A colorful farmyard in KZN

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The main house where the couple lives is more than a hundred years old.
The main house where the couple lives is more than a hundred years old.
Picturesque stone buildings form the perfect backdrop to this colourful and constantly evolving garden.

Photos Sally Chance


Clynton and Lisa Fraser

WHERE Underberg, KwaZulu-Natal


TYPE OF SOIL Shaley and acidic

Since the soil is so shallow and shaley, Lisa incorporated copious amounts of manure and leaf mulch. A few of the beds have a stone edging to raise the level of the soil. Bearded irises and azaleas, among others, provide colour in this shady bed.

Her garden is an ongoing project and over a period of 30 years, she has gradually enlarged it to include the old, almost derelict sheds and buildings on their farm. But Lisa Fraser of Underberg in KwaZulu-Natal is not done yet – in fact, anything but.

“I always find something that needs to be done or something that needs to change,” she says. “When we moved here, the garden was virtually non-existent. Wattle trees and brambles had taken over and most of the walls between the terraces had collapsed.” But there was one highlight: in among the ‘jungle’ lay the remains of an old rose garden

“Other than the rose garden, there was a jacaranda, a deodar (Cedrus deodara), a couple of azaleas, irises, chrysanthemums and dahlias.

“I rebuilt most of the terrace walls and have plodded along over the years, making new flowerbeds and then changing them again, moving plants and paths, creating new stone paths and gradually increasing the size of the garden. It’s a bit of a ‘fruit salad’ of different plants. The current rose garden and the roses at the pond are probably the closest I will ever come to a formal garden.”

A variety of roses has been planted in the beds by the pond. This is one of the few formal areas of the garden.

Clynton and Lisa

‘The Bishop’

An arch bedecked with a ‘Souvenir de Mme. Léonie Viennot’ climbing rose frames a bench surrounded by beds filled with colourful foxgloves.

Catmint, foxgloves, dianthus and a ‘Francois Juranville’ climbing rose on the arch provide a glorious display in spring.

‘Francois Juranville’


The peacocks like to forage in the catmint that Lisa plants as a groundcover beneath her roses.

Highs and lows

Lisa has to contend with an extremely harsh climate. “In the hot summer months, the rainfall is erratic at times and we even have a hailstorm or two,” says Lisa. “Our winters, on the other hand, are bitterly cold and dry, with frost and sometimes snow. And in August the wind howls. In this climate, plants have to be tough! I make sure I choose plants that can take care of themselves.”

A farm garden has its own hazards. “Somehow, the cattle or sheep always manage to gain access to the garden and then they wreak havoc. The peacocks are beautiful and I’m very fond of them – except when they make dust bowls in my garden or eat my veggies! But they do add a touch of glamour.”

Lisa does most of the gardening herself, only occasionally getting in some help to trim tree branches or move a really heavy rock. “I have a ride-on lawnmower which is my most prized possession. Although I’m not mad about mowing the grass, the end result of a neatly mown lawn makes it worthwhile. Making new beds in freshly dug soil with plants just waiting to grow is my favourite garden task. I even enjoy pulling out weeds

“My garden gives me so much pleasure. There’s nothing like a stroll through it after a hard day’s work in the hot sun to appreciate the beauty of our surroundings. And I love sharing my garden with friends and family. It’s lovely to see that it also makes other people happy, not just me.”


Lisa says it’s difficult to choose her favourite plants. Here are a few that bring her joy, season after season:

• Roses “They are an addiction that started when I discovered the remains of the old rose garden. I was fascinated by the fact that those shrubs had survived for so many years with no care at all.”

Sometimes, Lisa wonders why she loves roses so much. “They can be hard work! My rose care is somewhat erratic.Iseldom use sprays, so pests are prevalent. We prune in winter, fertilise in spring and again once or twice in summer.Ilike to pick roses, so that takes care of the summer pruning. Those roses that don’t get picked are deadheaded.”

A shortage of water in a dry summer is a big problem, as are weeds. “I underplanted most of my roses with catmint. It always looks pretty, keeps the roots cool and prevents weed growth.”

At the moment, ‘Isidingo’ is her favourite, with ‘General Gallieni’, ‘Sunny Ayoba’, ‘Crème Caramel’, ‘Frau Karl Druschki’, ‘Le Vésuve’ and ‘Francois Juranville’ also on her list.

• Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), an iconic English country garden plant, continues to pop up every year. “I tend to favour plants that look after themselves and self-seed. But I also collect seeds for the following season.”

• In summer, the Inca lilies are beautiful and the salvias are also becoming a favourite. “They’re tough and drought tolerant. These small shrubs provide splashes of colour when other plants are wilting.”

• In autumn, chrysanthemums in all their various colours are something special

• In winter, the blooms of hellebore (Helleborus) makealovely show.

Camellias are great as they’re evergreen with the added bonus of gorgeous flowers in winter

• And in spring, azaleas, irises, love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena), Californian poppies (Eschscholzia californica) and columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris) are in full bloom.

An old chair gets a new lease on life as a pansy planter.

‘Buff Beauty’

A mixed border planted up with foxgloves and Lychnis coronaria provides abundant colour in spring. The foxgloves self-seed, coming up all over the garden year after year.

Yellow Louisiana irises fill the pond.


Pansies and violas


‘Rhapsody in Blue’

The buildings on the farm date back to 1889. “Most of them were in a sorry state when we moved here in 1989,” says Lisa. “The original ironstone house is still standing; it’s begging to be renovated but that will require a large pot of gold!

The shed, which was apparently built by prisoners of war, collapsed during a heavy snowstorm in 1999. We have since erected a structure with a roof over it to try and preserve it.”

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April 2023

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