Tag Archives: Landscaping magazine

The new Oyster Box Hotel

Project Team
Client: Red Carnation Hotels Collection
Landscape Consultant: Jean wouters
Landscape Contractor: Emerald Landscapes

Following an extensive two year renovation and refurbishment programme, the Oyster Box Hotel in Umhlanga Rocks, KZN, re-opened for business in October 2009. Jean Wouters (former owner of Marina Landscaping in Cape Town) was appointed as the landscape consultant and engaged Franchesca Watson, her business partner in Marina Landscaping, to assist with the choice of plant material. Having worked for the Botanical Gardens in Durban, Watson contributed her extensive knowledge of KZN plants to the project.

The client’s brief was to relocate and replant as much of the original plant material as possible in order to retain the traditional colonial feel of the hotel; the gardens were required to “fit in with the style of the building, reminiscent of the old hotel which is recognised as an old Durban favourite”. The brief also called for a lush tropical look, using large plants where possible and it was decided to use “hot colours vibrating with contrasting white”.

Wouters says it was difficult to retain any of the previous landscape design due to the extensive building operations. However an audit of plants in the previous gardens was carried out and suitable species were earmarked for relocation to a nursery situation for re-positioning in the new garden at a later stage. The plants were stored at Palm Farm in Stanger and re-installed into the new gardens by Emerald Landscapes.

Following several meetings with the Landscape Planning Department of eThekweni Municipality regarding the protection of existing trees, namely Sideroxylon inerme, Ficus lutea and Trichelia emetica, Wouters submitted her landscape plans to them for approval, prior to the tender process.

During the latter part of the installation she dealt once more with municipality officials regarding the landscape restoration of council verges. Indigenous material was specified for dune rehabilitation and perimeter plantings, whilst the municipality permitted a selection of non-invasive species to the inner quadrangle/courtyards. The trunks of the abovementioned trees were boarded up for protection.

Landscaped areas

The first re-landscaped area was the forecourt and entrance which was “kept very simple”, according to Wouters. The original hotel frontage was retained and no heavy planting was installed against this facade. Large ex-open ground Roystonea palms were placed at the entrance and Erythrina caffra in the parking areas. Simple plantings of white Plumbago, white Agapanthus and red Hibiscus shrubberies were used within the forecourt area and Bougainvilla was added to the arched trellis work. There is a large traffic circle with water feature at the entrance to the hotel, to which the client added a bronze sculpture of dolphins.

In the second instance, the beach aspect, dunes and hotel perimeters were re-landscaped. Along the beach aspect of the hotel, considerable dune rehabilitation was required and this was carried out using much the same species that the municipality had used to restore the beach front following storm damage in 2008. Prior to building operations, large Aloe thraskii plants on the dunes were excavated and planted closer together to make for easier protection.

The dune flora was discussed in great detail between Wouters, the main contractor, Emerald Landscapes and the municipality. Certain species were protected by shade cloth fences for the duration of the project. The dune profile was, to a large degree, left untouched and whatever was damaged was rehabilitated using the same plants that were originally there. The rehabilitated dune was in fact upgraded in terms of plant material and a number of species were replanted. Some alien species were removed and replaced with indigenous dune-dwelling species.

The central quadrangle is the core of the new garden and is almost hidden from the general public as it is enclosed by the villas, main hotel and spa. It is close to the sea but protected from the salt air by the buildings, and is divided into the following sections:

  • the swimming pool with lawns, large palms and shrubberies, flanked by 28 Frangipani trees which contribute their shades of deep reddish pink/apricot. This section is on a dropped level and to give body to the beds, strong groupings of red and orange Ixora coccinea, backed in sections by Murraya, were planted. These are bordered by Hymenocallis
  • the villa gardens – each has a jacuzzi, small garden, palm tree and large pots with Rouvolfia caffra. The approach to the villas is through the shade of two fully grown Erythrina caffra trees under which are abundant plantings of Stenoclena ferns with a background of yellow and green Acalypha java Wilkesiana
  • the spa gardens water feature. These are tropical gardens containing Heliconia, Alocasia, Philodendrons and ground orchids. Large reflection ponds are lined with black granite slabs and contain water lilies and lotus flowers planted into large circular containers. These were custom made in black fibrecrete
  • the fountain court contains six large Roystonea palms, identically matched, a water feature on two levels with a rill and mosaic work. Water flows from the rill into a second pond on a lower level. The area is tiled with black and white terrazzo tiles and the pool coping surrounds are flamed black granite slabs. Four large Anduze pots will be planted up with Medinilla plants which are presently being grown by Emerald Landscapes
  • a lawned wedding area with antique wrought-iron gazebo is enclosed with Pavetta revoluta and Spider Lilies and ringed with Dictyosperma palms which have orchids attached to the stems. (The common name for Pavetta is appropriately ‘Bridal Blush’)

Throughout the landscape there are large clumps of Strelizia nicolai and densely planted sections of Chrysalidocarpus, adding to the ‘Natal feel’, according to Wouters. The areas are linked by a series of paths which are tiled in white terrazzo.

Landscape installation

Brendan Fox of Emerald Landscapes was responsible for the landscape and irrigation installation, as well as the sourcing of all plant materials for the project. He was also involved in the initial stages in so far as planning and logistics were concerned.
Says Fox: “The landscaping areas were small on this very busy construction site, and access was a huge challenge. The amphitheatre and arena are the main focal areas of the hotel and required careful co-ordination with the main contractor and sub-contractors. Some of our more difficult challenges along the way included the planting of crane size trees within the arena and amphitheatre.
This was due to areas being specifically cordoned off and thereafter, in some cases, further access through or in that area was no longer allowed. This made general workings on site quite difficult for everyone, considering the time constraints to which we were all subjected”.

When Fox began the installation, everything had been removed except for three large Sideroxylon inerme trees, three large Ficus lutea, one large Trichelia emetica, a number of large Strelitzias and one Erythrina caffra.
A number of key plants were stored at a nursery for the duration of the construction period and were returned to site later when space for them became available. Mostly the larger feature trees were kept in situ, and the remaining plants that were returned to site were used in newly landscaped areas. Some of the plants returned to site included Hibiscus, Strelitzia nicolai, Cycas revoluta, Aloe thraskii, Trichelia emetica, Draceana hoekeriana, Ficus lerata and Frangipani.
Emerald Landscapes has a six month ‘grow in’ maintenance contract which involves general garden care and maintenance of the irrigation system. They are also required to undertake careful planning in conjunction with hotel management to ensure that there is minimal disturbance caused by mowing and other work around the hotel.


