Garden

new order: a modernist joburg garden

Elsa Young



The courtyard is framed by low buxus hedges, with mass plantings of acanthus behind them on a higher level. Several Pride of India trees add accents of colour.

Tucked away in a leafy complex in Joburg’s Inanda, there’s a pleasing dichotomy to this compact garden. For starters, there’s the low-rise entrance – simple wooden gates set into a slate wall – which is flanked by two vast charcoal planters. It’s the antithesis of the triple-garage arrival often associated with estate living. By contrast, it says, ‘Come on in, the gates are only here to keep the pets inside.’ ‘We wanted to create a sense of welcome,’ says landscaper Gregory Mark. ‘From the driveway,  you head towards the residence via a timber-decked courtyard. The overscaled pots are repeated at the front door, and it’s here that the full indoor-outdoor impact is revealed.’

Designed by architect Joe van Rooyen, the abode has a timeless glass-and-steel simplicity. Timber cladding and a pair of silo-like structures allude to a modern barn aesthetic. ‘The garden had to speak to the architecture,’ says Mark. ‘The abundance of glass allowed for fantastic views from within the house, and it also meant a seamless connection between the interior and exterior spaces. We wanted something serene and orderly, with lots of interest. It’s friendly rather than minimalist, and intentionally leads you from one area to the next.’

Using the entrance hall as a central axis, landscaper Gregory Mark extended a sunken courtyard westwards towards the boundary wall. Here he created a granite-clad reflection pond, in which he planted common rush grass (Juncus effusus) to accompany the waterlilies, which flourish throughout summer and give way to waterblommetjies in the winter months.


Another contradictory aspect is the garden’s age. Planted just a year ago, it has an air of  long-established, cared-for seclusion. ‘It’s always first prize to begin a garden before the building works are complete. Our biggest challenge was to manoeuvre a number of substantially sized trees through the doors,’ says Mark.

While the unevenly sloping ground could have been planted with lawn, Mark had something more enticing in mind. Using the entrance hall as a central axis, he extended a sunken courtyard westwards towards the boundary wall. Punctuated by a rectangular pond, it’s bordered by neat buxus hedging and a series of low packed-slate walls.

Texture abounds, as does a variety of verdant tones. In a nod to what he affectionately calls ‘old-fashioned’ plants, Mark included mass plantings of acanthus, and white and pink Pride of India trees. ‘The only existing tree was a lovely old bottlebrush, which we retained.’ Although green is the dominant palette – glossy pittosporum, star jasmine and carex grasses all make a statement – the garden is not without accents of colour. ‘Photinia shrubs add a bright hit of pink, as does the Pride of India blossom, but we also wanted to ensure year-round interest,’ says Mark. The waterlilies, which flourish throughout summer only to be eclipsed by waterblommetjies in the winter, are a case in point.

Water is a strong focus, too, with the spacious living area opening up to the pond on one side and a sun-dappled pool on the other. As the owners are great art lovers, sculpture plinths were incorporated into the pond and pool. ‘Choosing the ideal sculpture can’t be rushed,’ says Mark. ‘My clients will know when they have found it and I’m looking forward to seeing this extra dimension unfold.’

In line with the house’s modern edge, dark accents serve as a bold counterpoint to all the green in the garden. The boundary walls are painted a deep, almost black tone that mimics dappled shade, and Mark painted a Lutyens bench black, too. ‘There’s a sexiness to black and it marries well with the deep grey of the pots.’ With its juxtaposition of clipped hedges and gnarled stems, clean lines and wayward grasses, this garden truly does entice. A space for contemplation and entertaining, it’s a serene adjunct to this modern home. 

Lily turf (liriope evergreen giant) borders the modern outdoor seating area, providing a strong, regular shape and verdant colour throughout the year.

Creating a sense of welcome, a teak walkway leads towards the entrance of the house. The wooden gates set into the slate wall were also designed by Joe van Rooyen.
White waterlilies bloom in the tranquil garden of a modern Inanda townhouse, which was designed by JVR Architects.