Bay couple's Eden bears good fruit

THIRTY-two years ago Alta and Tobie Hanekom bought their first and only house in Bradley Road, Summerstrand. Over the years the house developed, became a home as the children were born and expanded to include student accommodation.

One thing that didn't change, however, was the garden which Alta admits "was a bit of a mess".

"It was average, the usual trees and bushes, but nothing special," she recalls.

But then along came the drought and Tobie decided on a radical plan of waterwise action, transforming the somewhat neglected area into a veritable feast of colour and design which rarely, if ever, needs watering.

Lawns were ripped up and replaced with paving and pebble pathways lined with succulents and cacti galore.

At the outset, succulents were sourced from a low-key gardening centre near Versatile in Lorraine, but the plants have spread so much since then that cuttings and seedlings are used in really creative ways throughout the garden.

For instance, old chairs salvaged from the dump had their seats carefully removed. Soil was added and plants potted, the end result being both unusual and an extremely attractive plant holder.

Similarly, an old wheelbarrow was salvaged from the dump, filled with soil and turned into a plant pot with a complete difference.

An old statue, also salvaged from the dump and named Madiba, blends effortlessly into the foliage, while a fig tree in a pot takes pride of place by the pool.

"We learnt about putting it in a pot from people living in colder countries. They would have the tree outside in the summer and bring in inside to protect it from the winter cold," says Alta.

"While we do not need to protect it, we find growing it in a pot contains its growth while still giving us an abundant crop."

Colourful teapots purchased on sale at Vlok Potteries can also be found at strategic spots throughout the garden, filled with soil and topped with yet more succulents.

And every afternoon yet another border which edges the house is transformed into the Hanekom's own Namaqualand when the sun hits the vygies planted in it.

But perhaps the piece de resistance in a garden where interesting nooks and crannies add up to a stunning whole, are the vertical gardens created by Tobie and which adorn the outer walls of the house.

"Tobie did a lot of research before he made the first one as a birthday present for me," says Alta.

Staying true to his recycling theme, Tobie used an old wooden pallet as a base for the garden, filling it with soil and, by and large, using plants sourced in the garden to decorate it.

"The completed pallet was left on the braai for around six weeks until all the plants were secure. Then it was tilted and secured to the wall," says Alta.

Surrounded by so much absolute beauty you would think that it would be impossible to narrow anything down to favourite things but for Alta it's easy.

"I love the wooden arches made by Tobie and our ever-helpful gardener-come- sign-writer come pool-cleaner Richard," she says.

And while Tobie and Richard have certainly created a gardening masterpiece over the last three to four years, they have also created something extremely inspirational for keen gardeners dreading yet another drought.

Gardens, as this one shows, can be truly stunning without relying on water.