27 August 2007
Cape Town has set aside over R1-million to upgrade South Africa’s oldest public garden, the Company’s Garden, which was laid out by Jan van Riebeeck on behalf of the Dutch East India Company in the 1650s.
The Garden, which is both a public park and a botanical garden, was originally laid out to provide a fresh supply of vegetables to sea-faring colonists.
Situated in the central business district, the city’s “green heart” is frequented by an estimated 700 000 visitors a year.
Mayoral committee member in charge of amenities and sport, Grant Haskin, said the revamp would include the restoration of “the Bothy” – the old farm labourers’ quarters, used in the 1850s by the Botanical Gardens Committee as a meeting venue – into a cafe, coffee shop or take-ways kiosk.
Besides the abundant vegetation, the garden offers features such as ponds, an aviary, a sundial, and the historic Victorian restrooms. The park is also popular for educational, cultural, entertainment and recreational events, as well as for wedding photographs.
Sections within the Paddock area, where the majority of events take place, will be enhanced with the introduction of paved surfaces, street furniture and litter bins. The old Director’s House will be developed into a mixed-use facility or possibly a restaurant.
Security enhancements over the past year included the installation of bollard lighting throughout the gardens, new security cameras, increased guards, as well as the appointment of a social worker to deal with homeless people in the vicinity.
“To complement these investments, the Central City Improvement District has helped with graffiti removal and the cleansing of the area, especially at events, together with the non-profit NGO Straatwerk,” Haskin said.
A BBC film crew will be filming the garden as part of a series on historical gardens of the world.
“This will place The Company’s Garden on the international stage and raise its profile as one of the most extraordinary gardens in the world,” he said.