It has been said that trees have secret lives, and that, if you listen closely, you can hear them speak.
If the trees in the shady garden at Van Loveren could tell their stories, they would weave the chapters of a unique South African history. They would tell the stories of a family, of change and growth, of love and loss. It would have all the ingredients of a really good book.
THE TANGLED TREE LOVE STORY
One of these stories is that of the Karee tree that was planted in the 1940’s. Jean Retief ordered a hardy tree called a Rhus lancea from a nursery in far-off Natal. When it arrived by train at the tiny Klaasvoogds railway station, some local farmers recognised the tiny specimen as a Karee. Karee trees are quite common in the area.
Jean, however, disagreed. She ordered a Rhus lancea, and she insisted that that’s what the little sapling was. Finally, her husband, Hennie, fetched a branch from a Karee growing by the river to settle the dispute. He planted the local Karee right next to Jean’s Rhus lancea, and the two turned out to be identical.
Over the years the two Karees have grown entwined. They became a symbol of the couple’s love and the life they spent side by side on the farm.
These trees and the symbols they embody provided the inspiration for the Tangled Tree range of wines. The wines represent the commitment of the viticulturists and winemakers of Van Loveren to conservation and the Retief family’s respect for nature.
Through the years, many trees have been planted in the Van Loveren garden to commemorate big historical and personal events. Today visitors can enjoy the shade and peace the tree rich garden offers. Many of the plants are also labelled, so visitors can enjoy their stories.
1. KAREE TREE (RHUS LANCEA) - Early in the Forties Jean wrote to a nursery in Natal, requesting a hardy tree. When the tiny specimen, costing 1/6 (15c) arrived at the Klaasvoogds railway station, the farmers, who also collected their mail at the station, were all convinced that it was the, to them, well-known Karee. Jean, however, insisted that it was a Rhus Lancea. Hennie promptly fetched a Karee branch from the river and planted it next to Jean’s Rhus Lancea. Over the years the two Karees have become intertwined, since neither Jean nor Hennie would remove the one that either of them had planted. Jean always said she sees the trees as a symbol of her and Hennie’s love.
2. WASHINGTONIA PALM (WASHINGTONIA FILIFERA) - This was the first tree Hennie and Jean planted after their wedding in 1939.
3. REACH FOR THE SKY (SCHIZOLOBIUM PARAHYBUM) - Since 1990, the four Retief grandsons have all joined their fathers, Nico and Wynand, at Van Loveren. As each finished his studies at Stellenbosch, their grandmother Jean planted one of these trees in the wine tasting area, since she believes that for them the sky is the limit.
4. NEW CALIDONEAN PINE (ARAUCARIA COOKII) - Planted in May 1945, the tree marks Germany's surrender.
5. NORFOLK ISLAND PINE (ARAUCARIA EXCELSA) - Planted in August 1945 when Japan surrendered after World War ll.
6. CORK OAK (QUERCUS SUBER) - Jean and Hennie planted this tree with the birth of the Republic of South Africa in 1961, but during the 1980's it toppled over. Their son Nico pushed a support under it and today it still grows beautifully. Being quite superstitious at the time however, Ouma Jean worried this might be a sign of the "fall of the Republic".
7. POMEGRANATE (PUNICA GRANATUM) - When Hennie arrived on the farm in 1937, this tree was one of many that formed a sheep pen next to the homestead. This is the only one he kept, and it is the oldest and only original tree at Van Loveren.
8. LEOPARD TREE OR BRAZILIAN IRONWOOD (CAESALPINIA FERREA) - This was planted for Nelson Mandela when he became President of South Africa in 1994. There are larger examples in the rest of the garden.
9. PENCIL PINE (CUPRESSUS SEMPERVIRENS) - Jean planted the tree in 1967 during the Six Day War, thereby expressing the empathy she felt for her many Jewish friends.
10. LOARIER MAGNOLIA (MAGNOLIA GRANIFLORIA) - Planted in 2012 after being acknowleged as the South African Financial Farm of the year.
11. NATAL MAHOGANY (TRICHILIA EMETICA) - Following then State President FW de Klerk's dramatic speech in Parliament on 2 February 1990, Jean planted this tree for him. To commemorate the Nobel Peace Prize that De Klerk and Nelson Mandela received jointly shortly thereafter, two rose bushes under the tree were planted – a "Peace of Vereeniging" variety and "Black Madonna", respectively.
12. BOTTLE-BRUSH (CALLISTEMON SALIGNUS) - In 1949, Wynand, Jean's younger son, was only four years old when he jumped from a pig-sty and landed in a spike-thorn. He contracted osteomyelitis and became quite ill. Since both he and his mother cried so much at the time, his grandmother gave Jean this "weeping bottle-brush".
13. KOORSBOOM (ACACIA XANTHOPHLOEA) - Planted on the 23rd of October 2010 when Van Loveren wines turned 30 years old.