Matt Bresler’s con­tem­po­rary gar­den is a botan­i­cal trea­sure trove of rare plants from the Cape Flo­ral King­dom and con­ti­nen­tal Africa


Af­ter a decade of work and travel abroad, Vic­to­ria and Matt Bresler wanted a place to set­tle down with their three young chil­dren. What sealed the deal on this prop­erty was the ocean of vines on its doorstep and sweep­ing moun­tain views.

‘The tri­an­gu­lar shape of the acre-sized plot is ori­ented in such a way that it opens up gen­er­ously to­wards the wide ex­panse of groot con­stan­tia’s vine­yards, which lie to our north,’ Matt notes. This is prime ter­roir that would tame even the most avid trav­eller’s wan­der­lust.

To max­imise these po­ten­tial views, the ex­ist­ing home was re­placed with a su­per-mod­ern build that seems to hover above the plot. ‘By bring­ing in many truck­loads of fill, we sub­stan­tially raised the home’s as­pect level and also cre­ated a wide plat­form of flat lawn that opens up to the swathe of un­du­lat­ing vines,’ says Matt.

While an or­derly, con­tem­po­rary gar­den would seem a nat­u­ral fit, the own­ers dreamed of an ex­pan­sive fyn­bos gar­den with a nat­u­ral­is­tic, al­most wild un­der­pin­ning. Land­scape de­signer Mary Mau­rel was tasked with cre­at­ing a gar­den that would com­ple­ment the home’s clean-lined aes­thetic and sur­round­ing land­scape.

‘The main chal­lenge was to link the house with the gar­den in the most nat­u­ral way,’ says Mary. ‘I wanted to re­duce the num­ber of deck stairs from the house down to the gar­den, which prompted us to raise the gar­den level as high as pos­si­ble,’ she ex­plains.

It was im­por­tant to mask changes in level. To cre­ate a sense of con­ti­nu­ity, the ground was sculpted around the pool, which re­mained at the lower level. ‘grass steps and em­bank­ments were in­tro­duced to cre­ate a sunken gabion-en­closed gar­den within the main gar­den,’ notes Mary. ross Mcgill, who did the gar­den in­stal­la­tion, was in­stru­men­tal in re­al­is­ing this vi­sion.

how­ever, it’s the 130m stretch of fyn­bos gar­den bor­der­ing the vine­yard that steals the show. ‘of all the plant­ings, it’s the most nat­u­ral to the con­text,’ says Mary. This slice of flo­ral beauty is a pas­sion project for Matt. a cape Town na­tive, he de­vel­oped an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for fyn­bos while col­lect­ing but­ter­flies and other in­sects as a school­boy. a‘ s I learn more about it, I re­alise just how in­cred­i­ble and un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated fyn­bos is,’ he muses.

his love of plants ex­tends be­yond the cape Flo­ral King­dom. an avid tree col­lec­tor, he sourced 145 tree species for the gar­den. ‘one was brought in with a crane, an­other was un­earthed at a nurs­ery in zu­l­u­land and flown home as hand lug­gage,’ he says.

‘I’m now rear­ing some rare species from seeds I’ve col­lected abroad.’

The gar­den de­sign process was one of bal­anc­ing an over­rid­ing pas­sion for plants with fine-tuned aes­thetic re­straint. In order to ac­com­mo­date Matt’s long hor­ti­cul­tural wish list, Mary set up var­i­ous the­matic zones. Thanks to these skil­fully de­lin­eated spa­ces, there’s a strong sense of flow from one area to the next.

It is rare to find a gar­den that looks both out­ward and in­ward with such suc­cess. seen as a whole, these dis­tinct zones are a text­book ex­am­ple of fus­ing un­ex­pected plant com­bi­na­tions to great ef­fect.

from top some of the fyn­bos gar­den’s most vivid colours Were in­spired by the views. here, leu­ca­den­dron ‘sa­fari sun­set’, aloe and Wild rose­mary blend With the ocean of rich rus­set colours that flood the vines in Win­ter; the lin­ear shapes of the lawn steps are picked up by hedges in the plant­ing be­yond

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