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Easy-to-Follow Garden Maintenance Advice From Our Gardens Editor

Reduce the maintenance and water demands of your garden for a dynamic outdoor space

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By House & Garden South Africa | April 6, 2024 | Gardens

Reduce the maintenance and water demands of your garden for an outdoor space that is dynamic, environmentally responsible and unexpectedly beautiful. Gardens editor Heidi Bertish leads us through the basics.

There’s always a price to pay for climate extremity. It bodes worryingly for the upcoming growing season, and water restrictions across the Western Cape are now a sign of the times. Landscape architect Tirzah Webb, with landscaping company Heimo Schulzer Gardens, has created a garden designed around plants that revel in sunshine and drought.

A Pin Oak makes a handsome feature at the far end of the garden. Photography by Heidi Bertish.

The concept for the garden – originally a lawned area surrounded by overgrown shrubs – was phased alongside a renovation to the family home. The owners required a new garden concept that resonated with their busy lifestyle and looked great despite newly implemented restrictions on water usage. The first to go was a water-guzzling fig tree, which allowed a statement to be made of the existing Cork Oak and Pin Oak. These trees were opened up for light and views while retaining screening and privacy from surrounding neighbours. The pool, now connected to the home via an entertainment patio, serves as a link between living space and garden. ‘I love the way the pool extends into the garden now,’ says Tirzah. ‘It adds an extra dimension to the living space and brings the garden into the home beautifully.’ A colour palette of muted greens and softly undulating clipped shapes of Buddleja and Searsia species enhances an effortless transition from indoors to out. A river of electric-pink Lychnis coronaria planted en masse provides an unexpected pop of seasonal colour.

A gravel path flanked by long-flowering electric-pink Lychnis coronaria and spires of Lavender ‘Margaret Roberts’. Photography by Heidi Bertish.

All plants were selected for their ability to stand up to harsh conditions and minimal water requirements. A combination of indigenous and Mediterranean plant species fitted the bill and ‘ticked all the right blocks in the pretty department’, says Tirzah. Drought-tolerant plants tend to share characteristics that help them conserve moisture so they can cope in areas of low rainfall and/or minimal irrigation. The plant palette here is a fine display of species with these adaptations. The leaves of Stachys byzantina(Lamb’s Ear) are covered in fine hairs to help reduce the drying effect of the wind, and the silvery-coloured Nepeta mussinii reflects the sun’s rays to keep the plant cool. Leaves with a small surface area, such as grassy Festuca glauca and Lavender ‘Margaret Roberts’, prevent moisture loss through evaporation. Brimming with nuanced plant combinations and a palette of plants whose delicacy defies their toughness, the garden is a master class in balancing nature and design.

Clipped mounds of Viburnum tinus ‘Compactum’, Searsia crenata and Correa alba are offset by tall spires of Lavender ‘Margaret Roberts’. Photography by Heidi Bertish.

Text originally by our Gardens Editor, Heidi Bertish.