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INSPIRATION Photograph by Adam Harrower

Ancient healing

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To some, aloes are strange, even ugly plants. But really, they are supreme adaptors that reward their fans with spectacular, bright orange spikes in the heart of bleak winters. This picture of a magnificent Aloe arborescens was taken in Kirstenbosch. Aloes are an indelible part of the dry South African landscape. If you’ve ever driven through the rural Eastern Cape in June, you would have been amazed at the way entire hillsides turn orange with these flowers. It’s comparable with the displays of spring flowers on the west coast. There are about 155 different species of aloes in South Africa, found in almost all vegetation regions. Most aloes have

small or fairly limited distribution ranges, but some are very widespread, like Aloe arborescens and Aloe maculata. They’re very popular in gardens these days and the common ones are easy to grow, making execellent features, borders or accent plants. They need rich soil with good drainage and mulching, to start them off though, and not just desert sand. Aloes have long been used medicinally as well. Aloe vera, originally from North Africa but now widespread in South Africa, has been used in healing for centuries. And the indigenous Aloe ferox, widespread in the Eastern Cape, is also used medicinally and in cosmetics.


FRESHTHOUGHTS W

Photo by Claire Bunkell

ith roof gardens becoming a trend in South Africa, it’s nice to see that the Western Cape is leading the way. Green roofs insulate interiors, capture water and cool cities, to name just a few benefits. There are two basic types – those you can walk into and those that exist as an insulating carpet, a “living” roof, so to speak. And we have some great domestic examples of these, plus quite extraordinary corporate projects, in “Higher Calling” on page 8. Talking of things ecological, we’ve taken a good look at the wetlands around Cape Town, and in doing so discovered there are over 4000 around the city! Sensitive development projects involve a great deal of rehabilitation, taking into account how people live around a wetland, rehabilitation of flora and fauna, and how residential homes and office parksEXISTING could integrate in the lightest possible way. As so many BEACH ACCESS wetlands have been so badly treated in the past, without these developments they would in fact be in a far worse state, often OVER choked with litter and rubble. BOARDWALK And TOthere are always lovely DUNES IMPROVE CONNECTION WITH surprises: while working on theBEACH Intaka Island project, the experts found two water plants that had not been seen in the Cape for 150 years. (See “Wetlands” on pg 22.) We really take our hats off to the dedicated and inspiring scientists and designers who work on these projects. On a smaller, but very important, level of inspiration, we look at how play parks for children have developed in leaps and bounds. There are new philosophies about play,

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• Congratulations to the winner of our autumn issue book prize, “Kirstenbosch: The Most Beautiful Garden In Africa”, by Brian J Huntley. The winner was Harriet Nimmo of Llandudno, Cape Town.

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This month's cover photograph was taken by Claire Bunkell for our roof gardens shoot in Llandudno. The full article on the subject starts on pg 8.

Higher Calling – Rooftop gardens, living roofs and a balcony garden Park Life – How the Cape is restoring formerly neglected wetlands

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creativity, imagination and co-operation that are making for very different looking parks. (See “State of play” on pg 14.)

EXISTING PLAYGROUND TO BE RENOVATED

LAKE AND STORMWATER ATENUATION FED BY EXCESS GROUNDWATER FROM “THE BEACHES“

1 Inspiration 2 Editor’s note 5 In Brief 20 Plant Palette – How to create a coastal garden 30 Objects – Pot luck

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ABLUTION, LIFE SAVERS AND PARK MANAGEMENT

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LANDSCAPE DESIGN & GARDEN – WINTER 2013


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IN BRIEF

Cycads 'under threat from landscapers'

THE CONSTANT GARDENER We bring you advice from the experts in

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this column in every issue

Yes, you can grow proteas

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• For more advice, go to www.arnelia.co.za

A king protea (Protea cynaroides – "Madiba") in full flower. LANDSCAPE DESIGN & GARDEN – WINTER 2013

. Photos by Mike Vincent/Jasmin Films

Hans Hettasch, owner of Arnelia Farms in Hopefield near Langebaan, has been growing proteas for more than 17 years. Here he gives tips on how to grow these extraordinary plants. ell-drained soil is probably the most important thing. A soil with more than 30% clay is not recommended because it won’t drain well and could cause fungal disease. Mulch well at planting because mulching reduces weed growth and soil tilling. Proteas don’t like it when root systems are disturbed. Proteas grow naturally in very nutrientpoor soils so there is very little need for additional fertilizer. Compost should be avoided as the compost may have high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, which are potentially toxic for proteas. To add small amounts of nutrients to the soil, leave pruned plant material on the ground to decompose and help to replenish nutrients. Proteas prefer a slightly acidic soil (pH of 5.5 to 6.5). There are some species that can tolerate more alkaline soils, for example, leucadendrons. The pH of alkaline soils can be adjusted to a more acidic level with composted bark or peat. In depleted soils, a diluted application of an organic fertilizer such as Kelpak or Seagrow is recommended. Proteas should be planted in full sun, and watered well until established (18-24 months). If you want to plant a protea in a pot, there are many compact varieties which can work. Keep in mind that the potting soil should not have fertilizer or bone meal added and that pots should be watered daily. Young protea plants should be tippruned six months to a year after planting, generally in spring to late summer. The plants can be pruned again after the first flowers die off by cutting the flower stem 10cm above where the stem branches from the main stem.

he Eastern Cape, home to some of the world’s rarest – and oldest – cycads in the world, is struggling to contain the illicit trade in the plants. It's all about selling the plants, often hundreds of years old, to “collectors” and/or the landscaping industry. In a shocking “50/50” documentary (broadcast in March this year, available on Youtube) the cameras accompanied the Green Scorpions on raids in the area. Locals who were dragging them out of the veld often damaged them so badly they wouldn’t have survived anyway. However, as the programme pointed out, these are desperately poor people and not the kingpins. Frederick Smal, a key middleman, was arrested in 2012 and is currently serving time in jail. And investigations are continuing. But how bad is domestic and corporate consumption of these plants? Very bad indeed, according to Jaap Pienaar, chief enforcement officer, biodiversity, in the Eastern Cape. “If you take a police helicopter flip over Sandton, you’ll see nearly every second property has one or more cycads,” he said. “And the buyers must know these are illegal. After all, how many nurseries can you walk into and buy a legitimate, huge, adult plant with burnt stems on it? That shows it’s been removed from the veld. Why don’t the buyers ask more questions?”

Scenes from a SABC2 50/50 documentary on cycad theft in the Eastern Cape. Presenter Bonne de Bod is seen with a local farmer and below that the poachers are caught in a Green Scorpions sting operation.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says that cycads are the most threatened group of plant species on earth. Hacking them out of their natural habitat and taking them to foreign soil, isolated from other male and female plants and without the beetle that does the fertilising work for them, is a sure way to ensure their extinction. And according to the SA National Biodiversity Institute (Sanbi), 68% of our cycads are threatened with extinction, with 31% classified as critically endangered. Two species became extinct in the wild between 2003 and 2010, which graphically illustrates how fashion trends can destroy the plants. Plus there are seven species with less than 100 individuals in the wild. “It’s a bleak place to be,” says Phakamani Xaba, horticulturalist and cycad specialist at Kirstenbosch Gardens. “And we are doing our best to raise public awareness about the issues as well as raising seedlings here. The plants grow very slowly – the fastest maturing from seed to cone is 15 years. Many take 30 years. “Our flagship plant is Encephalartos latifrons, extremely rare. We make seedlings available twice a year in our plant sales, plus at our retail nursery.” The message is – if you must have them, buy the seedlings, which come with a permit, from Kirstenbosch or another Sanbi outlet. Otherwise, forget it.

