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A Personal Forest

When Stephen and Nicole Baverstock bought into Hawaan Forest Estate, they did so because they like the natural bush feeling that the estate offers. So when the site neighbouring theirs came up for sale, they bought it with the intention of creating a personal forest of their own alongside their home.

The Baverstocks gave us the challenge of creating a ‘natural’ forest from scratch, with the added difficulty of doing so on an already levelled platform. Time was also an issue, as we had just four weeks to get the job done before our annual shutdown. The first step was to sculpt the land, with three goals in mind: to change the flat platform to a more natural landscape that fitted in with the natural geography of the area; to use the opportunity to provide more privacy for the client (and include a firepit area for relaxing around), and to provide a watercourse for the stormwater runoff that comes down from above during heavy rain.

Once the shaping had been accomplished, we needed to position the bigger trees to create privacy for the main house, after which we underplanted with shrubs that won’t mind the shade when the bigger trees are mature.

The site is large and needed to be covered completely, as the clients didn’t want any lawn. A gravelled pathway was created that meandered through the forest from the main home. Slate was used to construct a circular seat surrounding a central, portable fire bowl.

Stephen insisted that this garden must be more or less self-maintaining, as it is intended to be a natural forest rather than a manicured garden. We initially watered the newly planted plants to get them established, but after six months we left them to cope with whatever rain fell. Weeding was required early on, but now that the creeping foxglove (Asystasia Gangetica) and the other ground covers have covered the soil it does not require so much work. The resident buck also do a wonderful job of trimming the creeping foxglove, so it is thick and healthy.

Apart from the buck visiting, the Baverstocks were, much to their amusement, visited by several residents who thought that this was a new leisure area that had been created by the estate. The planting along the road has become quite thick, making it more difficult for people to wander in now.

This was such an enjoyable project, and we managed to achieve for our clients a feeling of being further from the world around them, while still being in the heart of Umhlanga Rocks.