Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Imagining Gardens

The garden at Towerwater has always provided a sanctuary and a source of joy for us. With the devastating drought in the Western Cape, it has become even more so.

The drought has impacted the City of Cape Town to a greater extent, owing to the higher water demand in the City in relation to the supply. The City is currently facing the prospect of running out of water. A Day Zero is foreseen where taps will run dry. Over 4 million people will have to collect their daily quota of 25 litres per person per day, at designated distribution points.

The Towerwater garden
In November 2016, we were asked to cut our water consumption. We heeded the call by reducing our gardens and using every bit of water for as many purposes as possible. Grey water is used for flushing toilets and tap water has become a precious drinking and cooking water source.

The Cape Town garden
When my house was renovated, the gardens had to be redesigned. I planned to have a rose garden consisting of Rosa Bracteata Macartney as added security on the street front. The back garden would have had a hedge of Portulacaria afra (Spekbos) against a large sun-facing wall to break the glaring white of the courtyard. I have reduced the garden area by increasing the paved area. The square garden located in a paved area will consist of two citrus trees set in a fragrant garden of lavenders, scented geraniums, rosemary and other edible plants.

If I think about it, I am introducing elements of the Towerwater garden into the City gardens. It is possibly because I associate happiness of being with the Towerwater garden. I would like to fill my living spaces with happiness. One problem is the lack of water. I decided therefore instead, to cover the garden spaces with plastic sheeting, as an interim measure to control weeds and dust. The plastic sheeting is weighed down with stones and tiles until we are able to garden again. The ‘garden’ is very severe at the moment, but we will do everything possible to stave off Day Zero. What is concerning, is the fact that more than 50% of the people living in Cape Town have to date reportedly, not contributed to saving water. Their disregard of the situation is further catapulting us to the inevitable Day Zero, sooner than we expected.

With austere gardens in Cape Town, the Towerwater garden has become, in stark contrast, a verdant sanctuary of pleasure and joy. We are experiencing drought in the countryside too. We have accordingly reduced our usage of potable and non-potable water. The garden depends on irrigation water from the irrigation canal. Our allocated volume of water from this source has been reduced by 50%. We have always used far less than our allocated volume. We achieved this with an irrigation system that, through various measures, maximises the impact of the water used. We have long since abandoned the traditional flood irrigation.

Brinjals starting
The last of the courgettes
We are also composting more intensely and have minimised the vegetable seasonal planting. As vegetable beds are emptied, we feed them with compost and manure and let the bed rest, instead of planting follow-up crops. It is strange not to see the vegetable beds bursting with constant produce. But the empty beds remind us there is more to life than the here and now. We need to think of the future and conserve our dwindling water sources, particularly until the drought is broken.

A big joy is the Bougainvillea hedge with its bright shades of pinks, yellow and red. From the wall of colour on the street-side, it cascades down to the orchard floor where the waterfall of pink flowers are a joy to behold from a bedroom window.

The roses are benefiting from our preparations for the drought. They seem to thrive on the thicker mulch. However, the flowers do suffer in the heat and get scorched on a regular basis. Our biggest concern is to keep the plants alive until the next rains. We normally reduce watering in March when the garden goes into autumn. By April we can switch off the irrigation until September.

To be honest, the absence of the Cape Town gardens is a bit of a relief. The vicious South-easterly winds, known locally and traditionally as “The Cape Doctor”, does not make gardening a pleasure in the City. Imagining the gardens in the City is exciting. But it is more inspiring to be able to do it, sitting under the great oak at Towerwater, where dreams and ideas are tangible in the beauty that surrounds me.  


  1. So waar Thys alles wat jy sê impakteer. Jammer oor jou stadshuis se tuin, maar as daar 'n Eden in die platteland wag, is dit die leegheid werd. Paar malvas in 'n pot vra nie veel water nie! Sê maar net!! Dankie vir'n lekker blog, soos altyd!!

  2. Dankie Ann, die tuin in die stad is 'n klein opoffering sodat ons drinkwater vir langer kan geniet. En jy is reg die eden in die platteland help.


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