You really have to try your hardest to get two such opposites. On the one hand you have the structured, contemporary and fairly colorful garden surrounding a modern mansion that overlooks…the complete opposite – a natural wonder that presents a sea of endless shades of green flowing all the way over the Lebombo Mountains into neighboring Mozambique. It’s called Kruger National Park, and it is the biggest reserve in southern Africa.
At first I struggled with the idea of seeing such an opulent, rather in-your-face home next to the calmness and beauty of the park. But I guess it’s called progress. Just as mansions are built on the shores of LA, the same goes for the edge of any Safari park in Africa. Waking up and seeing the ‘Big 5’ in your front garden is quite the adrenalin rush to many. Sighhh…
The clients was very clear in their brief that the garden was to in no way be an indigenous bush garden, as they are petrified of snakes. That’s very understandable, as this area is known for massive Black Mambas, but if a Mamba decides to enter your property, nothing will stop it, not even a million garlic plants, nor a nuclear arsenal.
As the garden had an incredibly difficult slope, I had to design terraces to make it more user friendly and encourage the owners to actually walk through their garden and not just look at it from their tea room.
This part of Africa is extremely hot and has temperatures hovering in the low 40 degrees for long periods of time. The chosen plants need to be tough but also look ‘tame’.
Grasses was used in various ways to attract local bird life (luckily the owners don’t have cats).
As with all my gardens, art is incredibly important to me, and has to be included in all my gardens. This carries through from the designing of the arches and pavers to most of the sculptures with each one unique, and hopefully a talking point when guests walk through the landscape.
The most challenging design for me was the ‘Tea Cup’, the big water feature that the house looks out upon. It came into my head after I was sitting in the local coffee shop stirring my cup of coffee, creating a vortex in the cup when stirring in the extra 2 packets (I’m trying to cut down) of sugar into my coffee fast enough.
The water feature starts by water flowing out of one of the main walls of the house into a hand moulded concrete trough creating a waterfall that falls over the edge of each terrace and finally into the vortex of the teacup, covered by a net in the photo, as we had children coming over for a visit to the site.
The exterior concrete work of the Tea Cup had small LED lights cast in that emulate the clear African night sky that is just alive with bright stars.
The planting around the Tea Cup is a mix of perennials that flower throughout the year. Among these are Kudu sculptures grazing in-between, which I had brought back home all the way from Japan where I used them in one of my show gardens.
It’s a garden that has some elements of wild in it, but also a taste of order and design.
It is one of my favorite and probably the most difficult of gardens I have designed and built, due to locality and its extreme weather, but it was well worth it.