which is a row of 15-year-old oaks) with a backdrop of the Helderberg Mountains.
“It is an important day in Vergelegen’s horticultural history, and an honour to have an oak planted by a member of the International Oak Society,” said Vergelegen Commercial and Risk Manager Leslie Naidoo.
The estate already boasts about 15 varieties of oak and the arboretum will hopefully play a vital part in increasing the awareness of the history of oaks in the Cape, as well as the conservation and propagation of these trees.
Vergelegen is the home of a hollow Old English Oak, which is about 300 years old, and is believed to be the oldest living oak in Africa. It is a Vergelegen tradition to invite visiting dignitaries to plant a commemorative oak, and the estate has a fine collection planted by members of Britain’s royal family and other visitors.
There are currently 450-500 oak species in the world, said Haddock, who specialises in growing heat- and drought-tolerant oaks on his private trial arboretum in France. Mexico and China offer fine areas for such trees, he said, but Puebla in Mexico has lost 90% of its primary forest in the past 20 years.
“The International Oak Society wants to encourage the cultivation of more unusual oaks in other regions,” he said. “The Vergelegen arboretum will be important for their worldwide conservation as the climate is good and there are no frosts.”
Vergelegen is open throughout the year to the public at a cost of R10/person, with a reduced rate of R5/person for pensioners. See www.vergelegen.co.za.
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