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Garden, Gardens

fynbos rocks: a gallery tour of artist nola muller's indigenous cape garden

A zen garden, art studio and humanoid sculptural forms made from plant roots await at Nola Muller Viotti’s Noordhoek home

Toby Murphy

Zen garden, an art studio and a miniature French poodle that barrels into your arms like an acrobat make up the welcoming party as you step into the courtyard of Nola Muller Viotti’s Noordhoek home in Cape Town. Humanoid sculptural forms made from plant roots hint at what awaits in the front garden, on the other side of the house. ‘I suppose I’m not your average gardener,’ says Nola.

Lean and tanned with sea-blue eyes, Nola is a single-fin longboard surfer, a keen snow-skier, a cyclist and a mountaineer. As a painter, she’s had 23 solo exhibitions of works focusing on Africa and nature. She and her husband Gianni established the art-framing business In-Fin-Art and have savoured a 35-year partnership of ‘doing things together’, from adventuring to making gardens. ‘I’d plant; he’d tidy and pick up after me,’ says Nola with a laugh. 

When they moved into their spec-built house 12 years ago, the garden on the former farmland was ‘a blank canvas’; bare earth with a clay area on one side. Summer being no time to plant, Nola first laid out a network of paths following the natural contours of the plot. Gradually plants were introduced, starting with ground cover she ‘skelmed’ from their previous Hout Bay garden (known as ‘Little Kirstenbosch’ by the locals). And on the lower boundary, she planted a stand of wild olives.

Today, the deck of the open-plan house overlooks a glorious indigenous garden featuring a sunny sloping bank of aloes, leucospermum and ground cover, with a view of Long Beach in the distance and Chapman’s Peak to the right.

Tour Nola's indigenous garden; a celebration of natural gifts that just keeps on giving.