Anderson Street

In the 1970’s and 80’s the Eastern Cape experienced a series of severe droughts. There were periods of relief but some of them went on for years. I had the depressing feeling that desertification was stalking out of the Karoo and into the coastal escarpment and I still believe this. If you look at the names of farms in the Karoo, like “Rietfontein” and look for a spring or stream of any sort in vain, you sense that the place is much drier than it was.

When I bought my house I knew immediately that it needed trees. The soil was sandy and dry. It needed shade, protection from the sun and wind. I understood how useful stone and paving of any kind is in creating some protection. The garden was really large and I set about making “rooms” – breaking it up so that you could wander from one shady, embowered spot to another – lose yourself, so to speak, in its different spaces. I built a pergola and a goldfish pond and later a Koi pond. A large stone wall helped to break things up, as did the process of terracing and levelling sections. But it was trees that I really craved and I planted a lot of them.

I didn’t have a bakkie in those days so I used Joanna’s Volkswagen Golf to cart stone from wherever I could find it and laid it down as paving – a kind of permanent mulch on the soil. I ran the grey water from the house onto the trees and planted a lot of local plants. When they widened the road to Kenton, a number of beautiful aloes were graded off the verge and we rescued several of these and put them into the terraced beds of the garden. We did the same with fever trees (euphorbia) and cabbage trees. These three are probably, with the acacia, the most typical East Cape plants I can think of. They all thrived. The whole exercise was given a massive boost when the Botanical Gardens closed their nursery. Fred Birch of Nature Conservation had somehow found the Gardens under his management (the municipality was finding them too expensive to run and tried to get someone else to pick up the tab). Anyway, the end result was that Fred asked if there was anything in the old nursey that we’d like. Although the plants had been neglected for a long time, most of them were still alive and we had a sudden supply of trees, shrubs, groundcovers, cycads, aloes, and so on.

We have been back to 6 and 8 Anderson street a few times over the years since we left and we have been delighted to find that the subsequent owners haven’t taken any of the trees out. The garden is a veritable jungle, shady and lush: just what we had hoped it might become. Just how a garden ought to be.