An Acclima irrigation system has been installed and works off groundwater sensors which are strategically placed to capture the moisture levels in the soil. The entire system consists of 37 stations and works off five sensors on the site.
Each station is linked to a sensor which is embedded in a similar soil type to the area which it is in, allowing that station to water effectively. The sensors work on thresholds which are programmed into a controller, which in turn tells the system when to irrigate areas in need of water. The system was designed to run off grey water.


Coming from the Cape, Wouters says the project has been a challenging one for her, especially dealing with the different weather conditions in KZN. “The Cape is windy but I didn’t realize that KZN is as well. This factor, plus the humidity, was quite an eye-opener for me,” she states.
She also worked with plants that were unfamiliar to her. “There were plants I thought would do well but didn’t, and vice versa, so it’s been a huge learning curve for me. It was also quite difficult to source plant material of a reasonable size, as the client wanted a mature garden almost immediately”.
She says it was interesting to explore the smaller specialist growers, where she found many of the species required. The client was very involved with the choice of plants and the overall ambience of the hotel’s landscaping.

Information supplied by Jean Wouters and Emerald Landscapes.
Photos by Patrick Royal and Karyn Richards.

Non-motorised transport for Cape Town

Project Team
City of Cape Town
Civil Engineers: Gibb Africa, Aurecon, HHO Africa, Arup
Landscape Architects: Planning Partners, Ian Ford Landscape Architects, OVP Associates

Non-motorised transport (NMT) is a form of active transportation and includes all forms of movement that do not rely on an engine or motor for mobility. Active transportation consists of human-powered forms of travel such as walking, cycling, rickshaws, skating, roller blading, manual wheelchairs and animal-drawn carts.

Although NMT is recognised as a valuable component of transportation ystems, it has historically not been included in traditional transport planning, with walkways and cycle paths generally implemented as afterthoughts, and sometimes not at all. There was also little infrastructure o accommodate the needs of the physically challenged (the elderly, people in wheelchairs, the blind, deaf and young children) and this is being addressed by applying the principles of universal access.

With worldwide emphasis on reduction of the carbon footprint, the environmental benefits of NMT are primarily gained because it results in reduced pollution in heavily congested urban areas and lower CO2 emissions. It is also more efficient from a spatial point of view as it is conducive to the development of more liveable communities and improved inner city environments. The presence of pedestrians in streets, public spaces and buildings gives life to these areas. Health benefits can also be gained from NMT due to increased physical activity and fewer accidents.

Landscape architect Jaco Jordaan of Planning Partners comments: “South Africa has a serious traffic problem. Whereas the affluent society spends a great deal of time in single occupancy vehicles at a crawling pace along major routes into the city, the poor spend 30% of their income on taxi fares in order to get to work. If there were safe cycling paths, an increasing number of commuters would cycle, creating a culture of cycling as a means of transport. The Netherlands, with far worse weather than Cape Town, is an excellent example of what can be done. In Cape Town, less than 1% of commuters cycle; in Groningen, the Netherlands, it is as high as 50%”.

Strategy, vision and objectives

The City of Cape Town has recently embarked on an NMT strategy which includes a comprehensive plan to guide the implementation of programmes and facilities that will respond to the needs of NMT users. The strategy also identifies areas that should be considered as key NMT routes in and around the city, as well as priority locations determined by:

  • the concentration of people in an area
  • travel demand patterns
  • known desire lines through public open spaces
  • learners travelling to and from school
  • the needs of the tourism sector
  • the role of recreation.

The following is Cape Town’s vision for NMT: “Cape Town will be a city where all people feel safe and secure to walk and cycle, making NMT part of the overall transport system where public space is shared between all users and everyone has access to urban opportunities and mobility.” In realising this vision, an important goal as set out by the City is to encourage cycling and walking by creating a safe and pleasant bicycle and pedestrian network of paths. The City also aims to promote a changed culture that is more accepting of cycling and walking as modes of travel.
Key stakeholders and role players were consulted to provide input into the development of the City’s strategic plan. These were the transport planning sector, local economic development, urban design, spatial planning, disability desk, NMT planning, public transport and heritage management, the Departments of Education and Community Safety, South African Rail Commuter Corporation, Provincial Government of the Western Cape, Department of Transport and Public Works, the Bicycle Empowerment Network and Metrorail.

Role of landscape architects

Planning Partners were involved in three projects where NMT facilities have been implemented. These are Somerset Road, the Granger Bay Boulevard and the Integrated Rapid Transport Facility (IRT). Jordaan explains the three types of NMT:

  • painted cycle lanes on road surfaces where pedestrians walk on sidewalks between the road edge and boundary kerb separating vehicles (cars and cycles) from pedestrians
  • shared pedestrian cycle ways, usually on verges between the road edge and boundary, away from the vehicle lane. The two uses can be separated in some cases by different materials or a separator edge
  • a separate cycle way, separated from the sidewalk in the verge.

Somerset Road was purely an NMT project, not coupled with a road upgrade, and was earmarked as an important road as it links the CBD to the new 2010 stadium. It is sometimes referred to as the ‘fan mile’ and was previously a derelict tar sidewalk with an informal gravel area. “It was not a pretty sight,” says Jordaan. The concept was to create a parallel pedestrian/cycle facility and Planning Partners designed linear planters to keep the two uses apart. Extensive tree planting was undertaken to improve the Cape’s micro-climate.
Jordaan chose specific materials to clearly indicate pedestrian and cyclist usage. An exposed aggregate concrete paver was chosen for good traction and a red clay paver for the pedestrian path, in accordance with the City of Cape Town’s road verge material master plan where different zones are to be paved with zone-specific materials. A precast concrete demarcation block has been used to create a physical ‘bump’ between cyclists and pedestrians. Concrete information pavers were designed and specially manufactured to indicate the two uses on ground level.

