Earth­i­ness, sim­plic­ity

The eco­nomic down­turn has had an ef­fect on the de­signer gar­dens at this year’s spring fes­ti­val at Gar­den World. Alice Spenser-higgs finds out more

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THERE is as much more bud­get con­scious ap­proach to the choice of ma­te­ri­als and plants at this year’s spring fes­ti­val at Gar­den World. The plants that have been cho­sen are what show con­vener Terry Möller calls value-for-money plants, proved per­form­ers that are low on main­te­nance.

Wa­ter fea­tures are not lav­ish and nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als are used — gravel in­stead of paving, rock-filled gabions as out­door ta­bles, shrubs as screens and wood in var­i­ous ap­pli­ca­tions. The over­all ef­fect is one of earth­i­ness and sim­plic­ity.

Of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est was the por­ous paving used in the over­all win­ning gar­den, Lazy Days by Craig de Necker of The Friendly Plant. The mix of gravel and resin al­lows the wa­ter to seep through. Within an hour of be­ing laid it can be walked on and within four hours is set enough to take the weight of a car.

De­sign-wise de Necker’s gar­den also had the most im­pact, with a cir­cu­lar ar­bour that floats above the cen­tral pa­tio that con­tains a braai area with a built-in seat­ing area, as well as a plunge pool that dou­bles as a clev­erly dis­guised peb­ble wa­ter fea­ture in win­ter.

It is an invit­ing space that is en­hanced by lush trop­i­cal plants that sur­round the liv­ing area. The plant­ing de­sign is sim­ple yet per­fectly judged in terms of height, bal­ance and tex­ture. Palms are used for height, philo­den­drons as form plants and the grey leafed Westringia with del­i­cate white flow­ers as a con­trast­ing filler.

De Necker said that his gar­dens al­ways in­cor­po­rated three el­e­ments — wa­ter, fire and a place to sit. He likes to de­sign hos­pitable gar­dens that are ef­fort­less to live in be­cause ev­ery­thing is al­ready there and one doesn’t need to carry out chairs, ta­bles or move the braai.

He uses plants that are easy to main­tain or vir­tu­ally look af­ter them­selves.

Two other gar­dens each re­ceived a plat­inum award: Glo­ri­ous Choices by Con­nie Pre­to­rius of Con­nie Pre­to­rius Land­scape De­sign and Mod­ern Seren­ity from Dei­dre van Zyl of Com­plex Gar­dens.

In draw­ing up the plan, Pre­to­rius said he en­vis­aged a court­yard space that could be used as a place for re­lax­ation as well as for a small fam­ily.

An el­derly cou­ple would also find such a gar­den quite man­age­able.

Shrubs planted along two of the bound­aries have been de­signed to form fu­ture green walls and raised steel gabions act as flower bas­kets in which plants can be changed as the sea­sons change. The use of gabions as part of the court­yard ta­ble dis­plays the ver­sa­til­ity of work­ing with steel in a gar­den and gives the gar­den a con­tem­po­rary feel.

The bal­ance and har­mony of Deirdre van Zyl’s con­tem­po­rary gar­den has been achieved through pro­por­tion, strong bold lines and the re­stricted use of colour.

A pal­ette of sub­tle green hues off­set by white pots, paving, wa­ter fea­ture and a gazebo pro­duces a vis­ually crisp and fresh gar­den that is soft­ened by the clever use of plants that have been se­lected for their tex­ture, shapes and har­mon­is­ing or con­trast­ing colours. For in­stance, a group­ing of Dianella, a strappy, var­ie­gated fo­liage plant tones in with the colour of the wall, while the vel­vety brown un­der­leaf of the mag­no­lia brings warmth and depth.

The pa­tio floor pat­tern draws and holds the eye, while the in­ter­lock­ing lawn ar­eas bring about a sense of sim­plic­ity and a feel­ing of spa­cious­ness.

This is an im­mensely pleas­ing gar­den that is a serene, calm, space.

This year’s wa­ter wise gar­den was Liv­ing Sculp­ture by David Spag­nolo, of Green by Na­ture. It was also awarded a gold medal.

Spag­nolo con­tin­ues his love af­fair with suc­cu­lents by plant­ing them as a liv­ing wall on ei­ther side of a re­flec­tive wa­ter­wall fea­ture. Suc­cu­lents round off the plant­ings in this cool, con­tem­po­rary gar­den, a move to­wards min­i­mal­ist spaces.

Best over­all gar­den, Lazy Days by Craig de Necker, top, and plat­inum award-win­ner Mod­ern Seren­ity by Dei­dre van Zyl, above.

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