Text Tess Paterson Photographs Christoph Hoffman Stepping into the cool green shadows of this richly layered garden in the Johannesburg suburb of Illovo, you can’t but help think of an oasis. It’s just a block or two from a busy main road, yet the commingling of established trees, banks of shrubs and a gurgling pond obliterates any noise – save for the shriek of a hadeda and an ominous roll of thunder. A dense, verdant green sets the tone, with immaculate lawns and richly varied foliage creating a backdrop for a series of intriguing garden rooms. ‘It wasn’t always like this,’ says owner Brenda Wainwright with mild understatement. ‘What we bought originally was an acre stand with a tennis court and an enormous jacaranda at the far end. The pool area was completely overrun by ivy and sword fern.’ The property was subdivided in the 1990s and the section with the tennis court sold to the neighbours. ‘We were so relieved that they decided to keep the jacaranda, it’s still a wonderful part of the view from our patio,’ she says. A mostly cosmetic renovation followed the subdivision, with the dated cottagepane and tiled-roof house converted into a cleaner, more modern aesthetic. Brenda then consulted friends and landscapers Jeremey Anne Hopkins and Rosemary Kilian. ‘Our idea was to create a garden that was tranquil yet engaging, a mix of vistas and details that would complement the house,’ she explains. As Brenda and her husband, Grant, love to entertain, a master stroke was the extension of the small, cramped patio towards what Brenda calls ‘a dreadful sloped rockery’. Terracing the rockery with a gently curved stone wall created both a textural focal point and a distinct split-level volume. ‘We viewed the existing trees and shrubs as a big plus,’ says Brenda, ‘and I retained all our pre-subdivision plants. Annuals have become expensive for large-scale planting, so it makes sense to add just a few where they’ll have the most impact,’ she says. A ‘Pride of India’ is fortuitously placed just a stone’s throw from the patio, a Prunus forms a backdrop of deep purple, while lime green ferns add an almost sub-tropical flavour to the poolside. ‘The challenge was working with a predominantly shady space, and knowing what to put where,’ adds Brenda, who credits her gardener, Ronnie Ndlovu, for his great experience and ongoing advice. Inspired by her grandmother, a passionate fuchsia grower, Brenda incorporated hordes of these summer bloomers, including ‘Beacon’ and ‘Celia Smedley’. ‘They just love the shade, but colour-wise we’ve managed to create almost year-round interest, from the early summer roses, clematis, which flowers on and off throughout, plus irises, valerian, agapanthus and hydrangeas.’ In the winter months, hellebores, camellias and clivea provide contrast to the still-green surrounds. Thanks to monthly foliar feeding and plenty of Ronnie’s home-made compost, this garden is as much about healthy abundance as it is about beauty. Fragrant plants such as star-jasmine and moon flowers add yet another dimension, and around each secluded corner there’s something new to catch the eye. ‘As much as I appreciate indigenous gardening, it’s not for me,’ says Brenda. ‘I love the relaxed, English-country feel of this garden, and the gentle light, which is magical at any time of the day. It really is a wonderful setting to entertain our family and friends.’ Rosemary Kilian, 011-783-6185 This article originally featured in the March 2014 issue of House and Leisure.