Meetings between Planning Partners and OVP Associates ensured a seamless design as the latter adopted the same layout for NMT facilities around the 2010 stadium precinct. This project is 90% complete and is being well used. It is envisaged that low speed commuter cyclists and
recreational cyclists would use the safer NMT cycle lanes (that are protected from vehicles by the non-mountable kerbs), whereas the more serious high speed cyclist would still ride on the road.
Granger Bay Boulevard is a new road which links Somerset Road to the Greenpoint circle and through to Beach Road (one of the V&A entrances), a link that was planned many years ago. Part of the brief was to design NMT facilities on both sides of this new road and the same materials and design philosophy were used as for Somerset Road. The Integrated Rapid Transport (IRT) facility refers to the combination of public transport and NMT facilities all aimed at reducing the amount of vehicles on the roads to and from town.

Phase 1 of this project is presently under construction and due for completion in May 2010. The NMT portion of this contract consists of a three metre wide pedestrian/cycle lane that runs parallel to the Bus Rapid Transit system. The facility runs north from the Civic Centre in Hertzog Boulevard, through the foreshore/Culemborg precinct under the Church Street bridge, underneath Table Bay Boulevard (N1) and then into an unused railway siding. It then goes through the industrial area of Paarden Island in an unused railway servitude and over a new bridge that crosses the Salt River canal. From here the facility joins Marine Drive where it runs on the sea side of the road through Milnerton, past Sunset Beach and Flamingo Vlei and onwards to Blaauwberg Road in Table View.

The interfaces between people, cars, cyclists and buses were carefully considered at each IRT station, which is placed at major road intersections all along the route. Elements such as paving materials, safe pedestrian and cycle crossings, traffic signals, road signage, lowered kerbs and ramps, tactile paving, reinforced coloured bus lanes and street furniture were included in design drawings to ensure a safe and attractive node at the stations.
The new metropolitan cycleway along the IRT route will be asphalt-surfaced, apart from deceleration paved zones (or shared pedestrian cycle zones) which are included on the approach to and exit from intersections to reduce the speed of cyclists. The areas between these are clay-brick paved, in the form of small piazzas where pedestrians have right of way. Materials were again chosen to encourage the safe use of the facility but these have yet to be constructed. Tactile paving specifications in the pedestrian zones in and around the IRT station intersections are in accordance with the new South African National Standard: Design for Access and Mobility (SANS 784:2008).

Mark Pinder of Arup and Andre Frieslaar of HHO Africa are involved with the non-motorised integration within the IRT. Says Pinder: “The success of any new public transport system is directly related to the ease, comfort and sense of safety when accessing and using the service”. Arup’s brief was to:

  • assess the existing NMT facilities radiating away from each new IRT station and identify routes that required refurbishment
  • provide new street lighting where required
  • make alterations to improve safety and accommodate universal access¹
  • formalise routes along desire lines² through public open spaces
  • introduce new cycling facilities to integrate with the new metropolitan cycleway running parallel to the IRT route.

The project focussed on facilities within a 500m catchment around each IRT station, including areas such as Woodstock, Paarden Eiland, Metro Industria, Milnerton, Royal Ascot, Sunset Beach, Table View, Killarney Gardens and Du Noon. The implementation of the new/refurbished NMT facilities is currently scheduled for 2012.

¹ Universal access refers to the designing of features into the street infrastructure that accommodate the mobility of all members of the public, including young children in pushchairs, the disabled in wheelchairs, textured paving to assist the visually impaired negotiate sidewalks, tactile paving with bubble blocks at intersections, pedestrian crossings and the bottom of ramps, audible devices at intersections to assist the blind to cross roads and push buttons that vibrate when the pedestrian green phase is active.
² Desire lines is the term used to describe routes that happen naturally without formal facilities, generally the gravel/earth pathways that meander through vacant public open spaces.

Ian Ford Deon Bronkhorst Landscape Architects are involved with the following NMT routes:

  • Waterkant Street, from the Cape Town station in Adderley Street to Buitengragt, where a new pedestrian bridge is to be erected before May 2010. There will be a new pedestrian route and introduction of a bicycle route
  • St Andrew’s Square extention/Waterkant Street, on the western side of Buitengragt: new pedestrian and bicycle route towards the new Cape Town stadium
  • Bree Street from Shortmarket to Hans Strijdom/North Wharf Square: improvement of pedestrian sidewalks and introduction of a bicycle route
  • Heerengragt from Old Marine Drive at the Cape Town station to Table Bay Boulevard: improvement of the pedestrian sidewalk and introduction of a bicycle route on the eastern side of the Heerengragt
  • Old Marine Drive from the Civic Centre to the Heerengragt: introduction of a proposed bicycle route

Deon Bronkhorst’s scope of work for all the above precincts included landscape sketch plans, initial working drawings, paving details and specifications, street furniture, irrigation specifications and layout, site supervision for the 24 month implementation phase and the 12 month maintenance period.

Safer streetscape

The City of Cape Town believes that the development of a safer streetscape will give non-motorised transport users their fair share of the available public space in the mobility network environment.

Information provided by the City of Cape Town, Planning Partners, Ian Ford Deon Bronkhorst Landscape Architect, Arup and HHO Africa. Visuals courtesy of Planning Partners.

University Western Cape

Project Team
Client: University of the Western Cape, Bellville
Architects: dhk Architects
Landscape Architects: OVP Associates
Environmental Site Management: Ecosense Consulting Environmentalist
Landscape Contractor: CapeScapes

The Life Sciences Department (LSD) of the University of the Western Cape in Bellville is a landmark building which, in its designed landscape context, seeks to reflect a commitment to sustainable design.

The site is located on the edge of the Cape Flats, an area which endures harsh environmental conditions. Although the endemic vegetation has adapted to these conditions, many sensitive habitats of the area are under threat due to urban growth and development. It is therefore vital that new developments take a sustainable approach to reducing their impact on the environment through environmentally responsive design interventions. It is also as important to provide comfortable and sheltered outdoor spaces for public enjoyment. In the planning, designing and detailing of the landscape that contextualises the Life Sciences development, numerous strategies were adopted to provide such comfortable outdoor spaces, whilst also facilitating micro habitats to encourage biodiversity across the site.

