Lucy Cooke’s Garden

Talk about the proverbial’’green fingers’ of a true gardener and Lucy springs to mind. Having been brought up on a farm in East Griqualand near Matatiele now in the Eastern Cape, Lucy was raised to garden by her mother who used every resource the earth yielded. They lived from the garden as did many others of that generation. Orchards, vegetable gardens which produced ones daily needs and no chemicals to interfere with nature.

She now resides on a postage stamp sized wonderland on Leisure Island, such a far cry from her beginnings. Lucy has lived in Knysna since 1972 and after numerous moves settled with her partner Mike Mills about 12 years ago in her beautiful cottage. There was only one tree, a Hyperphyllum caffrum and nothing else to speak of. After completely renovating the house she immediately set about using the rubble to raise the front area to create height. Loads of topsoil were brought in to give depth over the rubble to plant a small ‘hillside’ with all sorts of plants. The clever use of huge pots in many areas have given the garden instantaneous ‘age’ to plants with huge leaves such as Ligularia as well as climbers to cover the walls.

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The entrance to the garden is through a lovely gated portico. A Bouganvillea called Ada’s Joy and another creeper draped like lace over a trellis, creates a ‘living wall’’and  immediately one anticipates  the profusion of special flowers and points of interest as you wander along a narrow path underneath an arch covered with Mandevilla and into a beautiful ‘escape’.

The scale of the plants in this garden are so well balanced and the patio which is a special sun trap looks out onto a frothy mass of colour and texture at most times of the year. A terracotta cat which Mike made, lies curled up contentedly next to a pot. Geraniums, begonias, the biggest clivias you have ever seen, heliotrope, wind anemones, fuchias, campanulas and self seeded busy lizzies vie for attention. Lucy loves salvias and advocates planting them as they thrive on the Island. A formal pond with a leopard tree behind and teeming with gold fish lends a tranquil reflection to this special place. The little cherub resting on a ball was a find while traveling in UK and was brought back as ‘hand luggage’!!!!!



lc9A real feature in a sunny spot is a Natalia bougainvillea, roses, salvias and an orange Holmskioldia, such an old fashioned shrub, which thrives in eye catching fashion. I have even seen the cheekiest and brightest orange nasturtium scrambling up to compete in this bed. Steps lead one onto a raised area with a quiet bench placed against a wall under the shade of the neighbours avocado tree. Against the wall are standardized plants such as purple Solanum, a pink hibiscus, an exquisite orange Hamelia  as well as Indian hawthorn, and creepers to cover the wall that lend privacy from the neighbours house.

Flowers-Pam's-and-Lucy's-gardens-053Lucy is truly an ‘old’ gardener, certainly not in age but in knowledge. She looks after a cottage of hers on the Island, her daughter-in-laws garden, and a friends house and garden nearby, as well as the Leisure island coffee shop ,which her daughter, Nadine owns. One can recognize her talent just by visiting her garden and how her love of flowers and plants allows nature to mature and give of its best and benefit from her ‘green fingers’.

Text and Photos: Carol Kennedy