WILD AND WONDERFUL
A Midlands garden brimming
Sharon McKenzie believes in letting things grow in abundance – and that’s exactly what she did in her Midlands garden
ake the dusty road from Balgowan to Curry’s Post in the KZN Midlands and you’ll spot the sign ‘Little Revesby’. The home of Sharon and
Peter McKenzie is so named as
Sharon’s family hailed from Revesby in Lincolnshire, England.
Their English-style garden, originally designed by Durban landscape architect Cedric van Ryneveld in 1970, includes a dam and groves of mature exotic trees – planes, seven varieties of oak, cherry, prunus and magnolia. Hidden in this forest, Sharon has created a secret garden for her grandchildren, who pick f lowers from the many varieties of azaleas and roses.
“My favourite activity of the day is to watch the morning mist rise over the valley towards the dam. The curving beds, with swathes of delphiniums, alstroemeria, Sophie’s rose, larkspur and foxgloves fill me with joy, particularly in spring and early summer, when the beds are awash with colour,” says Sharon, who is the family gardener, assisted in the past by Petrus Sithole and now by Margaret Ngubane and Phineas Hadebe.
Sharon is a great believer in slipping and planting using growth hormones. “Most of my daylilies, fuchsias and clivias have been slipped or split and I have a small home nursery specifically for growing plants in bags.” Her beautiful pink and white dogwoods came from the garden of the late Bea Bernstein, a well-known Midlands gardener.
Plant beds of annuals in spring that flower into summer. Cut back the whole garden at the end of summer, leaving the larkspur and foxgloves to add height and colour.
Don’t cut alstroemeria stalks, rather pull out them out at the base after flowering.
Deadhead roses every day during the flowering season.
An abundance of foxgloves, pink salvia and forget-me-nots are
offset by the immaculate lawn.
Sharon’s biggest challenges come from the herd of buck that enjoy eating roses and agapanthus, and the arum lily-eating porcupines and wild pigs. “Marauding monkeys have put paid to my vegetable and fruit garden – the only fruit tree we can pick from is the peach, which is close to the house and I can get there before the monkeys!
“I also plant my clivias in pots in the ground to stop the moles from feasting on them. You just have to go with it,” laughs Sharon. “The only plant we poison is the noxious bamboo, which grows at an alarming rate.”
Sharon’s favourite blooms are the delicate cream daylilies she propagates, as well as the common white clematis, that spans the archway at the entrance. “I find pink salvias very rewarding as they f lower all year round and dahlias and the Michaelmas daisies also put on a show as the season progresses.
“My mother planted bottlebrush for the birds, as well as lavender and the Margaret Roberts forget-me-nots. The indigenous wild irises fill in gaps and tend to pop up all over. As my garden is full of picking greenery like penny gum and azalea, I help with flower arranging for weddings in the district,” says Sharon.
As the KZN Midlands has a high spring and summer rainfall, Sharon only waters the garden during a very dry winter or after she has fertilised. During the growing season, she feeds roses every six weeks with Bounce Back.
Does she garden to a plan? Sharon smiles and says, “It comes from the heart, and as long as it looks good, I go with it.”
WHO LIVES HERESharon and Peter McKenzie, Shumba, the Golden Retriever, and Teddy, the Jack Russell.THE GARDENPart of a farm, this 3-hectare, Englishstyle garden in the KZN Midlands has large, established trees and an abundance of roses, azaleas, foxgloves and larkspur. THIS SPREAD, FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: This restful spot under the oak tree is home to a birdbath. The tall, delicate spires of foxgloves add height and interest.
THIS PAGE, FROM TOP TO BOTTOM: Established trees and a white clematis-covered pergola made from gum poles frame the path leading to the dam. Snaking up the oak tree on the left is a purple wisteria. A colourful array of pink salvia, which flower all year round, forget-me-nots and foxgloves.
THIS PAGE, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT:Natalia bougainvillea climbs up the front of the house behind a dense cottage-style planting of daisies, forget-me-nots, foxgloves and pink salvia. A view down to the pergola reveals curving beds brimming with greenery and bright pink karume azaleas. The bank at the back of the house is covered with shrubs. Steps leading to a glade of trees are flanked by pots of star jasmine.