Pattern, symmetry and repetition dominate the design of Leeu estate’s garden in Franschhoek
For Landscape designer Franchesca Watson, the garden she created at Leeu estate in Franschhoek is a green imprint For a visionary client’s mindset. she spoke to gardens editor heidi Bertish about the project
The garden project kicked off in 2012. How did it come about and what was your instinctual response to the
site when first visiting? In 2012 I was asked to meet a new client with a view to revamping the garden of a house he had bought in Franschhoek. originally intended as a family holiday home, the project soon morphed into a hospitality investment, with adjoining properties and vineyards being added and became the garden at Leeu estate in Franschhoek — an approximately 100-hectare site, of which forty per cent is mountain, forty per cent vineyards and farmland and twenty per cent landscaped garden.
My predominant outtake when visiting the site for the first time was the compelling sense of place and incredible views up and down the Franschhoek Valley. The change in initial purpose from family home to public space involved making the gardens able to absorb many more people through it, while still retaining a welcoming and personal intrigue. It also had to work the whole year round, and not just for a season.
And your vision for the garden? I came to the idea for the garden through discussions with the client and wanting to find a visual way to express his detailed and intricate mindset. so pattern, repetition and symmetry became vitally important and really what informed each decision when designing the garden. Laid over this is the need for repeating vertical elements – for the garden not to feel flattened by the vast views. The overall impression is green, without colour. colour would be distracting. The mood of the garden is serene. ultimately things are very simple, but detailed perfectly.
There are many garden areas, directed views and private rooftops – each unique – yet there’s a strong design
handwriting that holds it all together. In order to unify the impression of the various parts of the garden, I realised early on that a specific and strong signature was essential. This is provided by the repetition of patterning in many parts of the garden, together with a tight colour palette (oranges, yellows and whites) and a fairly limited range of high performing plants and trees which are repeated often throughout the various gardens.
Much of the design is founded on clipped structure. What’s the rationale behind this decision and can you
divulge a few of your go-to plants for clipping? To create an impact in such a large space, it’s necessary to have strong, clear ideas and to use them boldly, simply and in the correct scale. anything too small or fussy, or which has too many elements, will lose coherence in such a massive landscape. My favourite clipping plants in this garden are Searsia crenata, Rhagodia
hastata, Jasminum multipartitum and J. angulare, Podocarpus falcatus, and Coprosma repens.
We’re in love with the red benches in the centre of the tree-lined avenues. What was your colour reference?
Plascon high-gloss enamel paint in signal red.
Your favourite area of the garden? It has to be the entrance to the winery – it’s a supremely three-dimensional pattern, designed to draw the eye in and out, while echoing the curves
of the gable. Franchesca Watson franchescawatson.com; Leeu Collection leeucollection.com; Benchmark Wood Classics benchmarkwoodclassics.co.za
Lines of Pin Cushions radiate outwards in the sun Garden, at Leeu estate, with flower Colour that intensifies from yellow to orange and finally to red. ‘it’s an unbelievable winter display,’ says franchesca. at each end of the Garden there are blocks of Plantings – here you Can see Patterned spheres of rosemary and Rhagodia hastata
top left an Informal walk meanders above the franschhoek river just below the main lawn. the planting here has been kept soft and naturalistic to allow one to experience the cool shade and sound of the river and birds ‘I wanted to embellish the lawns In a formal way, and to create a feeling of enclosure,’ says franchesca. the answer to this was a planted line of clipped Podocarpus falcatus trees and contrasting borders, creating a two-tone pattern with Indigenous greencoloured searsia crenata and silvery rhagodia hastata