Kirsten is one of South Africa’s best known gardeners.
He describes the upheaval and challenges of having to
Twelve years ago, when I moved into Longmeadow, it was
a large property on the outskirts of town. Johannesburg
has since expanded to surround Longmeadow and in the
last few months we’ve lost our view –blocked
off by a massive casino resort development being built
just over the road from us. So it’s time to move!
My years at Longmeadow have been very satisfying. When
I bought the property, it boasted a very Eurocentric
garden, a sort of attempt to create an English-country-garden-on-the-Highveld.
Well, I firmly believe in the use of indigenous plant
material which is appropriate to our climate and colour
palette. So, over time, I’ve altered the balance
in the garden so that there are now more indigenous
than exotic plants in it.
I’ve also changed the structural elements to reflect
South African moods: the pool area has been converted
into a rock pool; we’ve dotted African pots about
the garden, and the pathways are gravelled with our
It is sad to move on and leave behind something you
have so enjoyed creating. But in this case I’m
not saying farewell forever. The house will be converted
into offices for my nursery business, and the garden
will be used for concerts and charity events.
And, I must say, I’m looking forward to the new
challenge. Longmeadow was a mere ten acres. My new property
in the country, just 20 minutes drive away, is a full
80 acres. It’s situated right on the Crocodile
River, home to many water leguaans (a swimming reptile)
and is humming with wild, sub-Saharan bird life.
Inspired by what
I’ve seen in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand
on recent trips, as well as by my love of the African
veld, I intend to create a much more informal environment
on the new property. I’ll be focusing on tree
planting; large groups of indigenous shrubbery and huge
swathes of colour provided by plants like our very own
agapanthus and exotic day lilies. Some of the property
will be used to grow indigenous and exotic foliage for
We’ll be moving in during Autumn, and in Winter
(that’s right now for those of you in the northern
hemisphere) we’ll get going on the contouring
of soil, double-digging of beds, and preparing holes
for trees. Winter is the least disruptive time to do
heavy work of this nature, as the birds and reptiles
are not breeding and some, at least, of the birds have
migrated North for your Summer.
But I look forward to seeing them return next year to
a new, and, I hope, very welcoming and bird-friendly
garden - and I look forward to the challenges and joys
of the next twelve years in my new home!
reprinted with premission from Greenfingers.com