Bryanston rose garden

Text Graham Wood Photographs Connall Oosterbroek When Ingrid and Dale Howes first embarked on the daunting task of upgrading their Bryanston, Joburg, garden, it had been completely neglected. ‘It was a dumping ground for rabbit hutches, washing machines and the skeletons of tennis-ball machines,’ says Ingrid. They removed 11 truckloads of rubbish and brought in a bulldozer to clear the site. ‘Suddenly the garden was a lot bigger,’ she says. ‘Friends thought we’d bought the property next door!’ Apart from a number of well-established trees, Ingrid had a completely blank canvas to work with, and created the garden from scratch. She admits she found the empty space a little intimidating, and called on her friend, Mags Lewis of Mags Lewis Garden Designs, to lend a sympathetic eye and provide some advice. Otherwise, she planned, paced out and planted most of it solo. Ingrid decided to combine formal features with areas of informal planting. She created a structure defined by two circles – a rose garden and a potager – and between them, a deep, curved, informal bed filled with colour. Dale loves water features, so waterfalls and koi ponds feature prominently. More recently, a stream was added, connecting the two sides of the garden over an expanse of lawn, lending it coherence and continuity. The interconnected wetland now includes a natural bio-filter for the water that circulates through the ponds. The ground for the rose garden, particularly, required a great deal of preparation, deep digging and mulching. The rose garden is divided into quarters by pathways bordered by euonymus hedges. She included a mixture of roses and iceberg standards, interspersed with clumps of violas and other colourful flowers. ‘I also planted bulbs among the roses,’ she says. ‘They come up and flower in winter.’ In the informal garden, wild olives and pittosporum mask the wall, and a broken border of lamb’s ear, alyssum and hen-and-chicken runs along the front. Ingrid used low-growing plants to make the most of the depth of the bed, adding variety and height with the slim stems of leopard trees and various shrubs. The palette is mostly blue and white, mixing the blues of Scabiosa africana, potato vines, wild garlic, watsonias, salvia, plectranthus, lupins and statice, with whites such as azaleas, gardenias, Abelia grandiflora, camellias and spiraea. Ingrid has also included splashes of colour. ‘I love watsonias; I put them wherever I can,’ she says. The second circle is a potager with borders of lavender and two varieties of rosemary. A lemon tree has pride of place in the centre and there are a number of bay trees, too. This circle’s segments are packed with vegetables such as peppers, rhubarb, brinjals, tomatoes and spectacular artichokes, with their almost luminous purple flowers. ‘I allow many of the vegetables to go to flower because the bees love them,’ says Ingrid. There is also an abundance of herbs and strawberries scattered in between. The waterfalls, rocky streams and ponds are lined with watercress, water irises, delicious monsters, pickerelweed and grasses such as mondo and zebra. Ingrid created a breakfast area paved with railway sleepers for Sunday-morning breakfasts next to the stream, and pathways wind through the trees alongside. Ingrid sees her garden as a haven of tranquillity. ‘I wanted to create a peaceful environment in a hectic world,’ she says. And it’s not just for herself, and her family and friends. ‘We’ve counted 32 different species of birds in the garden,’ says Ingrid. She lists giant kingfishers, herons and owls among them. ‘The real beauty of the garden is the environment it creates,’ she adds, ‘for us and the birds and insects to enjoy.’ Contact Mags Lewis Garden Designs on 082-808-2128, or email This article was originally featured in the July 2012 issue of House and Leisure.