Vineyard Hotel & Spa

Project Team
Client: The Vineyard Hotel
Architects: Revel Fox & Partners
Landscape Architects: TSB Associates
Landscape Execution: Hard landscaping by the hotel’s building team; soft landscaping by the hotel’s gardening team under the supervision of horticulturist Chris van Zyl

Recent additions to the architecture and landscaping of the Vineyard Hotel and Spa in Cape Town won the project an Award of Commendation from the Cape Institute of Architecture in 2005. The project was also nominated for a South African Institute of Architects (SAIA) Award of Merit 2005-2006. This article discusses the redesign of the landscaping.

The brief from the Vineyard Hotel directors to landscape architectAnn Sutton of TSB Associates and Chris van Zyl (resident horticulturist) was to redesign the garden area around the swimming pool complex. This included the café, indoor pool, gymnasium and the new Angsana Spa and riverside suites. This was to be undertaken in collaboration with the architects. The hotel has extensive gardens covering just over six acres, with the Liesbeek River running through the property. This particular development is in the northwest part of the garden and the new developments, both buildings and landscape, have changed the northwest aspect by making use of previously under-utilised space.

Design philosophy

The design philosophy was to provide quietness, privacy and a unique experience for those using the swimming pool and spa complexes as well as introducing visitors to the richness of the Cape’s indigenous flora.

Swimming pool complex

This is on top of the new underground parking garages and involved massive earthworks. Although the original pool remained, it was extended and improved with new paving. When the pool was renovated, the level was raised by 100mm which necessitated lifting the entire lawn area. Attractive two metre high Balau wood trellises set in metal frames were installed around this area to provide privacy.Existing trees and shrubs were retained as much as possible to provide shade and privacy and new indigenous plantings were added. Seven to eight metre high Celtis sinensis trees were relocated and planted after having spent almost a year stored in bidum wrapping during building operations.

Herb garden

This area was previously a yard which the builders used to store their materials, and the new herb garden was constructed on top of the extended underground parking garage.It forms a green barrier between the gymnasium and the riverside suites, and provides an access point to the rest of the gardens.Guests can wander through it and experience the different perfumes, colours and textures while the garden can provide the hotel restaurants with seasonal herbs. Half of the garden is in shade most of the day so different species of mint are mainly grown, while the rest is in blazing hot sun all day, allowing a wider variety of herbs such as chives, garlic chives, lemon grass and various thymes to be planted.

Due to various design constraints, there was only 400mm of soil depth to work with.However, three large raised planters were built, and Trimeria grandiflora planted as feature trees to soften the rooflines of the river suites.

Being a roof garden, one of the most critical factors was the drainage layer and Kaytape S120 and Zipdrain 12mm were used successfully for the first time. Soil was a mixture of the loamy soil from the site, organic compost and fertiliser.

The overall theme of the hotel gardens is water features, and after much deliberation over the shape and position, an ornamental pool with stone coping was installed. The pool is long, narrow and raised, with five jet fountains. It is parallel to the passage leading to the river suites and forms a water feature for guests to look down on.


Angsana Spa gardens

The design brief for this area was to create a natural garden using indigenous plant material. This was selected according to the materials’ flowering times which had to coincide with the most popular guest periods of the hotel, namely September to November and January to May. The entire spa was designed around an old established Kiggelaria africana tree, which, during a heavy storm in 2003 after the excavations for the building had been done, fell over and had to be stayed with steel cables after it was winched back up into an upright position. It was touch and go for a while but eventually the tree recovered and is now doing very well. This spa complex also involved tremendous excavations into the old rock banks which necessitated the relocating of large boulders originally imported by the late Mr F. Petousis (owner of the hotel), and placed by Ann Sutton many years ago.

The spa has four mountain-facing treatment rooms which created challenges of their own. Each room has its own small garden and patio which had to be landscaped, but in front of the spa was a pathway used by the hotel guests for access through the garden. This created a problem in that the treatment rooms had to be screened from the pathway but the spa guests still had to have a view of the mountain. This was achieved by berming up the soil and building flowing natural stone walls. Rhus crenata and other suitable indigenous shrubs were planted to create the screen which is kept trimmed back to the correct height.

As a central feature and relaxation area for the spa, another stone water feature was constructed, in keeping with the theme of the hotel gardens. The embankments were planted with massed groupings of colourful indigenous groundcover and restio species. As a link between the Liesbeek River at the base of the embankment and the new development, a natural stream was created, through which water from the river is circulated. The sound of the water running over the rocks creates a tranquil feeling in the garden. Pathways, constructed for access throughout the gardens, were built with river stone and slate, in keeping with the design philosophy to use natural materials as much as possible.

River suite gardens

This area was also previously part of the builder’s yard and was littered with large 1m³ size natural rocks which had to be strategically placed to retain the embankments and to create a berm screening the rooms from the garden pathway. The aim was to continue with the indigenous theme and use indigenous grasses, groundcovers,Agathosma, Erica and Leonotis spp.To screen and create a barrier between the pathways and the rooms, large Carissa macrocarpa Dovyalis caffra and Halleria spp. were used.

The patios in front of the ground floor rooms were not large, so to give a feeling of space, the area was extended where possible using natural stone pavers with Dymondia groundcover planted in between.To create screens between the rooms, Rhoicissus tridentata were planted and trained up the Balau screens.
In the raised planter in front of the upstairs suites, Carissa ‘Green Carpet’ and Chondropetalum tectorum were used to retain the grassy feeling throughout the project.
All maintenance is carried out by the hotel’s garden team under the supervision of Chris van Zyl.


The irrigation to all the above areas was designed and installed by Jacques Marais of Cape Rain. He used a combination of static sprayers, drip, gear drives and impact sprinklers, depending on the requirements of the various areas.The system was designed to run off the hotel borehole water supply and he was requested to use a system that was as maintenance-free as possible.

Information supplied by Ann Sutton of TSB Associates and Chris van Zyl, Horticulture and Environmental Manager, Vineyard Hotel & Spa. Photos by Leon Breytenbach.