Gorgeous gardens

2008-03-01 00:00

Kloof Conservancy’s annual indigenous open gardens show — themed “On The Edge of the Gorge” — aims to raise funds for the Krantzkloof Nature Reserve’s ongoing invasive plant eradication programme. However, that is no excuse for the green fingered to simply relax and enjoy the fruits of others’ labours. Hopefully, all gardeners will realise that they can and should roll up their sleeves and do their bit.

“One of the critical factors for the conservancy now, as well as for the Krantzkloof Nature Reserve, is to help teach those living around the gorge about alien plants in their gardens, especially those where seed is dispersed either by wind or by birds. This makes (people’s) lives hell when they try to get rid of a very large area of these plants. Often staff put their lives at risk climbing steep, hot inclines to try and remove camphors and other invasive stuff,” explains garden design guru Lindsay Gray.

She says that the owners of each of the five gardens on display are all making a stand against the invasion of aliens. The same goes for neighbours such as the McMurrays (whose beautiful garden was on show three years ago). Together with their neighbours, they have been working for three years to root out aliens and clear the stream that crosses their property and feeds into the reserve. Money for the project is deducted as part of a monthly levy.

“We need to create buffer zones so aliens don’t escape into the gorge. Many rubbish dumps are at the end of gardens. For gardens here, the end is usually the edge of the gorge. That simply means dumping stuff over the edge. But we have a special treasure here — over 170 hectares of stunning reserve that we want to protect,” says Glenda McMurray.

The five gardens that will be on show in March each have a special view of the Krantzkloof Nature Reserve.

The first garden — number four(a) Uve Road — has a particularly spectacular view of the reserve’s grassland. According to Gray, this home is a fusion of Moroccan/African architecture complete with seductive shapes in the form of domes, arches and barrel-vaulted ceilings. The steep garden is retained with dry-packed rock walls. Movement through the garden is made easier with interesting paths, steps and wooden walkways.

“The owners built an eco-pond to attract wildlife, and a perennial stream already flows at the bottom of their property. Wanting to keep the garden in sympathy with the grassland opposite them, the owners have used various indigenous grasses, interspersed with bulbs, dieramas and wildflowers that have self-seeded. Down at the tree-lined stream, there is a wooden deck just perfect for viewing birds and enjoying the odd sun downer,” says Gray.

Next in line is number eight Uve Road, a garden that is set on the edge of both the mist belt and the reserve. There are several natural water sources on the property; two waterfalls and a larger river bordering the lower edge of the garden. Despite being a suburban garden, it remains slightly wild. It reflects and celebrates the reserve itself, supporting a variety of small mammals, buck and zebra as well as a variety of bird and insect life.

Garden number three is at 52 Bridle Road, Forest Hills. The homeowners describe themselves as “reluctant gardeners” who have opted for a low maintenance garden to complement the stunning setting and natural vegetation that was there long before they bought their land 25 years ago.

This dry garden has been landscaped mostly with plants indigenous to the area, using aloes, rock and gravel to create an interesting roadside garden, with low plantings on the reserve side to fringe the edge of the level terrace. A pair of Wahlberg’s eagles nest in the tree canopy below the property and, over the years, bushbuck, porcupine, Blue Duiker, mongoose, genet and even Serval cat have become regular visitors.

The fourth garden, at nine Watsonia Place, is a work in progress. The ultimate aim is to create a garden that blends with the grasslands and forests of the adjoining reserve.

“When the owners first viewed their property, it was love at first sight. At that time, the garden was well-established, but crammed with exotic trees. At least 40 of these have now been removed to open up the view, and to make way for indigenous plantings,” says Gray.

Fifth on the indigenous gardens list is 15 Park Crescent, Forest Hills. It started out (39 years ago) as a typical suburban garden of exotic plants and expansive lawns. “Today, it is an indigenous haven. Established on original grassland that extended from the Krantzkloof Nature Reserve, this gently sloping property now has an established canopy of indigenous trees.

“Over the years, the owners have added meandering paths and a series of garden rooms for interest. A spectacular and uninterrupted view of the gorge can be enjoyed from a seating area under the canopy of a mature flat crown tree. The garden is filled with birds, many of whom return annually to breed and, much to the owners’ delight, more and more butterflies are visiting the garden,” Gray explains.

Authors, plant, bird and insect specialists will be on duty in the various gardens throughout the weekend.

Over and above the gardens themselves, visitors can enjoy a tea garden and live music at the Kloof Junior Primary School. Books, plants, artwork, ceramics and much more will be on sale and there will be a snake and reptile demonstration each day at 10 am.

The gardens are open from 9 am each morning to 5 pm on both days.

Tickets cost R30 per person and are available at each garden. Contact Helen Terblanche for further details at 072 218 2857.

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