5 minutes with... entomologist Valerie Mason As a well-known entomologist, she’s on the side of the creepy-crawlies. Val has worked in the field all her life and completed her MSc in Insect Pest Management at Stellenbosch University in 1998. She was a senior lecturer and assistant dean in the faculty of science at the Cape Technikon before retiring in 2007. She tells us how to live in harmony with our little friends.

Why should we like insects? All five million species of insects on this planet have a specific purpose within very variable and complex interactive ecosystems. Without insects, the world would be a very different place. Most important is the pollination work carried out by honey-bees and other insect pollinators. There is simply no way that humans or technology could pollinate the world’s food plants to produce our food requirements. Equally significant,

in a world without dung beetles, we would be catastrophically deep in the proverbial! How can we live with them and still have a great garden? Select plants that are indigenous to your part of the country and plant them in the right conditions – do not “force” a plant to grow where you want it to grow. Limit your choice of “fancy hybrids” – they are often susceptible to insect and disease attack. Finally, accept a bit of insect damage – it does, after all, mean that the insects have chosen your plants as the “best” in the area on which to lay their eggs. Why is the study of entomology important? From a medical/veterinary perspective, research into the thousands of species of ants, bedbugs, cockroaches, fishmoths, fleas, flies, lice, locusts, mosquitoes, tsetse fly, and weevils to mention a few, has significantly

improved the quality of life for humans and animals on this earth. What has been your major line of research? In Zimbabwe I was involved in research into the management of pests in coffee trees by integrated means; using biological, cultural, physical and temporal methods together with resistant varieties to reduce chemical usage to a minimum. Is our society aware enough of the Green issues? Sadly not. Despite all our gallant efforts, we will always be playing “catch up”. Which is your favourite insect? Definitely the praying mantis – their recognisable raptorial fore-legs and triangular head with prominent, convex compound eyes are amazing adaptations for seeing, catching and eating their prey, which is often what happens to the male, after mating. 5


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HIGHER calling

As urban residents look to maximise their exterior spaces and minimise their impact on the natural environment, Green roofs are becoming an increasingly popular choice. Anne Duncan takes a look at Cape Town gardens that are on a higher level than most. Pictures by Claire Bunkell.

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n dense urban environments, outdoor space is at a premium. So it’s no surprise that garden designers have looked upwards when it comes to giving city dwellers an oasis in which to relax and recharge. As urbanites are becoming increasingly aware of the need for ecologically sound building practices, roof gardens are coming into their own. “A Green roof provides various ecological and functional benefits to a site and building,” explains Penny Moir of OvP Associates. “Besides encouraging biodiversity, the thermal mass of a Green roof moderates a building’s impact on the microclimate as the gardens absorb the heat energy of the sun, rather than reflecting it, and, through evaporation, help cool

the air. This in turn assists in the cooling of the interior spaces below, reducing the demand on air-conditioning systems. The Green roof also acts as a temporary water retention system during rainfall, which helps to reduce the impact on the local stormwater system.” There are two main classifications of Green roofs. Intensive Green roofs, which incorporate traditional roof gardens, are spaces that people can walk into and use. They blend hard and soft landscaping. Extensive Green roofs, meanwhile, are not for social use and simply provide a blanket of low-growing, low-maintenance vegetation. Of course, building a garden in artificial conditions is not without its challenges, especially in the harsh weather

conditions of the Western Cape. “A roof garden is subjected to both windier and hotter conditions, so hardy planting is essential,” says Alistair Turrell of Planning Partners, who designed the roof garden for engineering group Aurecon's building at Century City. “Soil depth is also an issue. To keep weight down, the soil layer generally has to be fairly shallow, which has an impact on what you can plant.” Then there are increased waterproofing requirements and important drainage considerations – not to mention accessibility issues. “The biggest challenge at Aurecon was that we had to carry everything up to the rooftop,” says JP du Plessis of Marina Landscaping, who did the installation. “There were no cranes on site to assist, and the lifts only go to the floor below.” Above: A "living" rooftop garden in Hout Bay. Left: The Cape’s wide variety of indigenous vygies are perfect for roof-top planting as they’re not only extremely hardy but are lowgrowing, mat-forming and don’t require deep soil in order to thrive.


URBAN DESIGN

Living cover

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A Hout Bay home owner has brought a Green, living roof to the suburbs with an insulating carpet of vygies providing evergreen colour above her eco-friendly house.

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t’s not a roof garden, but a living roof,” says Ans van Heijnsbergen of the low-growing succulents that top her Hout Bay home. Indeed, her flat roof is not meant for use as a social space but is designed to add to the home’s serious Green credentials. Built into a large mountainside plot, the house comprises three circular structures. They are constructed from mud bricks made on the property and wood that has been sourced from either local reclamation yards or alien stone pine and bluegum trees cut down on site. To top off this eco-friendly home, Ans was determined to have a living roof. A recent immigrant from The Netherlands, she was familiar with the growing trend for Green roofs in Europe. In South Africa, though, the concept is a fairly new one – and many local landscapers told her the idea would never work. Then a chance encounter with a friend of Toos van den Berg on a flight from Holland led her to the Dutch-born nurserywoman based near Stellenbosch. As her large nursery keeps her so busy, Toos doesn’t take on many landscaping projects. But she was immediately hooked by the challenge. “I loved the idea of doing something that everyone said couldn’t be done,” says Toos. To start with, she and Ans – who has project-managed every aspect of the build – consulted with an architect and engineer to ensure the house would be structurally strong enough to bear the extra weight of a living roof. Adequate waterproofing and good drainage also had to be carefully LANDSCAPE DESIGN & GARDEN – WINTER 2013

planned. The result is a flat roof covered with two layers of waterproofing and edged with planks of stone pine. It has a slightly undulating surface that encourages water to drain to the sides, where it flows through holes in the wooden overhang, down metal chains and into drains that take it to a large underground collection tank. From there it’s used to irrigate both the large garden and the roof, which is equipped with a sprinkler system to see it through the dry summer months. The soil has a depth of about 100mm and is a special lightweight mix with a high organic content that Toos developed with Stanler Farms specifically for the project. Netting on top helps prevent it being swept away in strong winds. Into this, Toos planted a variety of hardy low-growing vygies, such as the sour fig (Carpobrotus edulis) and ice plant (Lampranthus aureus). They provide a low-maintenance evergreen carpet, as well as bursts of bright seasonal colour. Around the plants, and covering the net, are thousands of almond shells, helping to keep the soil stable and moist. From the slope above the house, where wooden plantcovered steps give access to the roof for maintenance, the design of the planting is just discernible. “It’s a series of spirals,” explains Toos. “It forms a mandala”, adds Ans, “a spiritual symbol that adds its energy to the house.” • Toos van den Berg Garden Village, 021 884 4095 • Stanler Farms, 021 975 1724, www.topsoil.co.za

The vygies on this living roof require very little maintenance and help keep the house cool in summer and warm in winter. Rainfall drains down metal chains into an underground water tank that is used to irrigate the large garden. 9


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ea and mountain views are ever present when you have a home in beautiful Llandudno. However, Christina Guberman felt the view of nature from the first-floor master bedroom was somewhat marred by the ugly tiled roof over the dining room below. So the idea grew to replace the tiles with an inspiring balcony garden that would celebrate nature’s beauty and encourage meditation and quiet contemplation. Like so much else in Christina’s home, the design was influenced by the golden-ratio spiral, an aesthetically pleasing shape that is a common feature in nature, found in plants, flowers and seashells. “Nature’s perfection is held in the golden ratio,” explains Christina. “It’s a shape that is beautiful on the eye and has a perfect energy flow.” Garden designer Franchesca Watson and landscape architect and engineer Heimo Schulzer were contracted to bring Christina’s concept to life. Master Decks provided the bamboo decking and worked closely with Heimo to ensure that the new roof-top structure was sufficiently waterproofed and provided good drainage. A spiral-shape was carefully

Wild at heart

Indigenous grasses and succulents work to blend this luxury cliffside home into the beautiful southern Cape coast.

