Leon KlugeHanging on for dear life!

This was one of those gardens that will stay with you for as long as your mind will allow you to remember things. A very exciting garden to have been able to do, but not without its challenges. The first real dilemma was, well…being situated in Maputo, Mozambique.

Photo by Stephanie Urdang

For those of you that do not know Maputo, it is a bustling city with about 2 million people and probably only 2 traffic lights working, thus the traffic is mind boggling and extremely loud. You have to have everything you need on site; you do not want to ‘quickly’ run out to buy something, as you might be gone for 3 days.

To find decent scaffolding or a cherry picker to reach (what felt like the clouds) or the top of the building, was not going to be easy, and did not happen. We had to rely on old rusty scaffolding that would start swaying into the direction that the wind would be blowing from. I am and will always be terrified of heights – it’s embarrassing I know, but true, and when the old scaffolding started swaying and squeaking, my life flashed before me. Well my life flashed in front of me a lot during that time, fastening plants on the 7th floor!

All the plants had to be brought into Mozambique from South Africa, as there are no real wholesale growers in Mozambique. We used a range of bromeliads, alternathera, hemigraphis, crassula, cryptanthus and acorus varieties that could withstand the extreme afternoon scorching sun and also the gale force winds, as Maputo does tend to be visited by pesky cyclones every now and then.

Maputo has a very tropical climate, warm throughout the year, but not as much rain as you would find in the tropics. When designing vertical gardens I make use of colour mainly through the foilage of plants, as it should represent a tapestry on the side of the building throughout the year -a piece of art. Flowers are a bonus, a very welcome bonus, but a bonus none the less. After my time in Maputo I could see that gardening in Maputo is definitely becoming more and more important in society as every new building going up (and like most of Africa is developing extremely fast) has a garden that just has to be more spectacular than the one next door. It is no longer the yorkies in the handbag, but gardening in Africa, that is now taking off and becoming the new fashion statement.

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Leon Kluge

About Leon Kluge

Leon Kluge is an award-winning landscape designer who was part of the successful South African team at Chelsea in both 2010 and 2012, and the Gardening World Cup in Japan in 2011, and then won a Gold medal at the 2013 Cup. Leon is known for his modern, contemporary landscapes, sustainable community projects and his specialisation in vertical gardens. His company Leon Kluge Landscape Design is based in north-eastern South Africa.

3 thoughts on “Hanging on for dear life!

  1. that’s truly spectacular Leon! A three-d painting! How long has it been there? Does it need watering? If so, how?

    • Thank you so much.
      The garden is now about 5 years old, it has a drip irrigation and vertigation system in the wall just behind the plants , by means of a series of pipes hidden at the back that keep the roots damp, and then the excess water is recycled to be used again.

  2. Leon, your Mozambique garden truly IS a wonderful testimony of horticultural creativity. I am so inspired and am trying to build a smaller one at home replicating the thickness of the planting as you have achieved. I would love to know what planting medium you use and how does the whole vertical garden “hold together”?

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