Site informants and responses

The site experiences cold, wet winters and hot, drought-prone summers, and plant selection had to therefore suit these climatic conditions as well as assist in the control of micro climates around the building. To this end, deciduous trees have been planted selectively to provide shade and reduce heat reflection to the lower floors of the building in summer. In winter, as these trees lose their leaves, the sun will be able to penetrate, providing light and warmth. During summer, strong, south-easterly winds are prevalent and in winter, north-westerly winds. To ameliorate these severe conditions, the landscape design has incorporated the use of hedge planting, tree belts and earth berming, particularly at entrance lobbies and outdoor terraces. Wind resistant plants were selected.
A drip irrigation system has been installed for all the formal, soft landscaped areas including the roof gardens, and has proved to be the most efficient, given the site’s climatic conditions. There has been minimal water loss to evaporation, compared to spray systems.
Land forms and tree planting have drawn attention to the site’s panoramic views of Table Mountain to the west and the Helderberg mountains to the east; this is particularly notable from the Forest Plaza on the north side of the building. The learning centre is close to Modderdam Road which generates high levels of traffic noise, and large earth berms with screen vegetation has helped to reduce noise pollution, particularly at ground level social spaces.

Biodiversity and rehabilitation

In terms of biodiversity, as many endemic plant species as possible were (prior to construction) rescued, bagged and propagated for later replanting at the neighbouring Cape Flats Nature Reserve. Across the site, the top 200mm of topsoil, with its particular mineral composition and seed stock, was collected and stockpiled nearby for re-use in the landscaping of the project.
The majority of this soil was spread across disturbed areas identified within the nature reserve for rehabilitation purposes and the remaining topsoil returned to the site for soft landscaping purposes. It was used firstly in its original state – spread across the ‘informal’ open areas – and secondly as part of the mixed growing medium – placed for ‘formal’ soft landscape areas.
The ‘informal’ area consists of the remaining open stretch of land between the Lab Block and Modderdam Road. This has been identified as a potential ‘nature area’, where only a selected mix of plants of the Cape Flats dune strandveld group have been planted and seeded. The land here has been re-shaped to create a variety of low-lying areas, mounds and level planes, a microcosm of the Cape Flats environment, which will hopefully assist with the establishment of a variety of micro-plant communities suited to these land forms.
A number of existing mature trees on the site were identified as significant, and retained before construction commenced. These included the indigenous Outeniqua Yellowwood, Podocarpus falcatus, and White Milkwood, Sideroxylon inerme. Where practical and possible, they were protected during the entire course of the project and incorporated into the landscape design. They have added immense value to the space they occupy, being the entrance plaza.
With the exception of two selected species, all plants are indigenous to South Africa and the majority of shrubs, grasses and groundcovers are endemic to the Cape. In high activity areas, indigenous plants which are known to be hardy in most conditions have been planted to create low maintenance planted borders, while at the same time used compositionally to achieve year round visual interest.
A selection of more unusual or uncommon plant species used in horticultural practices (and unique to the Cape Flats) have been planted in the ‘nature area’ and ‘display garden’ where they stand a better chance of survival and can also be enjoyed by those with an interest in plant diversity.

Landscape precincts

Six landscape precincts were identified around the site, as follows:

1 – Entrance plaza

This is a formal, hard landscaped space, framed on either side by the east elevation of the Lab Block and the Learning Centre. By virtue of their scale and stature, the existing Yellowwood and Milkwood trees have added immediate value to this space, providing ‘green’ mass, height and shade. A number of new Acacia zanthophloea trees have been planted near the existing trees to provide additional greening and shade, whilst also providing contrasting colour and texture. The theme of introducing these trees has extended through the entrance to the Forest Plaza.
The careful placement of trees, ramps and curved steps all assist in gathering and guiding visitors from any angle, upon approaching the entrance to the building. Against the east facade of the Learning Centre, a large planted embankment slopes up to the first floor where plants will provide some shade to rooms during the morning hours. A low seat wall surrounding the base of the embankment has a soft backdrop comprising a variety of plants which provide attractive scents, colours and textures.

2 – Forest plaza

This is located between the north-west junction of the Lab Block and the Learning Centre, where the flow of pedestrian movement between and out of these buildings converges. A pedestrian ramp to the north of the plaza ‘rises’ out of the landscape, providing seating and a semi-soft backdrop to the plaza, while also acting as a visual and noise barrier between the plaza and Modderdam Road.
The landscape from the north ‘nature area’ also flows into this space by means of organically shaped tree lines, a rock-lined path and the undulating planted earth banks of the ‘display garden’. The name ‘Forest Plaza’ is derived from the tree-shaped structural columns supporting the floating pergola ‘canopy’ above this space.
New large trees, placed between the column bases, further augment this tree-shaped pergola structure. Acacia zanthophloea trees were selected here as their clear trunks and well-shaped, light-leafed canopies soften and complement the architecture of this space.
The pergola canopy, together with these semi-deciduous trees provide light and cool shade in the plaza, preventing the space from becoming too dark both in summer and winter. What has been achieved here is the careful juxtaposition of formal hard and organic soft landscape.
Carefully selected and placed bluestone rocks provide another texture and natural element to the space. These locally sourced rocks converge around a rock pool water installation where they provide informal seating and opportunities for contemplation. The water installation runs on a recycling water system, requiring very little water for refilling; its design evokes a dry river bed, should the water supply be stopped for lengthy periods.
The organically shaped ‘display garden’ forms the centre of the space and opportunities to experience it are provided from all sides, with access provided by means of an informal stone path curving through the centre. The concept for the garden is that it should become a didactic showcase for local small shrubs, perennials, groundcovers and bulbs.
These gardens may be altered over the years to exhibit newly sought or popular indigenous plant species linked to botanical or environmental field studies. The gentle mounds and low lying zone provide interest and opportunity for the planting of different species suited to varying topographical habitats.