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ezula Private Estate on Knysna’s Eastern Head is bordered by rugged coastal cliffs and the indigenous forest and fynbos of the neighbouring Sinclair Nature Reserve. Previously part of the Noetzie farm, which was used for commercial forestry, the land has been carefully restored and just a small portion given over to the development of luxury homes. With the estate committed to environmental awareness, it was important for this multi-storey residence to integrate with its natural surrounds. The house spills down a cliff, which means much of the roof is visible from above – so GVH Landscapes was asked to soften its effects with a roof garden. “The concept was to integrate the architectural construction into the existing landscape,” explains Graham von Hoesslin. “The roof garden is constructed over the large garage and a portion of the house and adds to the home’s Green footprint, as all the excess water that drains off the garden is collected in tanks and reused in the irrigation system.” Good waterproofing and drainage were of utmost importance. “The builders first waterproofed the roof with a bitumen-like sealant and then installed a protective layer, 10

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which looks like plastic egg cartons, covered by bidim cloth (a geotextile made from polyester that acts as a filter and root barrier),” explains Graham. “There’s a 110mm drainage pipe in the centre and in each corner, over which we placed a ‘bidim ball’ – smallish angular rocks wrapped in the geotextile cloth – to act as a filter.” Over the roof 's protective layers sits a lightweight, welldraining soil layer that comprises three-parts loamy topsoil, two parts river sand and one part coarse compost. For the planting, Graham selected indigenous, waterwise species that could cope with the area’s salt-laden winds. These include soft rush (Juncus effuses), thatching reed (Thamnochortus insignis), salt bush (Rhagoda histata) and succulents such as Lampranthus species, Cotyledon orbiculata and Aloe striata. • GVH Landscapes, 072 289 2938

Aloes and other hardy succulents fill the spiral bed that cuts through the timber decking on this Llandudno balcony.

cut from the timber, providing Franchesca with a narrow space in which to create a small garden. With such a shallow bed exposed to the harsh extremes of summer and winter temperatures, Franchesca chose a mix of hardy succulents, such as pig’s ear (Cotyledon orbiculata “staghorn”) and Crassula fragilis. “Plants also had to be chosen to stay relatively flat in order that the spiral remains a strong readable design element,” explains Franchesca. River pebbles and slate provide groundcover and help prevent water loss where the planting is sparse. “It’s a wonderful outdoor space,” says Christina. “I water about once a month and cut back when necessary, but otherwise it’s very little work. We use the balcony a lot and in summer we often spend nights out under the stars on the large daybed.” • Franchesca Watson, www.franchescawatson.com • Heimo Schulzer Gardens, 021 702 3616

Photos supplied

Timber decking and a spiral bed of planting have created a roof garden in its simplest form.

Photos by Claire Bunkell

The golden spiral

Planting softens the large expanse of the garage roof at this home on Knysna's Eastern Head in the Pezula Private Estate. LANDSCAPE DESIGN & GARDEN – WINTER 2013


URBAN DESIGN

This page: The garden on top of the Century City regional headquarters of Aurecon, a global engineering firm. It combines a staff entertainment area with beds of colourful indigenous succulents that enhance the view over the surrounding Intaka wetlands.

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esigning and constructing the roof garden on the new regional headquarters of engineering group Aurecon was definitely a “learning curve” for everyone involved, says Alistair Turrell of Planning Partners. Eighteen months on, though, it’s a green and growing success and has helped earn the building the first 5-Star Green Star rating in Cape Town. It also earned contractors Marina Landscaping a gold award in the SALI Awards of Excellence 2012. As the garden sits on top of offices, waterproofing was a key concern. “We installed a protective membrane over the initial waterproofing done by the builders and then we covered the whole area with fibre cement sheets. We sealed the joints of all the sheets and then laid a layer of plastic ,” says JP du Plessis of Marina Landscaping. In case any problems do arise, beds were constructed using a modular planting system. “Modules can be easily removed and then replaced with no major impact on the landscaping,” says Alistair. For the modules, Alistair came up with the idea of planting in milk crates. “They’re compact, light, have plenty of holes for drainage – and they’re cheap.” Each was given a stone chip drainage layer, overlaid with LANDSCAPE DESIGN & GARDEN – WINTER 2013

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Photos by Claire Bunkell

A roof-top oasis

bidim cloth and then filled with lightweight soil developed by Master Organics. The crated “beds” are edged with planks of stone pine and served by a sprinkler system that links to the Century City irrigation infrastructure, which uses treated effluent water from the Potsdam Waste Water Works. The irrigation is controlled by Aurecon’s state-of-the-art building management system and uses wind and rain sensors to ensure minimal wastage. Rain and irrigation water is also harvested from the roof and used to flush the building’s toilets. For the planting, Alistair went for a meadow-like effect using indigenous succulents interspersed with seasonal bulbs such as watsonia. “The succulents are hardy and, other than the aloes, which will provide height and focal points, they won’t grow high enough to detract from the views.” • Planning Partners, 021 418 0510 • Marina Landscaping, 021 987 7668 11


Integrated approach

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Garage disguise

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hile we generally think of roof gardens as being on top of a building, the Green roof at BP Southern Africa’s V&A Waterfront headquarters sits more or less at ground level. Designed by Johan van Papendorp of OvP Associates, the garden disguises the large concrete roof slab of the basement parking garage and provides a recreational amenity for staff. With BP intent on creating an eco-friendly building, a key role for the roof garden was to provide a giant “sponge” to harvest rainwater that could be used for irrigation across the site. “We built a water storage facility in the basement that 12

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would be large enough to provide sufficient irrigation over the dry summer months,” says Johan. “Philip Botha of Cape Waterplant carefully calculated its required capacity based on local rainfall data.” Beds contain a water wise mix of indigenous plants, while deciduous trees alongside the canteen provide summer shade but still allow winter sunlight into the interior. Evergreen trees around the edges of the garage screen the garden from the surrounding roads and provide windbreaks. • OvP Associates, 021 462 1262

Photos supplied

• Megan Anderson Landscape Architects, 021 671 3987 • Cape Contours, 021 788 1202

An artist’s impression of the new Hout Bay Gateway to Chapman’s Peak shows the planted roof that will help the building blend into the mountainside.

