Take lessons from na­ture

Trend hun­ters, dé­cor di­vas and gar­den gu­rus will be hang­ing out at Decorex Joburg. An in­dige­nous in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the white gar­den theme with a hint of zen by land­scaper Grant Adam from En­ga­dini prom­ises to cause a sen­sa­tion, says Michelle Swart

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THE hu­man eye is in­tu­itively at­tracted to har­mony. In the same way that a good­look­ing fig­ure can be over­looked when badly dressed, a beau­ti­ful house will dis­ap­pear into its en­vi­ron­ment when it lacks ap­pro­pri­ate land­scap­ing.

This is the opin­ion of Grant Adam, land­scape ar­chi­tect from Pre­to­ria-based En­ga­dini Land­scap­ing, whose green fin­gers have pro­duced flour­ish­ing gar­dens both lo­cally and abroad. Zulu for in my gar­den, the name of his busi­ness en­cap­su­lates his pas­sions — Africa and gar­dens.

At Decorex Joburg this week­end, gar­den afi­ciona­dos can ex­plore a new gar­den pavil­ion with a how-to gar­den theatre and in­spi­ra­tional themed gar­dens — The Out­side Roof, by Blok De­sign; Gau­flora’s Gar­den with Wings; a Rooftop Re­treat by Badec Bros; a Gar­den Haven by Straw­berry Kids; Schaf­flers on-trend gar­den Sow It, Grow It, Eat It.

The renowned land­scap­ers Aba­cus turn a ramp into a gar­den par­adise, while Nurs­ery Wild show how to turn a patch of land into a green de­light.

En­ga­dini Land­scap­ing’s White on White gar­den will be a show­stop­per for its re­fresh­ing take on the pop­u­lar mono­chrome gar­den theme. This gar­den style com­bines white flow­er­ing plants and white, sil­very fo­liage, and is most strik­ing at dusk.

The world’s most fa­mous white gar­den was cre­ated by the leg­endary Vita Sackville-West for Siss­inghurst Cas­tle in the 1930s. Her de­sign started a gar­den trend that re­mains ever­green to­day.

“But we are in Africa,” says Adam. “We don’t have an abun­dance of wa­ter to main­tain typ­i­cal white gar­den plants.”

When it comes to de­sign, Adam feels it should take its cue from both the house and its en­vi­ron­ment.

“I don’t look for inspiration in trends or other big names in the land­scap­ing arena. Na­ture is my teacher and my muse.”

His in­dige­nous gar­den at the expo is an ode to na­ture, a tonguein-cheek take on zen prin­ci­ples, burst­ing at the seams with lo­cal inspiration and in­no­va­tion.

He ex­plains laugh­ingly how he breaks a golden rule of zen by plac­ing aloes in the same con­text — “there is ab­so­lutely noth­ing zen about aloes with their sharp edges.” How­ever, they con­tain the sculp­tural and iconic el­e­ments that make them look right at home in a cre­ative, con­tem­po­rary en­vi­ron­ment — a tech­nique that has be­come En­ga­dini’s sig­na­ture style.

At the En­ga­dini gar­den expo vis­i­tors can ex­pect a tongue-incheek, truly African in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the white gar­den tra­di­tion where man-made el­e­ments are cre­atively in­cluded in Adam’s plan. “Even tree trunks are fin­ished with a suit­able white paint. Farm­ers use this tech­nique to pro­tect fruit trees against in­sects, so why not repli­cate it in a do­mes­tic gar­den?”

He will layer a beach of white peb­bles from big to small, a handytip for low-main­te­nance, non­thirsty gar­dens. Gar­den rub­ble, such as pruned peach tree twigs, will be braided into tum­ble-weed that Adam will use to cre­ate an awning. Desert roses re­flect the African mood in a white mir­ror. Un­usual pieces like an aloe painted on white can­vas and a white­scrubbed din­ing ta­ble also form part of the white gar­den room.

Dur­ing his years at the helm of En­ga­dini Adam has been awarded nu­mer­ous na­tional and in­ter­na­tional medals. His ma­jor land­scap­ing projects in­clude a five-star ho­tel in Tan­za­nia, sport sta­di­ums and the Kenyan air­port, but res­i­den­tial gar­dens re­main close to his heart.

“True land­scap­ing goes be­yond es­tab­lish­ing a lawn and fill­ing flower beds. Ba­sic prin­ci­ples such as geo­met­ric forms, a har­mo­nious pal­ette and tex­tures, and the blend­ing of these el­e­ments, as well as fo­cal points and artis­tic vi­sion, form the foun­da­tion for a suc­cess­ful gar­den.”

The land­scap­ing should also com­ple­ment the ar­chi­tec­ture. “An Ital­ian-style gar­den theme is not ap­pro­pri­ate for a thatched-roof house with an African feel.”

At a lodge in the bar­ren Kala­hari land­scape he es­tab­lished a desert gar­den where the red Kala­hari soil be­comes a sand rug for peb­ble spi­rals, and soul­ful dead tree trunks from the sur­round­ings are grouped like or­ganic sculp­tures. “Mankind has stripped na­ture with­out mercy,” says Adam. “It is my duty to re­turn what we took.” Decorex tip: Find green-fin­gered ful­fil­ment at the Decorex gar­den theatre where an ex­pert line-up of green gu­rus with spade, shovel and seeds in hand will dig into the world of or­ganic gar­den­ing essen­tials. Get in­spired by the trickle ther­apy of wa­ter fea­tures, transform gar­den dé­cor with clever paint tech­niques and de­sign ideas, learn to grow your own edible gar­den and dis­cover the deeper mean­ing of plants.

Also in the gar­den pavil­ion is the Gar­den Café, with food and in­te­rior de­sign in­spired by the mod­ern lo­ca­vore move­ment.


In­te­grate re­tain­ing and boundary walls in your land­scape plan­ning and transform them into ac­cent walls. Here Grant Adam mounted ce­ment balls in a straight line against a colour­ful wall to add fur­ther in­ter­est to the scene.

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