The property we landscaped is a ‘French villa’ estate on one of the inlets into the Hartebeespoort Dam on the south-eastern side. The dam is situated north of Johannesburg and to the west of Pretoria. Water from all the small rivers in this region run into this huge dam which is quite a sight when it overflows. The climate around the dam is very different from where I live in Johannesburg, even though it is only 45km. It’s a few degrees warmer and they get very little frost and it is quite humid with all that water around them. The hillside behind is covered with natural vegetation. There are still baboons running around up there!
As it was already September, our team at Indigo Landscapes were quite concerned because of the slope of the land and the coming rains. We get our rainfall in summer, starting around September in fits and starts and then by December we have really hectic storms. The lightening and thunder are something to behold. Most summers we get at least one huge hail storm which, of course, trashes the gardens but also does a lot of damage to buildings, cars and traffic lights. We get rain until the Easter Weekend – you can bet on it raining that weekend no matter where it falls!
The house is newly built, so it was basically a blank canvas to start with. Fortunately the owner had access to compost through his work and so had added quite a bit already to the soil, and someone had also planted the trees.
The lounge and patio are high up and have a stunning view of the dam. One of the owners is a child psychologist with her rooms on the ground floor. She needed client parking on the pavement so we levelled that area and used railway sleepers and gravel and she also wanted a pretty garden – that would not end up in the dam!
We needed to stabilize the steep slopes around the side and front of the house so we used timber sleepers and sandstone slabs to formed mini terraces. I did some research and found woven jute cloth which disintegrates in time, which is used extensively in environmental work here.
The product is called ‘Soil Saver‘ and is supplied by a company called Kaytech. Laying Soil Saver over the exposed soil and planting into it through cut pockets protects the soil from being washed or blown away until it’s bound together by the establishing plant roots.
The garden next to the patio acquired the French sandstone fountain. Just a little story here. Two farmers wife’s were looking at their staff sitting in the sun with nothing to do and decided that they needed to come up with a new business to give them some productive work. One farm has natural sandstone and they got to work making ‘things’ for the garden. Look at Akzento‘s website and see what they managed to achieve.
The client liked the idea of terracotta pots so we brought these into the design. The company which supplied these is Silk Road Arts. The soil mixture we used in the pots is called ‘tub mix’. We also added moisture retention gel to help retain the water. Every pot had to be carefully chocked to get it level on the sloping paving. The irrigation system has thin, flexible pipes leading off the main pipe and into each pot. I drilled holes into the wine vats for drainage. My goodness, you should have smelt the fumes. Good stuff when you have your upper body hanging in the vat! Pots were planted with Bougainvillea ‘Mrs Butt’, star jasmine, and topiary Syzygium, buxus and murraya.
We started installing the garden at the last week of September and finished in mid-November, taking about 3 weeks in total do this whole site. We added more compost to the whole garden and also used super phosphate and 3:1:5 (and the organic version of these) in the holes when planting.
The plants selected for the garden are a mixture of indigenous and exotic. Various creeping groundcovers were planted on the slope to stabilize the soil, including convolvulus, evolvulus, vygies, verbena, parahebe, creeping jenny, aptenia and othonna. Under the study window we planted Anthericum saundersiae, a native ornamental grass which can be cut back hard at the end of summer of early winter. We also planted indigenous Freylinia tropica as a hedge along the side of the house and Barleria rosea as a low hedge in the upper garden. [See the full plant list here]
The rains started about two weeks after we completed the job and many of these photos are a few months later in the following February. I stand in awe of nature. Look what rain, compost and warm weather can achieve. I enjoyed working at that site and often joked with the psychologist client about getting a free session by just looking at the view.