Photos supplied

andscaping has always played an important role in breaking up the visual mass of development – and the same can be said for roof-top planting. It’s certainly the motivation behind the green roof that’s been added to the Hout Bay Gateway to Chapman’s Peak Drive. “The idea is for the planting to tumble down the walls, soften the stone and help the building blend into its environment,” explains landscape architect Megan Anderson. “We’re creating a green fringe around the building,” adds architect Darryl Pryce-Lewis of OvP Associates. “Because you’re not looking at the roof from above, we’ve only planted around the edges with the intention of keeping it low and having it spill over.” To ensure the building integrates with the surrounding mountain slopes, a very limited selection of endemic plants was used. “Before building began, there was a full search and rescue operation,” explains Grant Smith of landscapers Cape Contours. “We saved whatever plants we could, took cuttings from what we couldn’t and collected a variety of seeds. These have all been propagated for re-use in the landscaping.” Adds Megan: “It ensures genetic material is specific to the area.” Planters were built on the roof surface and lined with a waterproofing membrane. They’re filled with a drainage layer and a special soil mix that contains slow-release fertilisers and a medium that increases the soil’s waterholding capacity. Irrigation is via a drip system that uses grey water from the building. “Apart from getting the soil onto the roof, the main challenge has been to ensure the planting looks as natural and wild as possible,” says Grant. “But from the initial selection of plants to the final soil mix, everything has been done with such care and attention to detail that, when the site is fully planted, it should be a great asset to the road.”

The garden on the roof of the BP building’s underground parking garage at the V&A Waterfront provides a recreational amenity for staff. Ficus trees shield the site from the road while Chinese elms provide summer shade on the deck outside the canteen. LANDSCAPE DESIGN & GARDEN – WINTER 2013


URBAN DESIGN

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Extensive coverage

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hile Aurecon’s mix of hard and soft landscaping is typical of an intensive Green roof, the roof garden at the main Bellville campus of the University of the Western Cape is the perfect local example of an extensive Green roof. It’s part of UWC’s new Life Sciences Building and sits on top of the Learning Centre, a separate structure that houses the faculty’s lecture theatre. “The Green roof helps integrate the building into the surrounding landscape and provides a visual counterpoint to the large rectilinear mass of the main laboratory block,” says landscape architect Penny Moir. “It also improves biodiversity on site and provides thermal insulation to the internal spaces.” The gently sloping roof was covered with a thin, rigid polystyrene layer, topped by a 50mm concrete screed that protects the insulation and waterproofing below. “On top of this we laid drainage layers of coarse rock aggregate, covered in bidim cloth to act as a filter and root barrier, and a thin layer of clean builder’s sand above to improve water filtration. The soil layer was between 200 and 300mm and comprised soil collected on site mixed with compost. Drip irrigation was also installed, although this is intended for use only in very dry periods.” Plants are mainly indigenous succulents – most of them endemic to the Cape. “They’re drought-resistant, they don’t need deep soil, and their matforming habit provides resistance to the Cape’s strong winds, while also binding the topsoil in place,” explains Penny. “The diverse variety in species also produces a wide range of colour throughout the seasons.” • OvP Associates, 021 462 1262

LANDSCAPE DESIGN & GARDEN – WINTER 2013

Photos supplied

This page: The mass of colourful succulents on the roof of the UWC Life Sciences Learning Centre provides heat and sound insulation to the lecture theatre below – as well as a pleasing view to students in the adjacent six-storey laboratory building. Right: The roof garden during construction. 13


MATERIALS

STATE OF PLAY

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The idea of “natural playgrounds” is the new approach to children’s play areas. Kate Morris looks at some of the most interesting spaces and their creators. Pictures by Claire Bunkell.

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ike most little boys, my son is curious and eager to discover his world. Sometimes I watch him at play and he always surprises me. While Jack has a jungle gym and wide-rimmed, springy trampoline at his disposal in our garden, he’s often happiest if he’s damming up water next to the garden tap, building elaborate castles with sticks and stones or playing hide and seek in our boundary hedge, a hodgepodge of overgrown bushes and plants which have long escaped any kind of taming. As children, we used to climb trees, roll down hills or verdant lawns, hide in the long grass, make mud pies, and like my five-yearold son, dam up water. Occasionally we’d visit a municipal park to slide, swing and whirl about too, but according to new ideas on the subject, they could have been better. Today, landscapers and playground designers around the world are taking public and private play spaces to a new level by creating what they call natural playgrounds – essentially, equipment-free and environmentally sensitive open-air areas aimed at encouraging what they call “natural play”. One of the leaders in this field, America’s The Natural Playgrounds Company believes “young people must be able to play in a setting that helps them to understand the beauty and complexity of nature, a lesson they’ll never get out of 14

woodchips and equipment”. While most South African playgrounds have some kind of equipment, increasingly they are becoming more interesting and more organic. One of Cape Town’s most successful projects – Green Point Park – certainly promotes the philosophy that there is much more to a children’s playground than a trio of swings and a wobbly round-about. Johan van Papendorp, whose company OvP Associates designed the popular urban park, believes play is a serious business and buys into the natural playground philosophy. “Play aids a child’s physical, social and mental development and the objects you provide for them to do that in a play park need to buy into that,” he says. “It is important for children to connect with their natural environment, especially between the ages of 6 and 8 when they learn the basic skills of being human.” Green Point Park has two formal play areas – one for toddlers and another more adventurous area for children aged six to 16. But the entire park offers an exciting play experience. It’s in the way stepping stones are positioned, the wild animal paw prints in cement, the biodiversity garden designed by botanist and Landscape Design & Garden columnist Marijke Honig, the perfectly circular and central common, the many ponds and waterways that provide ample opportunity for water play and the

From top: The progressive adventure play area at Green Point Park incorporates durable, fun equipment chosen to enable inclusive play by children of different physical capabilities; Water play features in the East Garden at Vergelegen Estate in Somerset West where a shallow “river bed” complete with a pebbled path provides hours of natural play opportunities. LANDSCAPE DESIGN & GARDEN – WINTER 2013


amphitheatre, where children can let their imaginations run wild. The setting and design of innovative playgrounds are more important than the individual play elements, believes Cape Town landscape architect Adam van Nieuwenhuizen of Earthworks Landscape Architects. Adam, who has created notable play areas in Port Elizabeth (King’s Beach Park) and in Cape Town (at Masiphumelele, Elsies River, Goodwood, Belhar, Delft, Kasselsvlei and Scottsdene) says, “It’s all about stimulating three-dimensional play along storylines that are created by the children themselves … we focus on creating the stage for play to take place in an environment that encourages free play and movement.” The creative use of low walls to link individual elements and play areas within a play park is key to his philosophy. “Large tree logs left on the ground are also winners.” At Green Point Park, and at the East Garden at Vergelegen Estate in Somerset West (another OvP project), sandbags have been used to create low, wide walls for children to climb on, over and through, and to walk and run on. Adam and Johan both believe innovative playgrounds need to be sustainable. At Green Point Park the stonework and the soil used to create mounds and shapes comes from the site excavation of the adjacent Green Point stadium. Water for irrigation and the numerous waterways comes from Table Mountain and all the timber is local. While Johan has incorporated some imported equipment amongst the local items at Green Point Park and Vergelegen, Adam prefers to develop or use local products made with local materials by local artists. “Any safe play environment has a massive impact on the physical, emotional and mental development of a child,” Adam notes. “Therefore, the more free and three-dimensional a play area is, the better for their social and creative development.” To prove his point he offers this example: compare the experience of children queuing to slide down the same slide to those sliding together down a multiple slide which can accommodate from two to eight children sliding next to each other at the same time. You can almost hear them shrieking, dodging, negotiating, running up, sliding down. With every project Adam and his team try to design the playground as a single entity with individual parts. “Each site is unique,” he explains, “and we try to find the narrative > LANDSCAPE DESIGN & GARDEN – WINTER 2013

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From top: Two wooden tree houses at Vergelegen, designed by Johan Theron, are joined by a rope bridge while low sand-bag walls allow children to test their physical limits while having fun; At Green Point Park the tree house has a climbing net and wide multiple slide which can be used by children according to their abilities; The design of the play area at Vergelegen’s East Garden, next to the Stables restaurant, where contours, shapes and colours create a sensory play experience for children.

