Grebe Garden, Johannesburg

Grebe vegetable garden

They've decided: if their neighbours won't plant proper trees, they will. This is a Cape ash (Ekebergia capensis)

This spring one of her standard roses bloomed so heavily that the weight of its flowers bent its steel basket-frame!

Her vegetable and herb garden outside the kitchen is a joy to behold. ‘‘I feed them every few months with seedling compost and Vigorosa for everyone in the garden - that's the secret with herbs.” Her Thai basil bush grows to enormous proportions, right through winter - so vigorous, it has to be pruned. She lists everything she has crammed into that tiny space: every conceivable variety of lettuce, rocket, sage, mint, leeks, thyme, origano, sorrel, celery, tomatoes, spinach, rose geranium, and even trees like lemon and bay. ‘‘They seem to find joy in fellowship.”

The kitchen window originally looked out on the dreary beige plaster of the neighbouring house. She says the sight so depressed her, that she made screening off the neighbours a priority. Today they are hidden from the kitchen window by a closely-planted row of Eugenia paniculata, or brush cherry trees. (‘‘The Brush-Cherry does not take advantage of its freedom,” Sima Eliovson writes in Flowering shrubs, trees and climbers for Southern Africa, making it a good choice for filling up a narrow space in upwards fashion.)

Amongst gardens planted with either palm trees (‘‘instant gratification”, she calls them) or with the limited palette of contemporary South African gardens (a preponderance of fever trees, Acacia xanthophloea, and aloes) that shuns floral abundance, her garden is a reflection of her vivacious personality. The lavender trees used to be underplanted by lavender, but she has replaced it with lime-green Duranta erecta ‘Sheena's Gold’, pruned as a box hedge, mixed with red coxcombs.

Her flowers have attracted bees, she feeds the garden birds - an old quarry could not have fallen into better hands.