Van Staden Garden, Johannesburg

The garden during jacaranda time

Spring, when Johannesburg is graced with the purple backdrop of jacaranda flowers. Note their young pecan nut in the middleground.

They started this garden five years ago with three main objectives in mind. The first is the oft-repeated but, in South Africa, seldom heeded golden rule: in a garden everything should not be visible at first glance. The second was to create a cool microclimate around the house in summer and the third, understandably, to have some privacy from neighbours.

“Some people can’t live without the sea. We can’t live without trees,” Elise van Staden says. When laying out the garden each family member chose a tree to be planted in the limited area. Elise’s husband, Peet, chose a mountain karee (Rhus leptodictya) as it comes from the Marikana Bushveld where he grew up. Elise chose the showy but frost-sensitive Spathodea campanulata (commonly known as the African flame tree). The tree has had a hard time in the Highveld’s winter frosts (just ask those who attended the 2010 Fifa World Cup here!). Hermien, a jeweler bien douée who made my wedding ring, chose a pecan nut tree and my friend Cobus happily claims, and uses, an already-prolific lemon tree, planted during his absence overseas.

Together with a Dais cotinifolia (the lovely South African pompon tree) and some leopard trees (Caesalpinia ferrea, a very popular tree in South Africa these days - too popular, in my view), they want to create a forest of slender, upward-growing trees and a solid canopy of leaves.

It is a really small garden surrounding the house on two-and-a-half sides and it was an easy decision not to have a single inch of lawn – a decision not always appreciated by their visitors, the less tactful amongst them calling the garden ‘untidy’, ‘wild’ and "over the top". >>