15 Scott Road, Hout Bay
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Taking number Ten to Zen

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The tale of a landscaper and his garden

It took me 10 years to get around to landscaping my own garden. Believe it. It’s like the proverbial cobbler whose children go barefoot. Working only on Saturdays with my team, it took eight months, but it’s done. And I’m a happy camper. I bloody zenned it.

Where it all began (or how the drought changed my lifestyle)

It all started when we stared down the barrel of the 2016/2017 drought. Day Zero was looming large and watering plants and lawn was no longer an option. The desolation that surrounded us every day that summer had far-reaching consequences for our lifestyle. We had fewer social events at home and spent less and less time in the garden. In no time at all we became indoors people. But this didn’t sit well. Isn’t the whole point of a garden to spend time there and enjoy the space as an extension of one’s home? I resolved to make changes that would enhance our living experience while positively adapting the space without the need for excessive watering.

March 2017: Before: The drought and the water restrictions of this last summer have ruined this garden. We want to ditch the lawn completely and create a series of hard-surface courtyards.

The lawn had to go

Our property is 800m2 in size, half of it taken up by the house and patio. The garden wraps around the house on the south and west, and this is where I focused my attention. These are the spaces where we entertain. Without a borehole on the property, the lawn had to go. I was relieved. The drought meant I could turf it with a clear conscience. I’d never really liked it. Besides, we don’t have dogs or children, so the myth that they’d need lawn did not apply.

November 2019: Garden maturing.


Outdoor spaces should add value, not expense. I’d allowed our garden to become a little like one of those guest rooms that is really a stuff room. Stuff got dumped and forgotten about. It had become cluttered and untidy. Nothing ever got thrown away. In this instance, my garden had become the dumping ground for a lot of pots. I had become a collector of pots. A word of advice: Don’t collect pots. Not unless you throw the old ones away. I had also gone through a phase of collecting succulents. Another word of advice: Don’t collect succulents. They grow and multiply and then you will need more pots. I had tiny pots, medium pots and large pots. Besides the potted succulents there were also roses, lemon trees, frangipani trees and ferns. Lots of collectables. I decided it was time to let all this weight go. These pots needed constant care and watering. I wanted freedom from this commitment. At least half of these pots had to go. I would replant the potted trees in the garden and give the pots and roses away to neighbours and friends. The plants worth keeping would go into the ground.

March 2017: Before: The drought and the water restrictions of this last summer have ruined this garden. We want to ditch the lawn completely and create a series of hard-surface courtyards.

Less garden, more space

The property is surrounded by tall shrubs and trees that produce a forest-like effect. My plan was to underline the tree-scape with bold, clean lines and simple planting rows. In short, I wanted less garden and more space. Astonishingly, many plants had survived that long, hot and dry summer with no water at all. We had left everything alone to see what would happen. The plants that survived were a surprising mix of indigenous and exotic vegetation. Fynbos had perished, but Euphorbia Kilimanjaro (Snow on the Mountain) and Murraya Exotica (Orange Jasmin) had been super troopers. Strelitzia Regina had also made it. Decisions have to be taken when planning a new landscape. I wanted to underline my trees with a kind of a hedge, but didn’t want to have to box-cut it. It also couldn’t get too large too quickly. It needed lateral and contained growth from a central stem and grow to about one-and-a-half meters in height. I fancied the white flowers and deep, rich colour of the Viburnum Tinus leaves next to the covered patio. And, despite its being an oddity, I decided to keep the sculptured Coprosma alongside the pool. Another keeper was the row of Hibiscus Syriacus along the boundary wall. We enjoyed these trees throughout the seasons, even their greyish branched stems, which I call ‘the bones’, in winter. Hibiscus species are by no means water-wise and although they suffer in summer, they lend structure to the garden. What was left to do was to choose new plants to frame the lower garden. I took my cue from what had survived without watering, the exotic Murraya Exotica and Strelitzia Regina for their foliage and orange flowers against the green boundary wall.

Caption: November 2019: Garden maturing: The bottle green Murraya ‘exotica’ visable along the perimeter.

Taking Number Ten to Zen

The project started in March and was completed in October 2018 when the timber deck was installed. This fitted perfectly with the winter planting window. The result has been spectacular. We’re back to spending a lot of time in the garden, admiring the simplicity and order of the redesign. The garden is clean and free from its erstwhile clutter. I love the open expanse of gravel. The hard and gritty gravel is well balanced by the deep green of the surrounding Murraya. These plants have proven to be an excellent choice. As expected, they have complemented the existing Viburnum hedge and Coprosma. The overall effect adds a certain Zen-like quality to the old-world charm of No 10.

November 2019: Timber deck faded to silver-grey.

If you need your garden designed, redesigned or maintained, contact Brettlee Walker and his crew. You can reach him at 083 632 7549 or at brettlee@brettleewalker.co.za.

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Increasing functional space

The only function the lawn area ever served was as a space for us to stand around a braai. A practical and affordable replacement was framing the outer edge with a double row of pavers and lay a bed of gravel in the centre. A few pots in the corners finish off the symmetry. The pool terrace is the most utilised area, since it serves as the overflow for pool parties. The obvious choice was decking. The deck extends the entertainment area, enlarging both the pool footprint and the adjacent patios.