Wendy Dain’s garden on Thesen Islands

wendy-5Wendy and her late husband, John,  moved from a large property in Paradise to Thesen Islands in September 2002.  Their house was the 19th house to be built on Thesen Islands. Loads and loads of compost were brought in to enrich the poor soil of the island: deep holes were dug and lined with paper and cardboard, then filled with compost to which  bone meal was added.  Once satisfied that the soil was ‘right’ planting commenced. Wendy’s love for floral art influenced her ‘first’ plantings as she needed  flowers  and foliage suitable for the for the vase.  Then the drought came, and her plant choice had to change to more robust and hardy plants.

Her  keen eye for colour combinations, different leaf textures, and interesting focal points makes for a delightful garden.  The design is informal, with the small lawn bordered by various shrubs under-planted with a large variety of Bromeliads and succulents. Flagstones create a lovely pathway giving access to the back of the garden. The plant choice is based on water-wise plants, colour in foliage and interest all year round, giving a lush and distinctive tropical atmosphere.

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The garden is home to a multitude of birds and  12 Dwarf Knysna chameleons (at the last count),  each male fiercely protecting his territory.  Wendy tells me that one chameleon became very tame, favouring the house above the plants:  ‘Jacob’ would wonder into the house frequently and make himself at home in front of the TV!  Alas, he disappeared a while ago, most probably a victim of  the Fiscal Shrike that is a frequent visitor.


The garden has matured in the 11 years, and sits comfortably in it’s space.  It is a testament of what can be achieved by planting correctly, and not using any chemical products. Wendy has achieved her goal of creating a low maintenance garden that is colourful, and a heaven for nature’s creatures.


~ Wendy Dain is a member of Gardening at Leisure

~ Photos and Text by Esther Townsend