I’ve been driving past this little garden for a number of years, always admiring the ‘curb appeal’ that it has, but little did I know what lies behind the verge garden. Denise introduced me to the owners, Magda and Sybrandt du Preez, who used to farm in the Ermelo district, Mpumalanga. They retired to Knysna a number of years ago, first living in Brenton and then relocating to Hunters Village. Magda is a plant fanatic, a floral artist, and a collector of unusual plants. She loves cultivating plants from cuttings and dabbles in painting watercolours, also not forgetting being a provincial bowler! During their farming days she had a beautiful garden, perfectly designed to cope with the very cold winters. She had plenty of water to use and living on the farm had access to compost, manure and labour. On moving to Knysna she had to re-invent her gardening skills by using plants that are suited to different climatic conditions.
During the many years I’ve been judging gardens or sourcing beautiful gardens for open garden events, have I seldom come across such an inspirational and delightful little garden. The garden space is minute, as the house takes up most of the small plot. Living in a retirement village Magda wanted to create a space where they could have some privacy. The house was designed in such a way that the living areas look out on a small courtyard, and in this courtyard a wonderland of tropical splendour unfolds.
One is first greeted by the subtle fragrance of the many orchids that adorn the space, then you become aware of the unusual plant material and ‘props’ that were used, all coming together to create this artistic tableau. There are bromeliads, perennial begonias, anthuriums, ferns, all growing together in perfect harmony.
Every centimetre of the plot is cultivated: Magda even gardens on her neighbours border (with her consent, of course). The alleyway between the two properties is filled with shade loving plants, leading to the back of the property where vegetables grow in troughs.
The verge planting comprises a splendid collection of succulents. Magda replants this area every six years, changing the combinations to allow for the background plants growing bigger each year. She is also a bonsai enthusiast, two thirty year old Acacia specimens taking proud position near the entrance. A treasured Syzygium paniculatum bonsai has been ‘released’ from the confines of its container and now grows happily near the driveway where it forms a perfect focal point.
A truly remarkable little garden, well done Magda.
Contributor: Esther Townsend
Photographs: Esther Townsend