When the chairman of the Johannesburg Garden Club collaborates with one of South Africa’s leading landscapers, you know the result will be spectacular
A stunning spring garden in Jo’burg
Prue Johnson and her husband Peter moved into their Craighall Park home just over 30 years ago and have been working on their garden ever since. However, it was only once Prue met gardening legend Anne Lorentz and joined the Johannesburg Gardening Club that an interest in plants and gardening turned into a passion.
Two years ago, Prue decided that it was time for a complete makeover. “There were a few fundamental issues like the drainage that I wanted to fix as well as formalising some of the lines, creating new beds and making space for a vegetable garden,” explains Prue. “I’ve known Shirley Wallington, a fellow member of the Johannesburg Garden Club, for many years and thought that it would be prudent to make use of her superb knowledge of garden design.” Shirley adds: “We also share a similar taste in plants so that really helped.”
Shirley started off by introducing formal lines. “I terraced
the sloping area and then moved all the bricks around the swimming pool, squaring it off and making the curb narrower. This made it much easier on the eye and mowing simpler,” she explains. She then had to move quite a few of the topiary balls to fit into the new design. This was done in late winter to ease the shock on the evergreens. Where new topiaries were needed, Prue used teucrium. “It works well for topiaries and is quick growing,” she explains.
The old water tower in the back corner was incorporated into the design. “It used to be part of the water supply years ago. We took down the galvanised iron tank, but liked the structure so kept that,” says Prue. In front of the tower behind the topiary balls, she planted ‘Anne Lorentz’ roses. “Not only are they nice and tall with beautiful blooms, they’re a tribute to a very dear friend,” says Prue.
“As Garden Club members, we are often exposed to unusual plants and Prue used this to her advantage,” says Shirley. “Like the Judas tree you managed to get your hands on,” pipes in Peter.
When it comes to colour, Prue has very definite preferences. “I like a white garden, but it has to be white, pink and blue. Definitely no yellow and red,” she says. “Shirley encouraged us to have at least one bed for seedlings to bring in some seasonal colour. People tend to steer away from annuals these days because of the cost and amount of maintenance they THIS SPREAD, CLOCKWISE FROM FAR LEFT: In spring, Clematis montana clambers over the old water tower. In summer, it’s replaced by ‘Blossom Magic’ roses. The slope was terraced and the brick paving around the pool squared off. On the left is an Acer palmatum. Arum lilies thrive under a large eugenia.
White Iris wattii and blue bearded irises stand out against privet topiary balls. Purple torch ( Eupatorium sordidum).
need, but every garden should have a little showcase,” she continues. With this in mind, white foxgloves were planted near the back of the beds as they had the height and in front there’s a glorious show of Primula obconica.
The terracing addressed the drainage issues, but not completely. “We seemed to spend our lives digging agricultural drains, but fortunately that seems to be a thing of the past. Of course it helps that we make all our own compost and are constantly adding it to the beds.” To give the plants the best possible start, all the beds were trenched. THIS PAGE, CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE LEFT: The All Seasons grass in the shade of the silver birches is left to grow longer than the kikuyu. The steps are softened with erigeron planted against the risers. The terraces are filled with blue Primula obconica and white azaleas clipped into a hedge. Foxgloves were introduced to give height and provide a contrast to the teucrium balls.
Prue has been a member of the Johannesburg Garden Club for almost 18 years, and chairman for the past 12. “Thanks to the garden club, my garden and plant knowledge have evolved to a great extent. Members like Jenny Anderson and Shirley are very free with their advice at meetings,” says Prue. “It’s so nice to have gardening friends, because they really appreciate your efforts.”
THIS PAGE, FROM TOP TO BOTTOM: Behind the conifers and tree fern are white Camelia japonicas and a white flowering privet. A white Azalea Alba marks the entrance to the vegetable garden.