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Photo supplied

MATERIALS

Above: A crocodile swing and a group of giraffes to play on at the Kings Beach Park, Port Elizabeth. Earthworks Landscape Architects worked to develop alternative play equipment to encourage creative, sociable play. The crocodile swing was made by Natural Architecture in Cape Town, the giraffes by Kidbuddy in Knysna. Left: Wooden animals at Vergelegen create opportunity for fantasy and adventure for children. Right: The play area with its bright red slide and swings with bucket seats, which are suitable for physically challenged children.

in the site to inspire the design”. This kind of instinctive play environment should involve exploration and creativity, physical challenge and problem-solving, says London landscape designer Jerry Cooper. His definition of good play combines exploration, climbing, jumping, running about, sitting and chatting, and fantasy. In an article in Garden Design Journal he says it’s been shown that these activities develop flexible, creative thinking processes and problem-solving skills through inspiration and challenge. In his playgrounds he therefore includes timber runs, bridges, rocks, ropes, fallen trees, sand and mounds to create an environment where children can impose their own fantasies, test their limits, and play in a way that is their invention and not one he has imposed on them. You can see this philosophy in Green Point Park, where Johan and his team have created variety and continuity using different materials and challenges so that children don’t become bored. “Each piece of equipment has a different challenge. It was also important for us to accommodate children with limited physical abilities so many of the swings and the slides are perfect for physically challenged children.” The swings have been designed with safety in mind, especially for children with special needs. And several pieces of equipment, such as the turning disc and the basket swing, require children to co-operate with each other if they’re to get the maximum benefit. “Each piece of equipment has LANDSCAPE DESIGN & GARDEN – WINTER 2013

a different challenge which adds to the variety,” Johan says. “They learn to take turns, co-operate and work as a team.” Many of these elements are at work at the playground in the new East Garden at Vergelegen Estate. “A lot of thought has gone into this,” says chief horticulturalist Richard Arm. “It’s not your traditional South African play area – contours, shapes and colours have been used to create a sensory discovery experience for children.” Snaking through the play area with its expansive wooden jungle gym is a shallow “river bed” with perfectly positioned pebbles and stones, perfect for hopping and jumping. “Water play was an important prerequisite for us,” Richard explains. “On a cold day we can switch the circulating water off, and it is also emptied and refilled every week.” Wooden farm animal sculptures, created with a chain saw by Somerset West arborist Wayne Kitney, provide a delightful diversion for children and adults alike and an imported basket swing is an added attraction. White stinkwood trees border the play area, which will provide much-needed dappled shade and allow sunlight to warm the area in winter. Most of the planting is indigenous and waterwise. Recent research into how children play has revealed that children enjoy and actually prefer playing in an environment that improves their emotional, physical and cognitive development. As Richard notes, “We should never lose our sense of discovery and our urge to explore.” And these new innovative playgrounds certainly encourage that. 17


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A happy CLASSIC

An original Bovlei Valley farmstead garden gets a thoughtful 21st century makeover. John Richardson spoke to both the owners and the landscaper about their vision. Pictures by Claire Bunkell.

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e have lived here for thirty years”, says Nicolette Slabber of her 1900, Cape Dutch style house called “Al te bly” (“always happy”) on the outskirts of Wellington. “And although we’ve developed the gardens ourselves over the past 25 years, we wanted to work with a landscaper for the major change to the front. We wanted the element of water and lots of indigenous plants but above all we really wanted the structure that a professional design could bring.” So, in 2010, Nicolette and her husband, Arnold, appointed landscape designer Danie Steenkamp, of DDS Projects, to design and implement the one-hectare garden on the south side of their three-hectare smallholding. “I am quite influenced by the strong and simple vernacular of the typical Cape farmstead as well as the idea of re-using materials that are already on site,” says Danie, “so I was very happy to do something quite formal and indigenous, whilst still allowing space for fruit, vegetables and composting.” The structure was created by using strong, long axes which effectively divided the garden into three smaller and functionally distinctive spaces – or “garden rooms”, 18

as Danie describes them. “The primary room,” says Danie, “is directly in front of the house veranda and is designed to complement and add to the beauty of the house. The big pond reflects the beautiful façade and provides a calm space from where the garden and significant views can be appreciated.” Here, he terraced the gently sloping ground by introducing a small level change, as well as raising both the pond wall and adjacent planting beds by about 400mm. This effectively brings the water and plants closer to eye level and accentuates the lines of the design. In the centre of the pond a marble tray gently overflows, lending movement and soothing sound to the space. The planting in this area varies between the formally clipped salt bush (Rhagoda histata) on the lower terrace, to the more relaxed and diverse spread of flowering shrubs and trees in the raised beds. Here one finds a range of planting including: the fever tree (Acacia xanthophloea), white stinkwood trees (Celtis africana), plectranthus (Plectranthus ciliatus), large wild iris (Dietes grandiflora), bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae), sedges (Juncus krausii) and wild dagga (Leonotis leonurus) and many others. All of which provide the ample perch necessary for an avian flash-mob that happens every evening, as a great number of birds arrive at the same

From top: Still waters reflect the main façade of the 1900 farmhouse; Two months of work transformed the garden; Timber arbours with roses and replanted guava trees bordered by sour figs create rhythm and definition in the orchard. LANDSCAPE DESIGN & GARDEN – WINTER 2013


GARDEN

time to bathe and drink in the previously tranquil water of the pond, before roosting for the evening. Even with the terracing, the lower boundary wall of the property still collects significant amounts of surface water (due to a clay layer). Here generous planting of water-loving restios, Cape honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis), red hot pokers (Kniphofia praecox), arum lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) and others, not only soaks up much of the excess runoff but also provides a corridor of shelter for small mammals to move within. Besides the requirement for structure and water, Nicolette and Arnold wanted a fig orchard and an olive grove. This orchard area came to constitute the second garden “room” in Danie’s design and is demarcated by a loose hedge of wild elder (Nuxia floribunda) and a single row of mature guava trees, which were salvaged from their former random scattering across the site and replanted as a formal divide between the figs and olives. Amusingly, Danie’s confidence regarding the transLANDSCAPE DESIGN & GARDEN – WINTER 2013

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Clockwise from top: A judicious blend of formal and informal planting, results in a garden that is both well-ordered and easily lived in; Looking out from the veranda towards the Limiet Mountains in the distance; A view of the side of the house with artist Marieke PrinslooRowe’s work “Inheems: van hier”.

