Lizette JonkerSmall garden, big heart

In the South African winter of 2013 I created this little show garden with all the principles of sustainability in mind – a little 6 m x 5 m family garden that anyone can create in their backyard. I loved building this little garden, and might reconstruct it in my own garden the day I dismantle it. It can still be seen until March 2014 at Garden World in Muldersdrift, South Africa.

Small garden design by Lizette Jonker

On opening day on a late winter’s day – looking bright and cheerful!

The middle section consists of a walkway under arches. The floor is crazy paving from chopped up concrete. Winter grass (All Seasons Evergreen) and creeping groundcovers like Dymondia, Bacopa and verbena have been planted between the pavers. Against the back wall glass mosaic tiles have been used as a backdrop for the seating area. These tiles as washable, making it ideal for a young family. The yellow colour is ideal as it is soft, echoing the colour of the straw bale. Some might argue it should have been dark blue, but that would have altered the style of the garden somewhat.

The middle section consists of a walkway under arches. The floor is crazy paving from chopped up concrete. Winter grass (All Seasons Evergreen) and creeping groundcovers like Dymondia, Bacopa and verbena have been planted between the pavers. Against the back wall glass mosaic tiles have been used as a backdrop for the seating area. These tiles as washable, making it ideal for a young family. The yellow colour is ideal as it is soft, echoing the colour of the straw bale. Some might argue it should have been dark blue, but that would have altered the style of the garden somewhat.

Let me guide you through these principles – maybe I can inspire you to do the same in your neck of the woods! We might even start a whole green revolution!

On either side of the walkway the garden has twin sections containing a daffodil lawn, veg box section, meadow and herb section with obelisk and herb rack

On either side of the walkway the garden has twin sections containing a daffodil lawn, veg box section, meadow and herb section with obelisk and herb rack

• Always start with soil conditioning. The site of the garden was typical of a show garden site – the sins of gardens past buried under 3 cm of soil. This is a potential problem for all new homeowners too. I decided not to just bury potted plants under a layer of bar chips like some landscapers do at garden shows – that is not real gardening! Since I knew the garden would grow there for a full nine months before the next show, I wanted to plant everything the traditional way. We dug up the site thoroughly, taking out layers of concrete and styrofoam. Then I replaced the soil with enriched garden soil and fed the soil with organic fertilisers (maybe I hoped judges or the public would not push their fingers into the soil and look for earthworms, but that is just me, the idealistic gardener).

• Choose a design to please the eye and suit your lifestyle. This little garden is very symmetrically designed, with a 2 m wide walkway under arches in the centre, leading to the bench at the back. The design starts with a pretty zone, which has a lawn interplanted with daffodils, as well as a quirky plant container stack with bird boxes.

Growing daffodils in a lawn is great fun. When they die down, wait until the leaves are brown before cutting them down. Next year they will grow and flower again.

Growing daffodils in a lawn is great fun. When they die down, wait until the leaves are brown before cutting them down. Next year they will grow and flower again.

I wanted to create quirky veg planters for this family garden. This can be done as a family project

I wanted to create quirky veg planters for this family garden. This can be done as a family project

Behind this is the veg zone, with raised veg boxes. Just behind the veg boxes you have a meadow, and the last zone, right at the back, is where you will find a herb rack with potted flowers, herbs and veggies, as well as the compost and paper recycle bins. The family can spend time amongst fragrant plants like star jasmine, lavender and sweetpeas, while tending to their veggies and herbs. The playful element can also be seen in the stamped walls and handbag containers holding garden tools, as well as the use of a straw bale doubling up as a plant container and a coffee table. The colour combination of yellows and blues is pleasing.

 

A planter made with a pair of denim trousers.

A planter made with a pair of denim trousers.

 

• Reuse and recycle. There are many repurposed items in this garden – the wall has been tiled with leftover tiles, the crazy paving walkway has been done with cement that was chopped up and discarded, there are plant containers made out of an old tyre as well as garden boots, old bottles have been used for seed collecting, old denim pants have been used as a plant container over the one gate, the gates have been made out of old pallet wood. There is also a compost bin as well as a paper recycle bin.