3 – Learning centre roof gardens

Both roof decks of the Learning Centre are designed as succulent plant roof gardens. From the upper floors of the Lab Block, the patterning of these gardens, highlighted by the curved pathways, can be perceived again in the Forest Plaza below, creating an integrated design experienced not only on ground level.
The roof gardens assist in moderating the building’s impact on the microclimate as the gardens absorb the heat energy of the sun, rather than reflecting it and through evaporation, help cool the air. This in turn assists in the cooling of the interior spaces below. The roof garden also acts as a temporary water retention system during rainfall, which helps to reduce the impact on the city’s storm water system. Approximately 90% of the plants for these roof gardens are succulent, low-growing species which have the following benefits for the longevity of the gardens:

  • the low growing, ‘mat’-forming habit of these plants will provide resistance to the strong winds, while also binding the topsoil in place
  • the succulents are extremely drought-resistant and will survive for long periods should irrigation be unavailable
  • these plants do not require very deep soil to survive, which assists in reducing the structural requirements of the roofs
  • the diverse variety in species will produce a wide range of colour throughout the seasons
  • the majority of plants self-multiply, thus reducing the cost of replacements. With time, plants could even be cultivated for use elsewhere on the campus
  • the majority of the plants are indigenous to the Cape and thus well-suited to the climatic conditions of the site

4 – Northern embankments

These enfold the northern elevation of the Learning Centre, creating a soft buffer between Modderdam Road, the Learning Centre and the Forest Plaza. From Modderdam Road, the visual impact of the built form is reduced by these planted banks and the Learning Centre appears to ‘rise’ out of the landscape rather than impose upon it.
Trees and plants have been planted in waves along the contours, which will result in bold sweeps of colour and texture. The planting of trees at various heights up the banks will assist in reducing noise and buffering winds travelling towards the Learning Centre and Forest Plaza.
The curved retaining walls facing Modderdam Road and rising out of these banks will, in time, be covered in wall creepers. These too will assist in absorbing air pollution, noise reduction, absorbing heat energy and reducing the impact of the built form experienced from the road edge.

5 – Service street and east parking

The street and parking landscape approach is one where the landscape suits the functional/service characteristic of these areas. Hardy, low maintenance plant species have been selected and will assist in softening the edge of the built form, providing interest with shrubs and groundcovers being planted in waves to achieve a variety of bold colour and form. An avenue of trees planted along the service street ties into the character of other tree-lined streets of the campus.

6 – Northern ‘nature area’

This area has been demarcated as the north open stretch of land between the Lab Block and Modderdam Road. A degree of rehabilitation of this area has taken place due to the reintroduction of endemic plant species by means of individual planting and hydroseeding.
The reshaped land has provided a series of informal detention ponds which will provide micro habitats for wildlife, at the same time reducing the impact of run-off from the hard landscape during the winter rainy season.

Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP)

Ecosense Consulting Environmentalists were appointed to ensure environmental standards and sustainability of the project and to comply with the relevant legislation. Its environmental control officer, Henry Davids, undertook frequent site inspections and provided monthly compliance checklist audit reports, accompanied by photographic evidence, of the environmental compliance issues that were evident during the inspections.
Good communication, understanding and compliance with the Environmental Management Plan was achieved between the consulting team and contractors, minimising any negative impacts on the environment.


Landscape installation

CapeScapes was responsible for the landscaping and irrigation installation, which also included some minor hard landscaping. According to Glenn Norrie of CapeScapes, most of the earthworks were carried out during a very wet Cape Town winter, with the planting done at the beginning of summer when gale south easter winds are prevalent.
These challenges called for special installation measures, such as the suggestion to use pine resin extract in the hydroseeding mixture to ensure that the soil binded long enough to allow the seed to germinate and prevent windblown sand from harming the adjacent new building and landscape.
Despite the difficult site conditions (from both planning and environmental perspectives) the landscape installation was successful, inasmuch as can be ascertained at this early stage of establishment. Good maturation of plants is already evident and the overall perception of the architecture within its landscape context is a tribute to the collaborative effort of all parties involved.
A Netafim drip irrigation system (designed by Controlled Irrigation) has been installed for all the formal gardens, and a spray system for the nature area. The original specification for the hydroseeding was a turf valve and dragline system which was upgraded to an automated stand pipe and impact sprinkler system at the cost of the landscape contractor. Norrie says that the germination has been excellent and savings will be made on maintenance in the long run. “When one looks at the maturation of the hydroseeding with this system versus hose pipes being dragged over the area, the results speak for themselves,” he explains.

The project was completed in December 2009.

Information provided by Penny Unsworth of OVP Associates, Mark Sassman of Ecosense and Glenn Norrie of CapeScapes.
Visuals and plans courtesy of OVP Associates

Island Office Park

Island Office Park

Project Team
Developer: Tongaat Hulett
Client and Project Manager: Eiger Group
Architects: Ruben Reddy Architects
Landscape Architects: Uys & White (Durban)
Landscape Contractor: Real Landscapes (Durban)
Irrigation Contractor: JKS Irrigation

Island Office Park is situated in Riverhorse Valley Business Park, a light industrial and office park development in Durban, KZN. Landscape Architects Uys & White were approached by the architects, on behalf of the client, to look at the central courtyard and create a space which would draw office workers into it. The developer wanted the space to be inviting, with a large body of water as the main attraction.

Landscape architect Bernice Rumble was tasked to create a modern oasis with calm, semi-reflective water and the water feature design is formed with gentle non-symmetrical arcs which has helped to make the courtyard look larger and has also softened the built elements. This articulation helped to create separate quiet, lawned and decked seating terraces that are not all visible from one place, but rather experienced as one walks through the courtyard. All accessible edges of the water feature have been designed for seating, allowing interaction with the water and garden.
The entire courtyard sits above a basement and Rumble worked with a fixed depth of 955mm. By playing with different heights of decking, lawn terraces, raised planters and creating a gentle tiered water feature, the confines of the built structure were disguised. The basement also ventilates into the courtyard and the edges were articulated around this.
Planting is simple specie massing with a combination of indigenous and sub-tropical plants. The oasis theme informed the use of palms and both Bamboo and Princess palms have been used. Strelitzia nicolai have been used to soften backdrops and introduce a large leaf foliage. Underplanting was a combination of Dietes grandiflora, Chlorophytum comosum and Ophiopogon jaburan. Bulbs and Kniphofia spp have been introduced into the planted island for subtle colour.

