Waterkloof Village is a French Mediterranean-style estate on a steep plot on Pretoria’s Waterkloof Ridge. Landscape architect Lucas Uys says he found designing the garden here particularly exciting because it was integral to the design of the whole estate. The garden was intended to facilitate a lifestyle, not merely to decorate the grounds, with the result that the estate achieves a wonderful unity of architecture and landscape.
Lucas went to the ancient French city of Cap Ferrat to study the connection between environment (buildings and landscape) and lifestyle. Back home, he set about creating spaces with cohesion and community spirit. He contrasted classical symmetry with deliberate imperfections to create a sense of humanity and the passage of time.
‘Look at the street design,’ he says, pointing out the ways in which the in-between spaces such as private driveways and courtyards meet with the streets and squares and blur the distinction between public and private.
‘The way these areas act as an interface creates a unique ambience,’ he says. He gestures towards the irregular arrangement of the trees. ‘It’s all about unpredictability, which keeps it interesting.’ In Eze, on the Cote d’Azur, he noticed how the plants – the vines and the lavender along the street and in the squares – were connected to life beyond the village. ‘We tried to hint at that with the vines that you can see on certain street corners, which are echoes of the vineyards on the hillside beyond,’ says Lucas. Spear-shaped marsh cypresses and junipers – some of them trimmed into topiaries – add formality and definition to the scene. Box hedges and neatly clipped borders of star jasmine line the streets. In some places the usually neat plumbago, lavender and jasmine is allowed to run wild and spill over balconies, down stairways and along balustrades. Boston Ivy engulfs entire walls and wisteria drips from French Pergola-style carports. Banks of iceberg roses enliven the meandering streets and paths, all creating a sense of romance and ease – also inviting elements of the hillside into the streets.
‘Throughout the village there are interludes and discoveries,’ says Lucas, as vistas open around corners, at the tops of stairways or behind houses. He also took note of the way art and street furniture in Cap Ferrat created opportunities for people to engage with the outdoor spaces. Among the steep, curving avenues of plane and oak trees at Waterkloof Village he placed artworks by, among others, Anton Smit. ‘Even the cypresses look like statues,’ he adds. But the garden goes beyond the village streets. ‘It extends from formal courtyards to informal yards and out to the landscape beyond,’ he says.
Groundcover roses, lavender, grapevines and plumbago tumble down the hillsides to a path along the water’s edge, anchored by marsh cypresses and flowering cherry trees. The dam, which supplies water to the adjacent Pretoria Country Club, has been blended into the landscape design to become one of its most remarkable features. Lucas decided to preserve its 100-year-old blue gums, despite the fact that they are exotics. ‘Some of the old trees have a kind of heritage status,’ he says. ‘I prefer to phase them out so that one doesn’t lose the spirit of the site.’
Water lilies grow in abundance in the shady pools nearby, with bulbines and Cape restios lining the water’s edge. Dietes and wild roses flourish along the banks, too, while on the open grassy hillsides, typically Mediterranean trees such as olives, figs and vines are liberally mixed with white stinkwood, more junipers and flowering cherries. Here, too, plumbago flourishes. ‘Although we created what is essentially a Mediterranean landscape, it also has an indigenous expression,’ says Lucas. Stepping back, he reflects that what he most appreciates about this garden is its simplicity.
‘It’s like an oasis,’ he says. ‘It’s not overpowering. In fact, the primitiveness of certain sections is what makes it relaxing.’
Uys & White Landscape Architects, 032-947-2401, firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was originally published in the June 2011 issue of House and Leisure.