planting of the old guavas was not shared by some of the local farmers, whose regular chorus of “it’s not going to work...” over the garden wall was stoically endured and boldly ignored by this landscaper. And rightly so, because two years later all the trees are as strong and productive as they were the day before they were moved. And that wall of dissent has long disappeared in the foliage. Also in the orchard are a long timber pergola and row of rustic obelisks, both of which support an assortment of roses. Handpicked by Nicolette herself, these vigorous plants bring vibrant colour and lovely fragrance to this part of the garden. Not least the hybrid climbing rose “Nahema”, which hangs on the pergola at the orchard’s entrance and brings many a visitor to a standstill with its wonderful perfume. The third “room” in Danie’s plan is the semi-formal herb and vegetable garden which is constructed by re-using old railway sleepers that were found on site. Here profusions of basil, artichokes, pomegranate and rosemary provide ready fare for the dinner table, if not just reward for a journey to the

end of the pergola's path. Walking around the garden, as we did on a bright autumn morning, the overriding impression is of a much more established space than anticipated. The integration of this brand new garden with its 113 year-old house is flawless. And although the trees are obviously only a few years old the garden has a distinct sense of place that belies its age. Testimony, I think to the landscaper’s judicious application of time-honoured design principles, as well as Nicolette’s discerning selection of garden ornamentation. Her choice of pots, urns, troughs and sculpture, sourced both near and far, lend not only emphasis and accent to Danie’s design but also add plenty of her personal charm and generous spirit to this wonderful garden. • Designed and installed by: DDS Projects, danie@ddsprojects.co.za • Irrigation by: Emiël Krause • Sculpture: Marieke Prinsloo-Rowe • Urn, marble tray, trough: Private Collections

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Photo by Marijke Honig

PLANT PALETTE

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Coastal GARDENING Creating your own garden at the coast, with fierce winds and searing heat working against you, is a real challenge. Marijke Honig talks you through it.

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he coast is an incredibly tough environment for plants, with sandy soils, harsh light, heat, and strong, salt-laden sea winds. This poses a real challenge when establishing a garden, and it is not uncommon to see trees broken by the wind, plants which have been sand-blasted with foliage-burn or young plants which have been shrivelled by the heat. Coastal conditions vary from extreme coastal (right on the dunes with shifting sands), to more moderate conditions inland, where salt is not an issue. Large parts of the Cape Flats, from Woodstock to Tokai to Khayelitsha, experience such harsh conditions that although they are not right on the sea, the principles of coastal gardening still apply.

give you a clue to the species which are likely to thrive with minimal watering and maintenance. Strandveld occurs mainly in the winter rainfall region, from the West coast to the Cape Peninsula to the Eastern Cape. It is a shrubby vegetation characterised by a mix of succulents and shrubs. The next step is to reflect on your needs: what do you want from your garden? Perhaps you would like shelter somewhere, or to retain a view, or to stop the sand from blowing in. It is always worthwhile drawing a rough sketch of the property, making a note of site conditions and your needs. This kind of logical thinking will help you make better plant choices.

Looking closely at how plants grow in nature will give us valuable clues and tips on how to establish a coastal garden. As you walk inland from the dunes, you can see a gradual succession of plants: first there are grasses and pioneer groundcovers which can cope with salt and shifting sand: then shrubs such as the waxberry and skilpadbessie, blombos along with vygies. Then there may be larger shrubs such as bietou and taaibos, often bound together with climbers, forming a dense thicket. Notice how it is an intermingled mix of shrubs and trees – there is no such thing as a standalone tree! The thicket is often sheared by the wind on the sea-side, and is at least twice as wide as it is high.

The best season to plant is in autumn or winter – this gives plants a chance to establish a good root system before the onset of hot summer conditions. Your first priority is to stabilise and cover the sand using fast-growing pioneer groundcovers such as the sour fig (Carpobrotus edulis) and African daisy (Arctotis sp). Shrubs benefit enormously from small wind barriers, even if only 30 to 40cm high. These can be made using brushwood (e.g. branches of alien invasive plants) pegged into the ground or woven between pole uprights, or shade-cloth. Windbreaks must always be permeable, allowing 20 to 30% of the air to move through. A solid barrier such as a wall will lift the wind, but cause major turbulence and wind eddies on the lee side, which often does more severe damage to plants than a steady wind. In general a wind break will offer width protection for about twice its height – for example a 2m high thicket planting will create a sheltered zone for about 4m on the ground on the lee side.

Lessons from Nature

Planning your coastal garden

The first step is to really understand your site: what is the main wind direction, which part of your property is most exposed? Are there any sheltered areas? And wet/damp places, maybe only in winter? What is the annual rainfall? Look closely at the local vegetation: observe the main wind direction; look for signs of burn on the leaves indicating salty sea air. What is the main veld type in your area? This will 20

Establishing a coastal garden

Soil Preparation and Planting

Coastal soils are often sandy and nutrient-poor, so prepare

A view across Cape Point with coastal thicket of blombos (Metalasia muricata) and blinktaaibos (Rhus lucida) in the foreground.

any planted areas with generous amounts of compost. Even a small amount of clay will add minerals and increase the ability of the soil to hold onto nutrients, so for coastal gardens we usually have compost made to order with 5% clay added. A 50 to 100mm layer of compost added to the sand improves soil structure and moisture retention, and it increases microbial life and nutrient availability. Another option which I tried in my sandy Muizenberg garden is to use torn-up cardboard, especially corrugated cardboard, in the bottom of the planting hole, in addition to the usual compost. The cardboard helps to retain moisture and is a source of organics. This method worked well as I only had to water once a week this summer. After planting it is important to mulch plant beds with a thick layer of mulch. I prefer 30-40mm of chipped wood or rough compost as it breaks down and will become the next year’s compost, adding organics and nutrients to the soil. Mulch is without any doubt your best investment in a coastal planting plan: it helps to keep the soil surface cool and retains moisture.

Watering / Irrigation

I find that most irrigated landscapes are overwatered which makes plants grow too quickly. Although this rapid soft growth is rewarding to look at, it shortens the lifespan of plants, especially of fynbos and strandveld species. It is far better to water deeply (imitating a really good rainfall event of 15 to 20mm) and less frequently, which encourages the roots to find moisture in the soil – instead of relying on a 2-3 times/week watering fix! If you have prepared the soil properly with clay-enriched compost, you may need to water new plants every 5 to 8 days, depending on the heat and wind. In general a new garden requires regular watering during the first two summers and only periodically after it is well-established. LANDSCAPE DESIGN & GARDEN – WINTER 2013


Kus gousblom (Arctotis stoechadifolia)

PLANT SELECTION

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Sour fig (Carpobrotus deliciosus)

Baboon grape (Rhoicissus digitata)

Aambeibossie (Chironia baccifera)

Veld cineraria (Senecio elegans)

• Buy plants from a local coastal grower, so that you know they have been grown under harsh conditions • Buy small, bushy plants – they establish far better than large or leggy plants • Do some careful pruning while plants are in the bag to make them compact: trim foliage which is very soft, trim long floppy branches – these act as a sail in the wind, causing the whole plant to be tugged, damaging the root system • If you have been building and your soil is contaminated with cement, make sure you plant alkaline-tolerant species. This includes all the plants in the planting plan. • In general, the further you are from the sea, or the more protected the site, the greater the variety of plants one can grow, including tough summer rainfall species such as plumbago and Cape honeysuckle.

