Rose VermeulenA new garden on a steep slope

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!

View to Hartebeespoort Dam

View to Hartebeespoort Dam

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!

Steep slope around the driveway entrance

Steep slope around the driveway entrance

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.

Patio are with views to the dam

Patio are with views to the dam

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!

Proposed kitchen garden

Proposed kitchen garden

Second entrance

Second entrance

Soil Saver fabric in placeWe 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.

Planting into the fabric

Planting into the fabric

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.

Sandstone fountain

Sandstone fountain

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.

Silk Road Arts pots

Silk Road Arts pots

Bougainvillea 'Mrs Butt' in wine barrellsThe 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.

Planting completed

Planting completed

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.

Step planting

Step planting in November

 

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]

Step planting in the following February

Step planting in the following February

The slope planting in the following February

The slope planting in the following February

Sandstone fountain in February

Sandstone fountain in February

The kitchen garden in February

The kitchen garden in February

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.

Side street in February

Side street in February

Front door

Front door

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Rose Vermeulen

About Rose Vermeulen

Rose Vermeulen comes from an IT and customer services background, and decided to change careers to Landscaping. She completed the full Landscape Design Course at Lifestyle College, and holds certification with the City and Guild of London. Rose joined forces in 2001 with Bernadine Drath to create Indigo Landscapes, a design and construction company based in Johannesburg, South Africa and winner of several garden show Gold Awards.

10 thoughts on “A new garden on a steep slope

  1. What a wonderful transformation, Rose and so interesting to hear and read of its development. How rapidly it grew. Amazing what heat, rain and good planting medium can do. Such a gorgeous location. I love the sandstone work. What is the groundcover in the side street picture, please? And the white mass in the terracotta pots at the front door?

    • Hello there

      The ‘white stuff’ spilling out of the pots is Alyssum (Lobularia). This is easily grown from seed and a very worthwhile plant. Look at the Proven Winners website. They have modified this plant to grow to an amazing white mass. Alyssum is also available in purple but I find this is not nearly as hardy as the white.

      Regards
      Rose

      • Thanks Rose. I thought it was. I have grown it in hanging baskets but seems to dry out quickly. Pots look the way to go with it.
        Thank you again.

  2. AliCat on said:

    I just love the collection of pots at the front door. The facade is rather ‘solid’ and the pots of various size, tho all with a theme i.e. terracotta coloured, really enhance the entrance to the home. But then I am a real pot culture devotee, so can really appreciate this picture.
    Alison

  3. Kay Adendorff on said:

    What talented ladies you and Bernie are. You seem to be growing daily like your beautiful gardens that you create. Lovely input. Well done. Thanks for sharing this with us.
    Kay

  4. Pikkie van Niekerk on said:

    Thank you for sharing this Rose! If a person is a lover of nature, you always enjoy creative things going on in gardens and around the house.Love, light and bright blessing to you and Bernie! Pikkie

  5. Rhonda on said:

    Wow! The photos straight after planting look messy and quite ordinary
    ( sorry), but your vision and skill shine through when the gardens are grown, they look gorgeous. I imagine there will be a fair bit of maintenance with that speed of growth. I love the informal mix of texture and colour.

  6. Lois on said:

    Very interesting to read about a garden in another part of the world.
    What a beautiful setting too. We have a lot of sandstone walls and paths
    In our garden in Victoria Australia which blend in beautifully with the
    plants. We are on a slope too and have a view of our bay.Thankyou for
    sharing your photos and story.

  7. Alison S on said:

    A garden on a slope! Just what I need to learn about as I struggle with steep slopes in my Scottish garden when all my previous experience was in flat-as-a-pancake Cambridge. I’m really interested in your “Soilsaver” jute mesh. I think it’s just what I need for a couple of places where I need to get rid of weeds but then somehow stabilise the slope so it doesn’t turn into a mudslide. Do you know if it is available elsewhere (eg UK)?

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