Water feature

The water flow is over two gentle tiers which have been clad with granite and the central planted island in the water was raised as a focal point. This has been tiled with mosaic to introduce colour and texture. There are six rim flow spouts which pour from the planted island, acting as a visual backdrop and also assisting with water movement to ensure that a good water quality is maintained.
JKS Irrigation was responsible for the construction and mechanical workings of the water feature and its pump station has been housed within the basement car park. The feature is reticulated by means of two four pole, three phase pumps, the first of which is capable of delivering 45m3 per hour. It has a 160mm suction line and draws water from four man-made weirs housed underneath the decking area, returning to the top water feature tier through a 110mm pipe. From this top tier, water flows over a six metre curved granite lip, creating a clear sheet of water which has a calming effect. Water then flows underneath the walkway over a second six metre granite rim flow into the main pond. The second pump is capable of delivering 35m3 per hour and filters the water through two sand filters. This water is then returned to the main pond through six clear water sheets installed within the centre island feature.The pond has a volume of approximately 175 000 litres and water is cycled every two and a half hours. The fast rotation of the water in conjunction with the surface skimming weirs minimise any surface debris from settling on the pond floor. As the pond is only 300mm deep, the colour of the fibreglass was an important factor to create a feeling of depth.

Landscape installation

This was carried out under the supervision of Basil Harrison of Real Landscapes, KZN, and work involved the landscaping of the large planters in the atrium. As the planters were on ground level with a parking garage below, there were certain challenges to be overcome:

  • the planters had to be waterproofed and drainage installed to ensure that they drained adequately. A suitable well-draining soil mix was used
  • due to the weight of the soil in the planters, polystyrene void formers were used so as to reduce the soil and ultimately the overall weight

Harrison says that the purpose of the landscaping was to fill the area with large, tropical plants which, together with the water feature, would soften the expanse of the surrounding building. Useable grass areas have been incorporated, allowing staff to sit and relax. Real Landscapes has an ongoing maintenance contract with the client.


This was also installed by JKS Irrigation and due to the proximity of the central garden, the following factors needed to be considered when designing the irrigation system:

  • the area is surrounded by tall buildings and zoning of sunny and shaded areas was of utmost importance
  • due to the layout of the garden being on different levels, the design also needed to prevent low head drainage which could cause areas to become too sodden
  • scheduling of the irrigation controller needed to be carefully calculated so as to prevent wastage of water and run-off to drainage once soil reached its saturation point

JKS undertakes weekly maintenance to ensure that both the water feature and irrigation are working at optimum levels.

3D Graphics

Rumble comments that this project proved the effectiveness and success that 3D graphics can bring to a project. At the early design concept stage, all final levels were calculated and this enabled an accurate 3D graphic to be generated. It was this graphic that assisted the client with visualising and finally approving the concept. “If one compares the initial 3D graphic to the final product there can be no doubt that the client’s end product was in line with the graphic. 3D has become a very powerful tool, especially when working accurately,” she says.

Information supplied by Uys & White (Durban), Real Landscapes (Durban) and JKS Irrigation. Photos courtesy of Uys & White.


In the recently presented 2009 IPSA Awards of Excellence (featured in the previous issue of Landscape SA), The Office Plant received a gold award for the Zurich Insurance head office in Johannesburg. They were also awarded the IPSA trophy for the Most Innovative Interior Landscape Design.

The contemporary design and minimalist feel of the building set the tone for the interior plantscaping, which was undertaken by The Office Plant. John Simone, Managing Director of The Office Plant, worked together with Jacqui Wessels of Collaboration, the interior design company Zurich has dealt with for many years, as well as Sarah Brothers of Facet Interiors. Wessels introduced a horticultural aspect to the design because “the correct plantscaping greatly enhances the image of the interiors and adds life to the open plan areas and enclosed rooms.” Brothers was responsible for the design aspects of the public spaces ncluding the atriums, lobbies, bathrooms, main boardroom, the executive area on the 5th floor, main boardroom and executive dining area on the 6th floor. She introduced the internal planting for its calming effect in an office environment.

Orchids have been placed in the executive suites and main lobby and are replaced regularly.Green, blue and red beaded aloes in stainless steel containers have been placed on different floors, and match the colour scheme on that floor. The aloes are made by Zimbabwean beaders as part of a social upliftment programme.

Mix of elements

The interior plantscaping is a combination of live plant material and striking beaded aloes in stainless steel containers. In the entrance lobby, two floor evel planters contain Dracaena refelexa specimens, four in one planter and three in the other. The structured form of the plant works well in the minimalist environment of the building. Also present in the entrance lobby is a grouping of Philanopsis in glass bowls at the main reception desk. They have a life span of approximately two months in the office environment and need to be replaced on a regular, ongoing basis.
The executive floor has two circular atriums, mirror-images of each other, above which are skylights to allow additional light penetration for the Wild Olive trees. Brothers wanted stark trees and a simple groundcover to create a contemporary feel, and originally selected Leopard trees to accomplish this, but as these are not suited to an indoor environment, Simone chose the Olea africana. “These are also not usually used for interiors, but they have been pre-conditioned and placed in liners and as a result their growth will be limited,” he explains. As a certain stem caliper was required, the planting of the Wild Olives in the 55cm Styler liner proved to be a challenge, especially as the depth in the atriums was only 50cm. Each atrium contains 18 Wild Olive trees which are artistically arranged in a bed of bark chips and underplanted with Mondo Grass.

On each floor, the walkway leading to the open plan office space is enhanced with a row of stainless steel planters containing beaded aloes in either red, blue or green. The colour of the beading matches the main colour scheme of the screens and artwork on that particular floor. The containers have been placed in strips of white pebbles which reflect attractively in the high gloss stainless steel planters. The look is crisp and clean.
The beaded Aloes were supplied by Obbligato who employ Zimbabwean beaders (based in South Africa) as part of their social responsibility income generating programme. They work on a freelance basis. Says Angela Bax of Obbligato: “We develop patterns for the plants we want made and this helps to keep them standard in size. The beaders then add their own interpretation to make them into attractive works of art. Plants are customised to suit the different projects and we have produced giant proteas and aloes, amongst others.”
Simone says: “The decision to use the beaded aloes was a process that evolved with regard to colours, ranges and finishes. The longer-leafed Aloe was chosen to provide balance in the tall containers.”


