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Compact JHB garden

Text Sarah Buitendach Production Mariette Theron Photographs David Ross The verdant utopia of the garden at Garden House would be any entertainer’s dream, but it is host par-excellence and interior-design guru Stephen Falcke’s reality. Tucked into a 1 000m2 stand nestled in Parktown North, it’s a surprising sanctuary of lush hedges, water features and exotic fuchsias – one that would not look out of place in a Parisian pied-à-terre. Unpretentious, but perfectly preened and structured, it is a welcoming spot for quiet contemplation as much as it’s a setting for fun and mingling. ‘People thought I was crazy for wanting to create a house with no bedrooms, and one large room and garden for entertaining, yet it has been a tremendous success,’ says Stephen. A long-time resident of Killarney’s stately Whitehall Mansions, he’s been using Garden House to relax in and spend time with friends for 14 years now. The outdoor space initially had a traditional English bent and was filled with roses, but over time, and because it’s a particularly shady place, these have been replaced with better-suited gardenias, ivy and the common box. Arum lilies, fuchias, hydrangeas and helleborus are dotted between a controlled composition of clipped hedges and topiaries, and rolling carpets of star jasmine. Here rosemary, fennel and lemon verbena grow between shrubs, and violets sprout between the brickwork. From the property’s front gates there are views through the house to the garden and pool beyond, making the space seem much larger than it actually is, and creating the sense that the outdoor area is another ‘room’ to entertain in. The black reflective pool forms another illusion of extra space. In fact, as Stephen notes, ‘My part of this sub-divided plot is smaller than its neighbour, but it looks much bigger thanks to its design.’ The house has been painted a green-black to merge seamlessly with its surrounds – creating the feeling of extra space and allowing the foliage to come to life in a vivid array of geometrically shaped emerald, chartreuse and moss forms. As Stephen says, ‘I was fortunate enough to work with David Hicks in London and was influenced by his design aesthetic. When it comes to garden design, as with interiors, I believe in simple formality and structure. Get the bones and architecture right and then soften.’ Manicured box hedges create structure in the garden, and Stephen has introduced a variety of vessels throughout the property for focus and geometry. Five lead fountains have been placed at various points because, as Stephen explains, ‘there is a real sense of peace in this place and I think the use of water adds to this’. The central water feature was bought from Trade Roots years ago and is filled with water lilies. A plethora of Asian and French Provençal pots dots this bright green wonderland – the former lending an Eastern aesthetic to an otherwise traditional, Western design scheme. ‘In the early days, my friend Greta Abrahamson gave me Robinia hispida trees as a gift and they’ve worked beautifully in the space,‘ says Stephen. In summer these trees are lush and full, and in winter their skeleton-like branches give an entirely new look. Helleborus also comes to the fore in colder months when this miniature patch becomes a Highveld oasis of a different, no less magical kind. Stephen Falcke Interiors, 011-327-5368 Stephen's Tips For Small-Space Gardening

  • Form focal points – be it with eye-catching plants, pots and water features, or as in Garden House’s case, a farm-style weather vane on the roof.
  • Group one species of plant together for impact.
  • Create contrasts. As with interiors, mix soft and hard elements together, and juxtapose clashing, brightly coloured flowers for a bold effect. Shape topiaries into balls and doughnuts for visual interest.
  • Dramatic, well-thought-out lighting creates the perfect venue for evening entertaining.
  • Painting a pool in a darker colour looks fantastic, and the pool reflects its surroundings like a mirror.
  • Potted topiaries create extra dimensions and interest in a tiny space. Ideal plants for this purpose are the common box (Buxus sempervirens), small-leafed privet (Ligustrum), myrtle (Myrtus communis) and coffee jasmine (Murraya exotica).
This article was originally featured in the March 2009 House and Leisure.