Game changer garden!

If the design brief for a typical, very modern South African garden dictates the use of a limited and tough plant palette and the best quality hard-landscaping elements available, to create a lifestyle garden requiring very little maintenance and water usage, then the designers of this garden in Warner Beach achieved their goal with distinction.

Scale symbiosis with building and nature

The nearly overwhelming presence and strong architectural design of this large, multi-storied dwelling, which dominates a steeply sloping plot, had to be balanced but also complemented. This was achieved by an equally strong garden design that can be enjoyed from above, without distracting the eyes from the magnificent ocean views beyond.

The designers used a formal layout of raised symmetrical planting beds to show off large, dramatic focal plants like indigenous tree aloes (Aloe barberae). On the terrace above this ‘parterre’-like floor design, a very smooth patch of cynodin lawn is formally edged with cobblestones. The softness of this perfectly kept lawn is complemented by large swathes of waving ornamental grasses between smaller aloes and other succulents in the lower beds.

Hard landscaping with local products

While plants would be foremost in the minds of most gardeners when building a new garden, the designers of this garden looked at hard landscaping elements first to create a strong structure and interesting focal points all over the garden. If this difficult part of garden design is tackled first and implemented well, the filling in with plants is always so much easier.

All planting beds (simple in shape and form, and kept close to the house) are edged with paving bricks or cobbles – this results in easy maintenance and access to the vegetation planted inside them. It also cuts down on lawn-edge maintenance.

The design of this garden firmly screens off different ‘garden rooms’ or utilities, each with their own charm. To accomplish this, large square and oblong paving blocks were used to create short formal pathways for easy access to the different sections of the garden. They are spaced either by neat green ribbons of dwarf mondo grass or gravel.

Raised beds, retaining walls and steps were built with natural rock as a nod to the cladding of the columns and pillars of the home. Wood is another natural element used here, in the form of wooden slats above boundary walls (to create more privacy), wooden gates, and a beautiful wooden deck at the main entrance. Large expanses of unplanted soil and unimportant corners of the garden are covered in gravel or decorative pebbles, which gives further texture on floor level and also looks very neat.

Some of the best hard-landscaping elements and focal points in this garden are formed with the creative use of oversized containers placed in strategic spots. They are either planted up with tough plants such as restio grasses and echeverias, or used as bubbling water fountains.

The overall impression is that local gardeners are extremely lucky to have a varied range of hard landscaping materials that can be used effectively in modern garden design.

Planting in sympathy with the climate

Picking the right plants for a subtropical and windy coastal garden is always a challenge. If they have to be low maintenance and water-wise as well, it can be even more of a headache. The plants used in this garden are representative of the best plants (indigenous as well as exotic) that our nursery trade has on offer.

Why call this garden a ‘game changer’?

The overall design is geared towards the busy, outdoor and active lifestyle we enjoy in sunny South Africa. The largest portion of the garden is given over to low-maintenance plants that require very little water and which suit the climate. Most planting areas are mulched with stone or pebbles, which smother weeds and reduces moisture loss. No unvegetated soil is left open to become weed infested. Lawns are straight-edged and kept to a minimum. Where lawn is needed for relaxation, such as a putting green, artificial lawn (which requires no maintenance or water) has been used and blended in with the rest of the garden. Terracing and soil retaining have been done successfully to create comfortable spaces for the homeowners to relax and entertain in – the main purpose of a successful garden!

The Gardener