Simone originally wanted to bring in the soil for atriums by crane but this was not possible and bagged soil was eventually brought in and carried manually up five flights of stairs. “Fortunately it is a bark medium and fairly light,” he says.
The main challenge was to plant the Oleas in the shallow circle and acclimatise them (and the Mondo grass) to indoor growth. The Oleas are susceptible to Sooty Mould and a second set of these trees is waiting and ready to be brought in should those initially installed not survive (most have been in the atrium for 10 months already). Light levels are also a concern; despite the presence of a skylight over each atrium, there is still insufficient sunlight and no free-flowing air.

Precise planning

The entire process was very well organised and the order for containers placed six months in advance of the installation. “Everything was carried out very effectively under the guidance of Zurich’s property manager Barry Reynolds. Lifts were allocated and a strict schedule had to be adhered to. It was really a pleasure to work like this,” explains Simone. Reynolds comments that although there were many aspects to take into account, it was a relatively simple programme and logical from an installation point of view. “I called all the suppliers together and provided them with the work programme on a computer spread sheet. The Office Plant was in fact at the tail end of project and it was important for all the ducks to be in a row. It’s really just in my nature to plan things in an orderly fashion,” he says.

Reynolds was not personally involved with the interior design brief and the ideas for the plantscaping came from Collaboration and Facet Interiors. However he gave them ‘a relatively free hand’ and only intervened where he felt something was not appropriate from a work and work station point of view (these are all open plan and divided by screens). “The interior planting is an integral part of our office environment and has elicited a very positive response from staff members. The fact that The Office Plant received a gold award and trophy for the project says it all,” he states.

Judges’ comments

When assessing the installation for the 2009 IPSA awards, the judges commented that Zurich was an outstanding project in which live plants, planters and beaded plants were combined to produce a striking impact. Simone says that the project was very gratifying in that he was able to use and bring in all aspects of plantscaping covered by The Office Plant.

Text by Karyn Richards. Photos by Connall Oosterbroek of Roots SA

Palm Lakes Estate

Project Team
Developer: Royal Palm Property Holdings
Landscape Architects: Uys & White (Durban)
Landscape Contractors: Mad Landscapes, Emerald Landscapes
Environmental Consultants: Sustainable Development Projects
Irrigation: Controlled Irrigation and JKS Irrigation

Palm Lakes Residential Estate is located in the Tinley Manor area of KZN, north of Ballito and 23 km from the new King Shaka International Airport. The site is typical of Natal’s rolling hills, with expansive green valleys, natural wetlands and existing coastal forests and grasslands.

Landscape architect Bernice Rumble of Uys & White says the client, Mark Froman, was “passionate about landscaping and wanted to create a resort-like quality on arrival, as well as a botanical garden estate.” The use of tropical and sub-tropical plants alongside indigenous ones was encouraged to provide a diverse landscape which would attract wildlife and provide colour for residents and visitors.

Landscape design philosophy

Rumble says that the site’s topography is very dramatic, with steep slopes and well-defined water courses which has lead to large conservation open space areas. To reduce high intensity maintenance and comply with the EMP, the majority of these open space areas have been rehabilitated back to either 100% indigenous coastal forests, grasslands or coastal palm veld. These newly rehabilitated areas will form important environmental corridors.
No alien or invasive plant species were permitted onto the estate and the overall character is typically sub-tropical coastal; this, together with the vast areas of indigenous coastal rehabilitation, has enhanced and added value to the existing bio-diversity of the area, which is largely a mono-culture of sugar cane.
The main arrival area has been intensively landscaped to reflect an informal resort style, thereby creating a strong identity and sense of place. Bold use of colour and massing is evident, with clipped Duranta, Ophiopogon japonicus and Cycas spp forming a strong statement under a formally placed boulevard of palms. Says Rumble: “In addition, the main entrance is dramatic because the earth was moulded on either side to create an enclosed arrival space that exhibits the landscape to those approaching. We further integrated the landscape with the road by changing the road edge from a typically straight line to an organic curved detail. Irregular, oval-shaped planted islands were also introduced into the road and this helped to soften the overall quality, thereby enhancing the botanical resort atmosphere.”

The overall road articulation is a combination of formal and informal links, encouraging formal and informal planting. Trees and palms have been planted along the roads either in boulevard formation or in clusters to strengthen the developer’s vision of creating a botanical garden estate. Tree planting within the road reserves is crucial in order to soften the overall built environment and roof scape, with tree and palm choices for these roads separated into neighbourhoods, thereby enhancing the feeling of seasonal changes within the landscape. Road islands and intersections have been given floral identities by the massing of plant species and the use of large, out-of-ground plant specimens. (See plant list below). Road finishes differ according to road hierarchies and clay pavers with cobble edging have been used at the main entrance.

Plant list

To achieve the lush, tropical look required, the following plant material was used:

  • Palms
  • Hyophorbe lagenicaulis, H.verschaffeltii, Dypsis leptocheilos, D.decaryii, D.lutescens, Butia capitata, B. yatay, Livistonia chinensis, Woodyetia bifurcata, Roystonia regia, Syagrus romanzoffiana, Caryota mitis, Ravenea rivularis, Phoenix reclinata, P.roebelinii, Hyphaene coriacea
  • Cycads/Cycas
  • Cycas revoluta, C.thoursii, Dioon spinulosum, Encephalartos natalensis, E.ferox, Zamia furferacea

Environmental aspects

Simon Bundy of Sustainable Development Projects was the appointed environmental consultant and says that the Palm Lakes development was based primarily on altered sugar cane lands, some of the oldest in South Africa. (The area was part of the trial plots established by Morewood, the founder of the South African cane industry). As such, the area itself had been subject to extensive bio-physical alteration over a period of a century or more. Palm Lakes lies within the Umhlali River catchment and in close proximity to the upper reaches of the Umhlali estuary. Maintenance of the hydrology of the site formed the basis for environmental management at Palm Lakes.

