John Richardson Gardens   Garden Design and Construction

Brandwacht aan rivier

Danie Steenkamp’s enthusiasm for his garden is infectious. Not even what could arguably be the wettest, glummest day of the year could dampen this landscape designer’s spirited account of his river garden at Brandtwacht aan Rivier, a brand new upmarket residential estate just outside Stellenbosch.

The developers, explains Danie, wanted to make optimal use of the riverside location by creating a communal garden for the residents. And I, he adds, wanted to create something environmentally sustainable.

Happily, in this case these two often mutually exclusive requirements were amicably resolved and Danie’s design for the 1.1km-long site encompassed two very different approaches to landscaping.

The first approach is evident on the near bank, where a highly cultivated garden has been laid out with a brick path meandering through a mass of indigenous planting: red hot pokers, arum lilies, Kruiktjie-roer-my-nie, Scirpus and a great many restios proliferate in abundance around manicured lawns of buffalo grass. There are also a number of benches and two bridges, all made from recycled materials. It is a space that has been carefully laid out for the active and passive recreational requirements of hundreds of residents – dog-walking, jogging, children’s ball games, or just relaxing on a bench. Essentially it is a private park in which to gather thoughts, find perspective, breathe a little, and is undoubtedly going to be the prized asset of this estate, come full occupation. More so, I think, than they could ever imagine, given the scale and density of the housing.

The opposite bank is markedly different. Here, in accord with his philosophy of sustainable landscaping, Danie has adopted an approach of minimal intervention in a role which is more that of  facilitator than designer.

“My aim for this project was always to set up a structure that would, in time, become self-sustaining. I love to see self-seeded plants coming up everywhere,” he says,” it means that the plan is working”.

 Apart from clearing alien vegetation from the far bank (including the kikuyu grass) and pruning the deadwood from some of the existing trees, he has left this far bank largely “un-landscaped”, thereby allowing the other residents of the estate to get on with life in peace and quiet. By other residents I mean the impressive muster of wildlife that emerges every night to go about their nocturnal business. Like the “nonnetjie” owl, that comes to perch high up in its specially made owl house to await the first twitches of its hapless evening meal. Or the porcupine family that make regular excursions from their woodland habitat to feast on the unbelievable buffet across the way.

Ja, says Danie with a philosophical shrug, the porcupines eat the arums. It’s not a problem. There’ s plenty more coming up all over the place.

This, I see, is not indifference. It is more like a reflection on a successful plan - a plan in which the needs of both humans and wildlife have been assessed, deliberated on and then implemented. And now that it is seen to be working, requires little more than acknowledgement. Actually, I get the sense that if the Porcupines weren’t eating the arums, he’d be wondering why……..

Posted: 10/25/2013 (10:51:45 AM)

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