A container made out of an old tyre. Red mustard and blue pansies cohabiting happily

A container made out of an old tyre. Red mustard and blue pansies cohabiting happily

 

 

 

 

Butterfly in the meadow

Butterfly in the meadow

 

 

 

 

 

 

• Biodiversity as opposed to mass plantings. Especially the meadow areas have quite a variety of plants to attract bees, butterflies and other beneficial critters to the garden. We were still planting when they started coming!

Five months after opening day and the beautiful heirloom sweetpeas are blooming up a storm!

Five months after opening day and the beautiful heirloom sweetpeas are blooming up a storm!

 

On the walkway we planted lush delphiniums and tall sweetpeas amongst the climbers and pansies, verbena, daisies and Bacopa between the concrete pavers.

Chasmanthe

Beautiful yellow variety of a South African bulb plant, Chasmanthe

 

 

 

 

 

 

• Plant indigenous as far as you can – I have used plants like Bacopa, Cape daisies, Agapanthus, Oxalis, Anthericum saundersiae, Freylinia tropica, Plumbago, Euryops virgineus, Nemesia, Thunbergia alata, Felicia, Dymondia, Limonium perezii, Chasmanthe, Lobelia and Scabiosa.

• Use mulch for moisture retention and to suppress weeds. I have used straw as well as shredded leaves as mulch in this garden.

A strawberry plant grown in a bale of straw. I put a decorative bird cage over it to protect the berries from birds and little fingers!

A strawberry plant grown in a bale of straw. I put a decorative bird cage over it to protect the berries from birds and little fingers!

 

In hindsight, I can honestly say: 1) none of the students who helped me was hurt during the buildup period, 2) I miraculously survived the “judging” of the garden, but I will not elaborate any further on that matter, 3) I did not use anything fake in my garden, and 4) I discovered that having your name as landscaper on the signage apparently does not necessarily mean you have to actually get dirt under your finger nails or be sweating on site every day (I am not talking about myself), 5) for any freelance landscaper without company backup and comprehensive sponsorship taking on a show garden is just crazy and definitely not sustainable for the bank balance – I learnt that the hard way!

A bird house on top of a plant container stack

A bird house on top of a plant container stack

 

 

However, I have the utmost praise and admiration for my two main sponsors, Doonholm Nursery (for their two brands Healthy Living Herbs and Cover-Itt) and Akzento Sandstone for the beautiful arches, gate, edging, herb racks and obelisks.

• See more of this garden as well as Lizette’s own garden on her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/gardendiva1

 

 

 

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Lizette Jonker

About Lizette Jonker

Lizette Jonker, the South African Garden Diva, is first and foremost a gardener, albeit a very restless and impatient one! She has worked as photojournalist and stylist for several South African magazines the past 20 years, inspiring readers with creative gardening, décor and craft ideas. Her last full-time job, as editor of the very popular SA Garden magazine, ended last October when the publisher decided to close the magazine. She now freelances for Finesse and Garden & Home magazines, and gives regular garden talks at garden centres and garden clubs. She comes from a family of plant lovers who understand the need to share and explore everything that grows. She travels South Africa and the world in search of beautiful gardens to capture, usually accompanied by a small tour group organised by Thompsons Holidays. Her other big passion is singing - she is a trained dramatic soprano and vocal coach, and is part of the operatic group XQST. She shares a home in Pretoria, South Africa, with her handyman husband Chris, her son Duard, who is a first year opera student, and her mom Jean, who also loves gardening and has a rose named after her.

4 thoughts on “Small garden, big heart

  1. What a pretty garden Lizette! I love your attention to detail and the way you’ve allowed loose, informal plantings to balance the formal symmetrical design.

    • Lizette Jonker on said:

      Thanks, Catherine, I appreciate that :). I do like combining formal and informal elements in all my gardens! And of course adding something whimsical, too, to remind people that suburban garden should reflect the personality of the gardener.

  2. Christine on said:

    Lizette, you even manage to enthuse a non-gardener like me. Congrats!

    • Lizette Jonker on said:

      Wow, Christine, I am glad about that! I also started out as a gardener without any confidence years ago, but practice makes perfect! Thanks for reading my story!

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