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