LANDSCAPE DESIGN & GARDEN – WINTER 2013

Photos by Geoff Nichols

ginoH ekjiraM yb otohP

Strandroos (Limonium peregrinum) has pretty pink flowers which become papery and dry and last for months. This is the indigenous version of the exotic sea lavendar (Limonium perezii) which has purple flowers and is quite invasive.

Blinktaaibos (Rhus lucida)

Dune currant (Rhus laevigata fruit)

Plakkie/Pig's ear (Cotyledon orbiculata)

How to create a sheltered zone: A 3m wide and 2m high coastal thicket planting will create a 4m wide sheltered area on the lee side.

Plant List for a West Coast Garden A – Kus gousblom (Arctotis stoechadifolia) B – Kandelaar (Brunsvigia orientalis) C – Aambeibossie (Chironia baccifera) D – Plakkie/Pig’s ear (Cotyledon orbiculata) E – Kapkoppie (Eriocephalus racemosus) F – Dune crossberry (Rhus crenata) G – Dune currant/Blinktaaibos (Rhus laevigata or Rhus lucida) H – Grys bietou (Chrysanthemoides incana) J – Helder kruipvygie (Jordaaniella dubia) K – Baboon grape (Rhoicissus digitata) L – Strandroos (Limonium perigrinum) M – Waxberry (Myrica cordifolia) N – Skilpadbossie (Nylandtia spinosa) O – Veld cineraria (Senecio elegans) R – Bosvygie (Ruschia macowanii) S – Rooi salie (Salvia lanceolata) T – Duineriet (Thamnochortus spicigerus) U - Helder sandvygie (Lampranthus multiradiatus) V – Kuskruipvygie (Disphyma crassifolium) W – Sour fig (Carpobrotus sp) X – Buffalo Grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) 21


PARK LIFE

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Wetlands

Photo by Claire Bunkell

Photos supplied

Many of the wetlands in the greater Cape Town are being lost due to environmental degradation, but some have been restored and turned into cultural and environmental assets, writes Andrea Vinassa.

Clockwise from top: Intaka Island, an unexpected sanctuary in the city confines; Lake Michelle – jetties were constructed to allow residents access to the main lake; Boardwalks through the rehabilitated wetland at Millennia Park in Stellenbosch; Princess Vlei – at the centre of a controversy as to its future; A view of the Khayelitsha Wetland Park, a work still in progress.


Photos supplied

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he greater Cape Town area is home to roughly 4 000 natural or semi-natural wetlands – and a further 3 500 artificial wetlands which include dams, treatment ponds and storm water ponds. So says freshwater ecologist Kate Snaddon, of the The Freshwater Consulting Group. But a significant proportion of these wetlands have been lost and/or degraded through the draining and diversion of water for agricultural reasons, urban development, or invasion by alien plants. Nevertheless, there are some noteworthy success stories, where wetlands have been beautifully reclaimed and restored.

Lake Michelle, Noordhoek

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ake Michelle is a residential estate built around a lake in the Noordhoek Valley and it takes its name from the wetland system it now surrounds. “It was always a wetland, fed by underground water. The water table is quite high in this area and this seeps through reedbeds until it exits at the beach,” says landscape architect Tanya de Villiers of CNdV africa. The area was in the past mined for sand and used as a dump site, with much of the land covered in alien species. It has been transformed into a residential estate replete with extended reed bed habitat for water birds, 300 000 specially propagated indigenous plants and a healthy wetland system. The 30-hectare saline lake offered an opportunity for a unique water-based development, says De Villiers. LANDSCAPE DESIGN & GARDEN – WINTER 2013

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“The finished project shows that careful analysis and a holistic design approach can result in a development where environmental benefits also make business sense.” The most important aspect of the project was to restore the environmentally sensitive lake environment. “Seven hectares of reed beds and additional ponds were designed as part of the landscape. These now serve to circulate and aerate storm water as well as the lake water,” she explains. One of the most profound impacts of Lake Michelle is on water quality in Noordhoek. The quality of water leaving the lake is now of far higher quality than the water entering it. “Storm water run-off from roads is led into reed bed channels running along the length of the roads in order to help clean the water before it enters the lake,” says De Villiers. Although the site was previously covered in invasive alien species, some of the moist areas contained plants that were identified for rescue prior to earth-moving. An astounding 50 000 plants were rescued and 2 000 new trees were introduced. The landscape design incorporates a variety of bird habitats – the densely reeded lake edges, shallow sandy areas along the shore for wading birds and several islands. Numerous bird varieties have already been attracted to the site since the project has been completed. Sandy beaches provide shallow water for play and double as habitat for wading birds. Islands provide sanctuary for a number of indigenous water fowl. • Kate Snaddon – Freshwater Consulting Group: 072 232 7709 • Tanya de Villiers – CNdV africa: 021 424 5022

Clockwise from top left: Jetties allow residents to access the lake for non-motorised water sports; Boardwalks allow access across wet areas without disturbing water flows; Ficinia scirpus and Cyperus papyrus are planted between rocks to protect pond edges from wave action; Water is circulated to increase aeration through all the ponds.

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Photos supplied

Intaka Island, Century City

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nother highly successful wetland project is Intaka Island, which environmental manager Alan Liebenberg describes as “the natural heart and soul of Century City”. Originally known as the “sewe pannetjies” or “seven pans”, which included a seasonal wetland covered in thick Port Jackson (Acacia saligna) aliens, the area underwent an Environmental Impact Assessment in 1995. “These bodies of water are fairly common in the Cape, and are sustained by a high water table. The EIA identified eight hectares of rare sand-plain fynbos in good condition, which was deemed worthy of preserving,” says Liebenberg, who has been employed for the past eight years by the Century City Property Owners’ Association (CCPOA) to maintain and manage the system. The 16-hectare wetland system, which then became 24

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known as Blouvlei, was reshaped during the initial infrastructural stage of the development, leaving a portion of the wetland in its natural state. The canals are constructed with gabions, rendering them porous and open to the water table, says Liebenberg. Horticulturalist Lynda Muller of Envirowise headed the rehabilitation team on both the natural and constructed wetland. She says, “There was no landscape architect then – just a gardener flying by the seat of her pants – and the engineers, a surveyor and bulldozers.” A real pioneer in the search and rescue of indigenous plants, Muller remembers being confronted by 200 hectares of thick alien bush. Rescuing and preserving the topsoil was key to rehabilitating the fynbos, so instead of digging out the Port Jacksons, she attached a fork to the bulldozers to gently lift out the trees, thereby leaving the 15cm seedbed to produce the most incredible crop of fynbos in years to come. “We even found two water plants that had not been seen in the Cape for 150 years.”

Clockwise from top left: An aerial view of the Century City wetland; A beautiful sunset over a reed bed; Visitors wanting to enjoy the wetland arrive at the multi-functional Environmental Education Centre where they can buy a ticket to do birdwatching, photography, use the trails and take a ferry ride on the Grand Canal; A view of the heronry islands with Plectranthus sp. in the foreground.

