A small city garden completely dominated by 30ft high Strelitzia nicolai.
As dusk fell, those Strelitzias came alive with a colony of rats, dozens of them, leaping from branches like a circus act.
That was it! They had to go – the Strelitzias and the rats.
It took three days and five truckloads to be rid of the thick woody stems and copious foliage.
Of course their root systems had been soaking up the torrential summer rainfalls so the new problem was the loose soil being swept along into the small swimming pool.
The brickwork around the pool was ugly and dated so we decided to work on improving drainage pipes, cementing over some areas near open drains and then decking the pool area with no-maintenance, and sustainable, rhinowood. To create a sense of depth to the garden, three large mirrors were fixed to the back wall, creating an immediate impact.
A water-wise garden was now needed, with indigenous plants attracting birds, bees and butterflies to the garden. Johannesburg, on the highveld, has fairly reliable rainfall throughout the Summer months from October to April ; the Winter months are mild and sunny, cold at night, but not a drop of rain is seen for months.
Planting is always the fun part of landscaping as the beds around the perimeter start to fill with Agapanthus and Arum lilies in the shadier parts; Aloes, Cycads and Proteas, in the sunnier areas surrounded by mounds of grasses with nodding white flowers attracting bees.
There is the bright orange Leonotis to attract the sunbirds and three fast growing Buddleja salviifolia, with its delicious scent in early Spring, for the butterflies.
A small sitting area around a firepit acts as a design feature and a cosy focal point in the long cool dry winter evenings.
The rats are long gone and in their place is the birdsong of Cape robins, bulbuls, thrushes and barbets.