A garden for all the senses
Home South Africa|January 2020
In just two years, a dedicated team at Mirtehof has created a breathtaking oasis in the Karoo.
Marlene Malan
The first thing that catches your eye is the glorious view. Then the aromas hit you: star jasmine, gardenia, honeysuckle, alyssum, myrtle, mint and rosemary, followed by the sound of birds twittering, the wind stirring the leaves and water bubbling in the pond. And if you’re lucky enough to stay in the guesthouse, you also get to taste fresh veggies from the garden and fruit from the trees. A visit to the impressive gardens of the historic Mirtehof estate in Prince Albert is a ‘sensory’ experience in every sense of the word.

The entire estate is a feast for the eyes but it’s the 2 500m² garden below the manor house and surrounded by low white walls that is so breathtaking. This garden, where plantings began in 2017 once construction of the main house, guesthouse and outbuildings was completed, is a colourful conglomeration of roses, shrubs, flowering plants and veggies, carefully arranged in avenues and on pergolas, between walkways and patios.

Mirtehof, in all its glory, is a long-time dream for owners Dr Bets Janse van Rensburg and her husband Stevan Möller of Bloemfontein. With the help of landscaper Rentia Verster, building contractors Adan Liepner and Neels Swart of Agri Eco Earth, and Karoo plant specialist Sue Dean of Renu-Karoo, they have transformed this 4.7ha smallholding from ordinary to extraordinary.

Someday, Bets and Stevan plan to retire here. “I grew up in the Senekal area of the Free State on a farm full of roses and other flowers,” says Bets. “We often visited Prince Albert as our bond with the town stretches way back to the early 1900s when my great-grandfather, Christiaan Jacobus Bam, was the magistrate here.

“We own a house in Market Street, but Stevan and I had always wanted to open a guesthouse.”

A dream becomes reality

The opportunity to open a guesthouse presented itself in January 2017 when Mirtehof came onto the market.

Rentia clearly remembers the first day she came to view the property with Bets and Stevan. “The incredible location, with the Swartberg mountain as a backdrop, immediately caught our eye,” she says.

However, the beautiful house, which had already been restored, only had two bedrooms so the couple had it redesigned and converted into three spacious suites: Prince Albert, Arcadia and The Orchard. They also built two separate cottages (Bets and Stevan have dubbed them Bonnie and Clyde after their miniature horses) at the bottom of the property, the perfect place for a secluded stay.

Once the construction work was completed, it was time for the garden.

From the get-go, Rentia knew she had to incorporate strong design elements – with plenty of flowers for Bets.

“I also realised I would have to break up the ornamental garden into smaller sections if we wanted to have a meaningful garden.” Every piece of ground was first measured and then photographed.

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