Landscaping involved shaping and revegetation of the wetland, collecting and storing plants, taking soil samples and replanting by grouping vegetation types to create different habitats and ecosystems, she explains. Now, Intaka Island not only conserves the sand-plain fynbos and provides a habitat for birds, it also polishes the water which is used in the 7km network of canals. “This is done by pumping the canal water to the head of the wetland and allowing gravity to move the water through the system,” says Liebenberg. The CCPOA has its own nursery, which propagates endemic and local indigenous species. Endemic species (including 24 Red Data Species) are collected within a 5km radius of Intaka Island to ensure the genetic pool stays pure. The sanctuary boasts 125 species of bird and 170 different species of plant. You can get there either by walking across a bridge over the canal, or you can catch the Century City Ferry along the canals from the shopping centre.

• Lynda Muller – Envirowise: 021 975 3150

LANDSCAPE DESIGN & GARDEN – WINTER 2013


Photos by Claire Bunkell

PARK LIFE

Millennia Park, Stellenbosch

W

hen an upgrade to existing office premises came up for Remgro Limited, the company included rehabilitation of the degraded wetland on the property as part of the project, explains landscape architect Penny Moir of OvP Associates. The wetland area had in the past been significantly altered by major excavation activities during the development of roads and land, says Moir. To get the wetland rehabilitation going, input was needed from fresh water ecologists, botanists, civil engineers and geo hydrologists as well as landscape architects. “There was extensive removal of alien vegetation, reshaping of the land, and active planting with endemic and indigenous wetland plant species,” she explains. The Millennia Park site is near the confluence of the Eerste and Plankenbrug Rivers, and the wetland lies between the main building on the property and the Plankenbrug. The wetland area is approximately 6 000m², about one third of the 19 000m² property. “Wetlands act as one of the ‘final lines of defence’ for the slowing down and treatment of storm water run-off from developed sites,” explains Moir. So constructed wetlands can enhance the effectiveness of storm water management. They also increase the diversity of indigenous wetland plants and create a breeding and foraging habitat for aquatic fauna, like LANDSCAPE DESIGN & GARDEN – WINTER 2013

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frogs, and improve the aesthetic appeal of landscapes. All storm water created on the Millennia property goes through a series of filtration systems. A permeable paved parking area, rainwater collection tanks, detention ponds and vegetated trenches all contribute to filtering the runoff. Mature oak and poplar trees still exist around the wetland, as they provide necessary bird habitats and screening. These will be phased out as indigenous trees get established. Measures included removal of alien vegetation, replanting indigenous riparian trees and design of the overflow from wetland to river through reshaped “buffering banks”. Great care went into choosing an indigenous plant list, says OvP colleague Yvette Anderson: “We had a horticulturist on our team and we consulted a botanist on site.” The wetland is seen as an extension of the property’s gardens and staff are encouraged to explore it during breaks. A boardwalk, seating, circular meandering path, and night lighting all mean the wetland can be used and enjoyed. Owl boxes, bird feeders, tree logs and perches have been strategically placed around the wetland to attract birdlife, encouraging staff to help document birds and other wildlife that has slowly returned to the site.

Clockwise from top: View across the wetland during dry summer months; Boardwalk linking back to the building edge with Ficinia species in foreground; One of the bird feeders located at the edge of the wetland; Water feature within detention pond.

• Penny Moir and Yvette Anderson – OvP Associates: 021 462 1262

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PARK LIFE

Khayelitsha Wetlands Park

Photos supplied

I

n the past, the Khayelitsha wetland area was part of the seasonal floodplain of the Kuils River. The township was developed by the apartheid government in 1988, right on top of it. Portions of wetland have been left relatively intact, however, and are being rehabilitated. Because a wetland is a naturally flooded area, it is important to maintain and preserve as it helps to prevent flooding elsewhere. “Wetlands slow down the flow of rivers and soak water into the ground – like a giant sponge,” says Michellé Robertson-Swift of URBANscapes Landscape Architects and Environmental Planners, which has been involved in the planning, design and implementation of The Khayelitsha Wetlands Park since 1996. “What makes the Khayelitsha Park unique is that it is a major pedestrian movement corridor,” she adds. She has an ambitious masterplan, which has been approved by City Parks and includes everything from a conference centre, wedding venue, tourism centre, restaurant, training venue, sports facilities, bird hides, visitor pavilion, viewing decks, ecotourism infrastructure, community gardens and residential accommodation. “To date, a complex process of specialist input, ranging from freshwater ecology

Princess Vlei

P

rincess Vlei near Grassy Park is at the centre of a controversy right now, with developers aiming to build a shopping mall there and the local community up in arms. There’s a proposal to build a double volume shopping mall with a 1 000m² footprint, a car park and a taxi rank. The community says the development will destroy the remnants of Cape Flats sand fynbos, cause irreversible damage to the water systems, and obliterate the view of the vlei for Grassy Park residents. The Princess Vlei Forum has been established to fight the proposals and it has laid a charge of fraud against some directors of the development company. Local community member and conservationist Kelvin Cochrane, who is leading a project to rehabilitate the vlei

to hydrological engineering, has been completed over the years, confirming that the park holds a biodiversity habitat of significant value. But it finds itself with a limited window of opportunity to rescue it.” A lot of infrastructure and hard landscaping, including play equipment, pathways, fencing, and a training and facility management office has been completed, and a lot of large trees have been planted. Since the development of the Makhaza section, a few creches have been built next to the park, and it serves as an informal sports, play and lunch time area. After school and during school holidays hundreds of children use the park. It has also become a popular facility for social events and is the first park after the Company’s Garden in Cape Town to have a facilities manager posted there. The proposed buildings are community facilities, the pavilions providing a gathering space, accommodation for a manager and a lookout point for security. An indication of buy-in from the community comes from Monwabisi Booi, who joined the Khayelitsha development forum as a student in 1996. “I started as a volunteer and met people who were passionate about developing the park,” he says. “Creating a functional park was used as the launchpad for understanding

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Princess Vlei is at the centre of a tussle between developers and the community.

Above: A panorama shot showing the informal settlement of Silvertown in the distance. According to the long term plan, this could be transformed into high-density housing looking onto the park, Khayelitsha’s own "waterfront" development. Right: Detail from a seater wall at Makhaza entrance gateway, with mosaic work by local artists, depicting endemic flora and fauna.

the importance of the wetland.” He was promoted to environmental convenor at the park, which introduced him to ideas around climate change and renewable energy. Booi’s passion has turned into a career and he is now employed as the manager of strategic integration and co-ordination on the city’s Presidential Urban Renewal Programme. • Michelle Roberston-Swift – URBANScapes: 082 901 5853

called “Dressing The Princess”: “Yes, we have laid a charge of fraud and it has been referred to the Hawks.” The city council is awaiting the outcome of the investigation before making any decisions, local newspapers have reported. Meanwhile, the forum has put forward a proposal entitled “Imagine Princess Vlei” to the World Design Capital 2014 (WDC 2014) implementing company, Cape Town Design NPC. The proposal could heal the wounds of the past, service the city’s most neglected and historically injured communities, nurture life-giving natural systems and take everyone “into a kinder, more responsive and visionary future”, says Bridgett Pitt, environmentalist and media liaison manager for the Princess Vlei Forum. • Kelvin Cochrane – Princess Vlei Forum: 072 510 8066


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Landscape Design and Garden - Winter 2013  

We bring you interviews with top landscape designers who choose their favourite spaces (two domestic and two public) and tell us why they're...

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