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A whimsical garden in Johannesburg where purple reigns supreme

Pleached fruit trees, clipped hedges and gravelled pathways are within a planting palette abundant with fragrance and old fashioned blooms in shades of purple, blue and white

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By Heidi Bertish  | June 13, 2022 | Gardens

Tucked away in a leafy Joburg suburb is a small jewel of a garden meticulously laid out and informed by its owner’s affinity with formal design.


Water in a garden reflects light and ripples in a breeze and introduces gentle splashing that muffles sound beyond its boundaries. Here, water is an elevated focal point drawing the eye to every aspect of the space. ‘My garden is what I would call a physical experience. There is texture and colour for the eye, and the soothing sound of gently running water disguises the sounds of the hustle and bustle of the city. The delicious scent of jasmine permeates one’s senses.’


The owners love being among the planting in their garden, its sense of immediacy. Here, an antique putto is a whimsical feature among white Foxgloves and climbing purple Clematis. The garden is close to the house to maximise the small space. As a result, it feels like another room in the home whose windows overlook it – from the bedroom’s on the first floor, the raised water feature, sculpture and heady mix of planting create an extraordinary floral carpet to gaze at from above.


The passage through the garden gate feels like a portal to a different dimension. Pathways and a formal grid allow the exuberant plant palette to sing. The Japanese have a garden concept they call miegakure (meaning hide and reveal) an idea achieved by allowing the garden to be revealed gradually rather than consumed in one go. Clipped hornbeams, essentially living screens, and low-growing hedges of Buxus microphylla ‘Faulkner’ divide the garden inton intimate ‘rooms’, creating areas to explore and the illusion of a much larger outdoor space.

Photograph: Elsa Young


Some years ago, after repeated hail damage to her roses, the owner decided to adjust her palette to purple, blue and white and to limit her choice of plants. ‘I am not prepared to fight against the elements and I find too much colour distracting to look at.’ October is when white Foxgloves and velvety purple Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ are at their zenith along with the pleached white-flowering Starking Delicious apple trees, with Agapanthus and Star Jasmine continuing into summer. Even in winter, the clipped Buxus microphylla ‘Faulkner’ in Anduze pots hold their form throughout and look sensational covered in a light dusting of frost.

Photograph: Elsa Young


The property is backed by a raised wisteria-covered pergola – a link between two French-style gazebos that bring symmetry to the outer corners of the property – one serving as a pool house to the rectangular pool garden. Deep aubergine Prunus trees and plum-coloured Japanese maples coupled with purple Clematis create depth and intrigue – heightened in a palette as tightly curated as this one.

Boundary walls are covered in flowering climbers and painted the colour of shadows to allow the perimeter to disappear. Every inch is carefully thought out and designed to transform a small area into a charming and inviting stroll.

Photograph: Elsa Young
Photograph: Elsa Young