What an exciting garden to have designed and built! But it has also been one of those rough, ‘armageddon’ sites where you had to sit down and slowly take in the obstacles at hand. Talk about a difficult site to work on. If we weren’t being pestered by big, grumpy bush pigs, there were the impenetrable walls of thorny lantana, never-ending vertical drops of stone or the vertical rock face that gave us almost no soil in the garden deeper than 10cm to plant in. Then, just for laughs, a Black Mamba* would make its appearance and spoil the morning for the team.
It was a long project from start to finish, building pathways, terraces, streams, clearing the property of the extremely invasive weeds, which was the majority of the greenery in this area, and then rehabilitating the native plants.
There were a few very important aspects to consider in designing this garden for the clients.
First, the clients were a young couple full of spunk and a love for modern art that involves bright colours so for them it had to be a colourful, arty and happy garden. The outdoor space also had to cater for children and pets that love to be outside and needed space to run, play and explore.
Second, the new house was being build in a wildlife estate, so we wanted to provide as much food and shelter as possible to all the local birdlife, as well as keeping in mind that we had antelope, bush-pigs, and porcupines to consider.
Third, the garden had to be easy to maintain, and the majority of the plants in the outer garden had to be endemic to the area. So when it came to the planting palette, we chose a brightly coloured meadow mix of local ornamental grasses and perennial flowers. As these meadow-like native plants are almost impossible to find in a nursery, I harvested the seed of some of the stunning local plants in the area a year in advance so that they could be grown for me by specialist nurseries.
Lastly, we would have to consider the heavy winds that sweep through the garden daily.
Large turfed areas are essential to the garden and to make the turf more artistic we sculpted areas of the lawn into huge ‘spinning tops’, picked out with bright yellow, blue and red. The theme of the spinning tops also went through to the massive vertical garden that we installed next to the pool area, and which can be seen from virtually any room in the house. It had to be a piece of art that would make everybody stop in their tracks to admire. The uneven spirals popping out of the vertical garden are bright red, to fit in with the tiled pool surrounds.
I also sprinkled some extremely heavy concrete blocks onto the top pool lawn, as no area in the garden was going to be left without a sense of creative fun.
The local area surrounding the house has a huge variety of birds, and their nests can be seen everywhere alongside the roads. That became the inspiration for the big hanging nests in the garden, made out of local grass and added to the garden as hanging ….and moving art with all the wind. Some nests were kept as natural tones and others brightly coloured to match our other coloured elements.The shelter and sitting area in the bottom garden was made out of young blue gum sapling poles, treated and bent to form an almost whale-shaped structure protruding out of the earth. The seating area is hidden underneath the lowveld chestnut trees (Sterculia murex), creating a place to admire the magnitude of birdlife surrounding you between the trees.
[ * a Black Mamba is the most dangerous and feared snake in South Africa.]