John Richardson Gardens   Garden Design and Construction

House Steenberg Estate

Unhappy with the 'garden' left for him by the developers of his newly purchased Steenberg Golf Estate home, this new home owner was in no doubt as to what was required from the modest space available for his garden…….

He wanted a private garden with a small pool and patio suitable for entertaining. He wanted a water feature above the pool (on the return pipe from the filter) and a path leading from the living room across the patio to the study. He expresses a preference for (lots of) indigenous planting and a serious dislike for bricks. He intended having an irrigation system and a weekly visit from a local garden service company.


The site conditions were typical of the area with sandy, well drained soil and strong winds. The house was painted in an off-white bone colour (as specified by the estate building code) and therefore created significant amounts of reflected radiation and glare. The house itself sits on a low ridge on the eastern side of the estate where it is buffeted by the powerful, drying south east winds during the summer months. However, the clever design of the building put its back to the wind, so to speak, and created a central, courtyard-type space, on the lee of the building that was almost perfect for a garden. There are planting guidelines on the estate that must be adhered to and these were noted and accommodated in the design.

During discussions with the client it became clear that he wanted a neat, highly organized, private space in which to entertain guests during the day and in the evenings. He also expressed an appreciation for certain plants, which were noted and incorporated into the design.The concept began with a strong idea of an outside' green room' with paving as tiles and lawn as carpet, plants as curtains and tree canopies as ceilings, chandeliers and skylights. 

A windless courtyard in the west sun can get very hot in the late afternoons during summer so the concept was driven by ideas, words and feelings like, cool, leafy, shaded, refreshing and replenishing, words that, for me, evoked the somewhat poetic, yet entirely appropriate, imagery of a 'savanna grassland water hole' in an urbanized, organized, humanized kind of way.On a more practical level designing a garden in this space, simplicity is vital and straight lines, all parallel and perpendicular to the house, helped hold the design together and tether it firmly to the building. The pool was placed centrally, one meter off the wall, leaving space behind it for the plants and water feature. The water feature was designed as a focal point to be viewed from the living room. The strong vertical character and its position in the garden hold the eye within the space and focus the attention on the garden rather than the neighbour's roof. The feature was designed curving and projecting from the boundary wall in order to facilitate the perception of depth, as well as to house the pipe work and prevent possible damp problems.The patio was designed for outdoor living and entertaining and the paths followed logical routes.The left over space was filled with plants of the appropriate type and a small lawn was designed into the space available between the patio and pool. The planting is generous in order to reduce the impact of the radiation off the house walls and patio. The paving is all in the same color and of similar type. This is important for continuity and unity.

The trees are Acacia xanthoplhoea, also well known as the fever tree. It was selected for its interesting bark, leaves and thorns, as well as for its relatively small size. It also struck a chord with the clients past and fitted nicely with the abstract concept (Savanna grassland water hole). The rest of the planting includes Kei apples, Leopard trees, Kiepersols and many others.

The garden was not installed exactly as drawn. As is often the case with gardens small changes and improvements were made as the design unfolded on the ground. These changes were work-shopped between designer, client and contractors, on site when necessary.

The garden was installed in February 2002 and photographed at various stages since then.

The garden designed was by John Richardson and installed by Willow Waters who also undertook the weekly maintenance. The pool, water feature and irrigation system were all installed by specialist contractors.

Click the image for a view of: View of water feature wall through a riot of planting, Agapanthus,Hemercallis and more...
View of water feature wall through a riot of planting, Agapanthus,Hemercallis and more...
Click the image for a view of: Pavers,rocks and fever trees
Pavers,rocks and fever trees
Click the image for a view of: Jump right in!
Jump right in!
Click the image for a view of: View from the Living room
View from the Living room
Click the image for a view of: Low angle of path through planting
Low angle of path through planting
Click the image for a view of: Birds (low flying!) eye view...?
Birds (low flying!) eye view...?
Posted: 1/21/2009 (2:05:57 PM)

 Send to a friend

Copyright © 2008-2011 John Richardson™. All rights reserved.