This was one of my most challenging projects to date, Why? Well, Because it hasn’t been done yet. My brief was: create a garden that would be politically acceptable to all parties (and we all know politicians…), represent Kwazulu Natal (a province in South Africa), represent the local endemic flora of Durban, the people and the connection between nature and engineering.
What a mouthful… Where to start? And where is my gin and tonic?
It took me a few sleepless nights, but finally an idea made its gracious appearance, and the concept design was born. The garden was called the ‘Living Beehive‘, and would be placed in the Durban Botanical Gardens as a heritage garden to remember the COP 17 climate change conference that took place in Durban.
The design was based on the traditional zulu beehive hut, that is a universally recognised symbol of the Zulu tribe based in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa.
Engineering is a integral part of society and promotes the development and well being of the human race, thus we need to combine it with nature in order to create greener urban living, and healthier eco systems. The structure was well engineered and areas of the steel structure were exposed to showcase the engineering aspect of the project.
The Kwazulu Natal mountains and grasslands have no shortage of interesting and amazing plants, from clivias to cycads, streptocarpus to agapanthus, all well known and internationally used plants, but growing wild in our backyard, and I wanted to show case all the celebrities of our kwazulu natal plant kingdom to the world. Why not – if you have it, flaunt it! And so we did.
To showcase our grasslands we grassed the roof of the beehive with a wide range of amazing wild grasses and grassland plants that occur within the hills around Durban. And to show all the cliff hanging plants, (that nobody ever sees because, let’s face it, the cliff’s edge is not where you go walk with your dog), we vertically greened the walkways within the beehive with all of the weirdest goodies we could find, giving the illusion of a typical cliff face around Durban, using plants, for example, like Crassula species, cliff aloes, albuca, begonia, impatiens, etc.
The ceiling of the beehive was also greened with creeping and rambling plants planted in a continuous spiralling container that ran from the roof down to ground level, using Senecio tamoides, Plectranthus species, asparagus and Rhipsalis, only to name a few, to form a chandelier of foliage hanging from the ceiling.
The plants are growing, some much faster than others, but all good things come to those who wait…