21 October, 2015

Mermaid with A Hat, or mushrooms and brooms with Monty Don

By Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

November 2008 there were open gardens in Franschhoek (23rd to 25th October 2015). One of those lovely Western Cape town's awash in wine estates and tourists. Also beautiful gardens, as we discovered. I have heard of Monty Don. We haven't seen the TV programme, or read the book. But, I did look up his 'Around the World in 80 Gardens'. Any gardener who comes to South Africa goes to Kirstenbosch, an award-winning botanical garden. Fynbos (proteas, ericas, restios and bulbs) with the back of the Table Mountain chain as borrowed scenery.

Mushrooms in Henk Scholtz garden

This one of Monty Don's 80, is the home of garden designer Henk Scholtz (not on the 2015 list). A medium sized town garden, with the most wonderful quirky sense of humour. And handcrafted art works, which give you pause. Why? Are there mushrooms growing out of the very top of that topiaried bush?! (Remember. It is sunny and hot. WHY are there Mushrooms?!) Then we get chatting to another visitor. First thing SHE saw, was the mushrooms. Her husband is a mushroom farmer, in Natal. Who explained that mushroom farming is as hard as dairy farming. So I politely say, I can understand milking cows. But mushrooms? Ah, he explained. First you have to harvest them every day. And then. You have to market them. (Look closely - those mushrooms are limpet shells, on sticks!)

Helichrysum hedge in Franschhoek 2008

Beautiful topiary hedge is Helichrysum. Disparagingly referred to as something the Khoisan used as bedding. It does smell delicious (a mild aromatic curry), like Heidi sleeping on her hay bed of flowers in the Alps. Look how spectacularly, over the top, luscious this is. I could sleep most beautifully on that bed! A burgundy (Echevieria?) succulent planted in a rusty old colander, with the metal table painted in a singing harmonious violet. Two plain white chairs. Some brick paving. And I stand there open mouthed, in wonder, at simple perfection.

Mermaid at Henk Scholtz

Meet the mermaid with the Hat. A discarded shop window model. Dressed in an Ascot - Met - Durban July hat. A tail whose scales are overlapping, quite rusted, tin can lids, with those circular rings making the scales come to life. She's got a long way to 'swim' to the sea from Franschhoek.

Garden brooms otherwise at Henk Scholtz

Features. Focal points. Sculpture. Garden art. South Africans use our restios, with a wooden handle, to make garden brooms. Collect a few. Turn them upside down. Plant a group in the garden, just inside the front gate.

Fan aloe Kumara plicatilis in Henk Scholtz 2008 garden 

In the centre of the spiral within a mosaic square against a singing Majorelle Marrakech Moroccan blue wall, pride of place goes to Kumara plicatilis the fan aloe, the only aloe which occurs in the mediterranean fynbos climate (and in my Karoo Koppie at False Bay). To the side the very simplest cheapest garden gate made magic with beach churned shells.

(Henk Scholtz is Monty Don's choice, mine is Mont Pellier)

Blue and white in circles at La Rive guest house garden.
Open again in 2015.

Blue circles at La Rive in 2008

Topiary at De Villiers Street. Somehow to replicate this combination of (his) green vista with (my) airiness.

Topiary at De Villiers Street in 2008

Klein Champagne. Imagine, your own lake, with a rowing boat!

Imagine! A boat on your lake
Klein Champagne 2008

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  1. I remember seeing this lovely garden a few years ago when '' Around the World in 80 Gardens' was on TV over here.

  2. What a stunning garden, and quite unlike anything we have here.

  3. Lovely to see these gardens through your eyes, thank you. My favourite was the blue circles at La Rive but I also liked the plain white chairs with the gorgeous hedging, simplicity is best!

  4. I remember the Henk Scholtz garden on that series, it was one of the ones that stood out the most for me, I remember being particularly struck by the clever use of shells on the gate. I periodically muse about doing something not dissimilar here, perhaps to disguise the Air Source Heat Pump. The Helichrysum topiary produces a beautifully restful feeling. And who'd have thought that a collection of brooms could look so stylish. If I tried that they would all topple over in the wind and/or go green with mildew!

    1. Cape Town is famous for its Southeaster which is whipping up the towels on the line as we speak!
      Mildew not so much ;~)

  5. all these gardens are so unusual and creative. I saw some of that series on TV, didn't know there was a book. I'll put it on my birthday wishlist. Monty is wonderfully enthusiastic.

  6. Delightful humor with the garden art. I love them all, but especially the hatted mermaid and the fan aloe against that gorgeous blue wall. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Gorgeous! That fan aloe with the spiral around it! And the succulent on that beautiful table! I like the humorous little touches of garden art, too.

  8. Such whimsy but even the more serious moments work wonders. I began to list favorites then realized I enjoyed it all! (Though I do especially appreciate the spiral leading in to the fan aloe. So inspired!)

    1. I prefer this sleek and simple spiral, with stones and statement aloe - to a later version blurred by planting and quirks.

  9. The Sculptures and Garden art are wonderful. The mermaid, tables , aloe...everything is lovely.

  10. I love gardens full of unexpected art. The mermaid is just fabulous. How wonderful to have been able to visit these gardens. :o)

  11. I love the artistic talents of gardeners and those quirky things we find like the mushrooms. I especially love the blue circles and the spiral within a mosaic square. I have my recent Dozen for Diana post up right now.

    1. Thank you, I've added your Rudbeckia to my Melianthus Dozen.

  12. I enjoyed the look into these different gardens. The quirky mushrooms and the fan aloes made me smile, but the boat on the lake stole my heart. Yes, I could imagine that in my garden, though it will forever remain only in my imagination. The mushrooms I maybe could do.