To this end, the focus on Palm Lakes was to identify and rank the many streams that pervaded the site and to consider the maintenance of the aquatic ecology associated with the Umhlali. Streams that were found to be low ranking in terms of biological function were proposed for the establishment of water features and improvements in botanical diversity, while those systems that were found to have higher rankings were not considered for impoundment and general riverine management principles were applied in these instances. The overall objective was to ensure that Palm Lakes would not affect downstream estuarine functionality and where possible, to improve on this system.


Landscape installation

Alan Hunt of Mad Landscapes and Brendan Fox of Emerald Landscapes were responsible for the landscape installation, which Hunt describes as a ‘Madagascan theme’. His scope of work was to carry out all aspects of landscaping including sourcing of plant material, working within a set budget, control of all sub-contractors namely irrigation, civil works, shaping of subsoil and topsoil, as well as large tree and palm harvesting and planting. Says Hunt: “Although the site was originally a sugar cane farm with a few banana plantations, it had gentle slopes, beautiful valley lines and a small stream passing through, leading to a horse shoe dam that was built by the previous owner. The greatest advantage for us was that we were involved right from the start and we could use the lie of the land as well as existing plant material. The developer had vision and foresight, understanding the importance of plant material, the need to plant trees in the valley lines and the value of eradicating alien vegetation and replacing it with indigenous trees. He inspired us with his passion for plants.” Hunt says there was no shortage of water and this helped to establish the landscape quickly. However the soil was not very thick in some areas and had a high clay content, which made it difficult to apply and shape.
As the developer was very keen on instant, tropical gardens that were colourful and soft on the eye, Hunt used mass plantings of groundcovers with bright colours either in the flowers or the foliage. Evergreen trees were chosen as opposed to anything with thorns. “The larger the leaf the better, and as many unusual varieties as possible,” he says.

A nursery was established especially for the estate in order to provide the plant material required, and plants were grown from seed, cuttings or splits. Mad Landscapes undertakes daily site maintenance and all areas are cut once a week. Maintenance also comprises edge trimming, tree pruning and applying fertilisers and pesticides when needed. In addition they are responsible for watering and maintenance of the irrigation system, driving range, tee boxes, fairway and greens.

Emerald Landscapes was involved in the landscape installation for Phase 1, which included the main gate and landscaping of the roads within the estate. According to Lesley Ridgway, one of their biggest challenges was the relocation of a large-leafed fig tree at the first traffic circle. It had to be split in half to be transported and was then transplanted with great care to ensure that it was “correctly put back together again”. The first year of maintenance was undertaken by Emerald Landscapes.


The irrigation system was designed by Controlled Irrigation and installed by JKS Irrigation with the following design brief:

  • water would be supplied to the estate from the river, with the old agricultural pump station being upgraded to cater for all home and common area irrigation
  • all common areas would be irrigated direct from the pressurised pipeline
  • home owners would be offered free, non-potable water for irrigation purposes i.e. fresh water and irrigation water would be piped to each residential and share block stand
  • water saving and irrigation management was to be of utmost importance
  • each stand would be given a take-off point which would be remotely managed according to water requirements, taking into account soil type, planting variety, rainfall and local weather conditions
  • the pressurised line and communication cable between controllers would be undertaken by the main contractor with the irrigation contractor’s responsibility being from the take-off points

The above was a unique requirement which (as far as JKS Irrigation is aware) has not been implemented on any other estate and required some “thinking out of the box”. A moisture sensing computerised system was selected, comprising a series of remote controllers each servicing 200 zones. These zones can be assigned to either common areas or residential sites. The controller is programmed to identify common vs. residential zones. Common zones were activated as landscaping was done, with residential zones being activated on request when occupation was taken.
The advantage of the system is that it is a ‘two-wire’ system which eliminates the need to lay kilometers of individual valve control wire from controller to solenoid valves. A two-wire path carries both 24VAC power and communication signals to activate zones. A further plus for the system is that at any point, extra zones can be added or removed, within hydraulic constraints, to facilitate changes to site or landscape conditions.

Irrigation time and duration is automatically computed via moisture sensors strategically positioned in the landscaped areas. These sensors are positioned in the root zone and measure moisture levels at the point of intake by the plant. When the percentage moisture falls below the preset levels (which are adjustable by management), irrigation is called for. At the same time, the irrigation windows are taken into account i.e. common areas are only scheduled to irrigate at night when public traffic is at a minimum. Moisture graphs, wire and valve malfunction, irrigation times and duration are all stored for historic and management purposes.

Installed sprinklers have been selected according to planting regimes as follows:

  • signature series 6000 gear drive rotor pop-ups and shrub heads
  • signature series 6300 static pop-ups and shrub sprays
  • signature series 6300 pop-ups and shrub heads with MPR rotating nozzles
  • signature series 9000 25mm and 40mm solenoid valves activate the irrigation zones

With regard to the installation of the system, it was marked out with trench routes demarcated by lime and sprinkler points identified by marker flags. This was then approved by the consultant to ensure that other services such as electrical or plumbing were not compromised; the landscaper also commented on any design changes. Installation of the main and lateral lines was undertaken both by means of hand trenching and use of a Bobcat mini excavator machine. Trenching conditions were difficult due to the amount of shale and rock present in the soil. Backfilling was undertaken using imported material to prevent shale and sharp rocks damaging the installed pipe lines. Much co-ordination took place to ensure that all contractors worked together without delaying or damaging others’ works. Irrigation pipe work was installed after final levels were pulled, allowing the landscaper to plant without interruption. JKS Irrigation undertook final adjustments of sprinkler bodies and nozzles immediately thereafter, supplying water without delay to newly landscaped areas.

Water features

Several man-made lakes were created to enhance the value of the estate and the function of the open space system. The water bodies are mostly for storm water attenuation but nevertheless attract wildlife to the estate.

Information supplied by Uys & White (Durban), Mad Landscapes, Emerald Landscapes, Sustainable Development Projects and JKS Irrigation.
Compilation by Karyn Richards. Photos courtesy of Uys & White, Mad Landscapes and YZ Gardens.