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Flower power

Text Tess Paterson Photographs Connall Oosterbroek When owners Nick and Eva bought this rambling acre-sized property in Waverley, Johannesburg, in 1994, it was the garden that they fell for. ‘There were masses of overgrown trees and rolling lawns with a few beds on the periphery,’ says Eva. ‘Our daughters were little and we’d have parties for 40 children with ease – they would simply disappear into the greenery.’ The garden remained untouched for 11 years and, after a subdivision and extensive renovation of their home, the couple decided the time had come for a makeover. ‘After a marathon, year-long building session and all the sand, cement and rubble that goes with it, the garden had become sorely neglected and overgrown. What we envisaged was a profusion of colour to offset the existing trees, as well as the sight and sound of water nearby,’ Eva explains. ‘Eva is one of the few ladies I know who loves red in a garden,’ says landscaper Karen Gardelli, who redesigned the layout from scratch. ‘I just loved the chance to work with a vivid, vibrant palette,’ she adds. ‘It’s uplifting and it adds a sense of drama.’ Long before the planting of some 850 roses could begin, however, Karen addressed the abundance of ‘dead wood’ – the straggle of overly dark, unkempt shrubs and trees. ‘There was no plan to the original garden; it was really just a mass of things upon things,’ she explains. ‘We removed 12 date palms and four mulberry trees, and then tackled what I call “lifting the petticoats”. With proper trimming and sculpting you begin to see through and beyond the existing trees. In that way you create glimpses of what lies beyond and it helps lead the eye from one aspect to the next.’ Another challenge was creating a sense of privacy along the lengthy boundary fence. ‘Although there were tall trees between the two stands, there wasn’t sufficient screening,’ says Karen. ‘We built a series of generous three-metre-wide window boxes, which raised the height and shields this area from the neighbouring property.’ Filling the boxes with masses of ‘Amarula Profusion’ roses, Karen created an effective foil to the leafy background of pittosporums and Mackaya bella. Once Karen had the ‘bones’ of the garden in place, she created a variety of garden rooms that link together along a gently meandering route. ‘The pond was perhaps the single biggest improvement, and an important addition as it’s viewed from the veranda and indoor atrium.’ Utterly serene, this rocky enclave is surrounded by ferns, nandina, papyrus and arums, and looks as though it’s been here for years. It has also become Eva and Nick’s sanctuary from their busy careers as medical doctors. ‘On weekend mornings we have breakfast on the veranda, which overlooks the pond,’ says Eva. ‘With the sprinklers on, the sounds of trickling water and all the birdlife, it truly feels like a mini holiday in the centre of Joburg.’ The pond leads in turn to the main rose garden, a circular layering of vermilion, red and fiery orange blooms around a central sundial. Nearby, wrought-iron chairs invite you to slow down and enjoy a moment’s quiet contemplation. ‘The idea was that the pond would create a sense of privacy, yet there are hints of what lies just around the corner – the abundant roses, interesting walkways, and a rich layering of tones and textures,’ adds Karen. ‘I’m expansive by nature and I love to create the fullness of an English country garden, a sort of controlled wild abandon.’ Making the most of the available space, Karen added a vegetable garden, which is well used by this busy family. ‘We love to entertain and it’s a privilege to collect your own produce,’ says Eva. ‘Karen also created a scented rose bed close to the veranda, and that, together with the gardenias and camellias, adds another dimension to the space.’ With this flower-fest reaching its zenith in October, Eva and Nick will be rewarded by a profusion of bold shades. And in the winter months, mass plantings of azaleas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primulas ensure a continued burst of colour. ‘Life’s not black and white,’ says Karen. ‘It’s the brights and the in-betweens that make it interesting.’ For more information contact Karen Gardelli, 082-745-2891. This article was originally featured in the September 2012 issue of House and Leisure.