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Brahman Hills – first-ever African winner in Royal Horticultural Society competition

In an unprecedented achievement, Brahman Hills – home of glorious views, breathtaking gardens, an award-winning spa and charming 4- and 5-star accommodation in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands – has been named the Overseas Region Winner in the esteemed Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Partner Garden of the Year Competition. This historic win marks a significant milestone not only for South Africa but for the entire African continent.

“Amid South Africa’s recent global achievements, from major sporting wins to recent music accolades, we couldn’t be prouder that Brahman Hills is making a meaningful contribution to South Africa’s global recognition,” says Orrin Cottle, CEO of Brahman Hills.

The RHS, founded in 1804, is renowned for its iconic events like the Chelsea Flower Show and its esteemed RHS Gardens across the United Kingdom.

Elevating South Africa’s gardening profile, Brahman Hills became an RHS Partner Garden in January 2023. Subsequently, late last year, Brahman Hills was crowned the Overseas Regional Winner in the RHS Partner Garden of the Year Competition – a truly historic moment in African horticulture.

Situated in the Blue Crane Nature Reserve, Brahman Hills’ visionary gardens span five-and-a-half hectares, comprising 26 distinct garden rooms designed by landscape artist Tim Steyn. Even though Brahman Hills boasts some of South Africa’s most spectacular gardens, Cottle is convinced that what truly enhances their beauty is the incredible story behind them.

He explains, “When COVID hit, the hospitality sector took a beating. People lost jobs and established businesses closed. We had no guests to care for, food to prepare or weddings to host. In an effort to preserve jobs, our people had their salaries reduced by 50%. In spite of this, they volunteered and worked as if they were on full pay, regardless of previous roles: chefs found themselves digging ditches, waitresses planted vegetables, general managers laid rocks in and among a host of other activities. It was a remarkable scene to witness, and our gardens are evidence of the incredible passion and determination of our people and an everlasting testament to what can be achieved by a diverse group of individuals working together. In just eight months, our hotel team turned Brahman Hills into a jaw-dropping botanical miracle.”

Legendary landscaper Steyn says that every aspect of the garden was meticulously planned, from the graded levels to the pathways, stone walls, pergolas and water features. “Every individual plant was hand-picked, with every corner of the property intended for maximum visual interest, providing interludes for photography and opportunities to linger and stroll,” he explains. “We even considered the ‘ambience’ down to the last detail, from the angle at which the sunlight throws shadow or illuminates the garden rooms.”

Today, the gardens brim with lush foliage, water features and blooming flowers, showcasing the remarkable journey from conception to creation.

“We have poured our hearts and souls into every aspect of the Brahman Hills Gardens, and witnessing its transformation from a mere concept to an internationally acclaimed masterpiece is mind-blowing. This award really is the ‘cherry on top’ – and while it’s a tremendous honour, it is also a testament to the dedication and resilience of our team who turned challenges into opportunities,” says Brahman Hills executive director, Onwaba Gonyora.

He adds that they are not hitting the brakes just yet; the team is gearing up to reveal phase 2 of the gardens, alongside their newly upgraded 5-star cottages, from 10 to 12 May 2024.

“If you are longing to connect with nature and discover a destination so beautiful you will have to remind yourself to breathe, then you and your partner should join us for The Brahman Hills Experience. Bookings for this exclusive weekend open in mid-February,” Gonyora concludes.

For more information on The Brahman Hills Experience, email: theexperience@brahmanhills.co.za

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