Crushed rock lined drainage channels purify run-off water from the Mitchells Plain Hospital parking areas before reaching the wetlands, which act as retention dams. Picture: Supplied
Crushed rock lined drainage channels purify run-off water from the Mitchells Plain Hospital parking areas before reaching the wetlands, which act as retention dams. Picture: Supplied
Cape thatching reed (Elegia tectorum) was planted within the calcrete blocks. Picture: Supplied
Cape thatching reed (Elegia tectorum) was planted within the calcrete blocks. Picture: Supplied
Endemic plants such as the lions ear (Leonotis leonurus) were planted on the site. Picture: Supplied
Endemic plants such as the lions ear (Leonotis leonurus) were planted on the site. Picture: Supplied
Bevil Steyn of Cape Contours Landscape Solutions, Muizenberg, receives the highest award that can be given to a landscaper in South Africa  the Sali Shield for Excellence in Landscaping. Picture: Supplied
Bevil Steyn of Cape Contours Landscape Solutions, Muizenberg, receives the highest award that can be given to a landscaper in South Africa  the Sali Shield for Excellence in Landscaping. Picture: Supplied

Cape Town - A dune strandveld fynbos garden in Mitchells Plain has beaten 121 professional landscapes to win the trophy for the best project in South Africa this year.

The South African Landscape Institute (Sali) Shield for Excellence in Landscaping was awarded to Muizenberg-based landscapers Cape Contours Landscape Solutions (CCLS), for their installation of an endemic dune strandveld fynbos garden at the new Mitchells Plain Hospital.

This prestigious accolade is awarded annually to the landscaping project judged to be the best in South Africa.

“2014 saw the second highest number of projects entered into the Sali Awards since its inception in 1987,” says national judge and landscape architect Fourie Pieterse. “This year, 121 professional landscaping projects were evaluated by teams of regional judges.”

He said: “An emerging trend among the entries was the superb redevelopment of existing landscapes towards a more sustainable approach.”

For local gardeners, this award focuses attention on and reinforces the importance of restoring endemic landscapes wherever possible.

Established eight years ago, CCLS is managed by directors Stephen Steyn, Bevil Steyn and Nolusindiso Daniso. Their team’s most recent contracts include the landscaping for the Blue Route Mall, Chapman’s Peak Toll Plaza and Makro Cape Gate.

The landscaping of endemic fynbos around the Mitchells Plain Hospital was unusual for all sorts of reasons. Designed by landscape architect Tarna Klitzner, the gardens required a complete installation and regeneration of an endemic and endangered dune strandveld fynbos biome across a largely disturbed and invasive alien plant-infested site.

Moreover, their selection was not only a vote for endemic landscapes, but also an appreciation of just how difficult it is to recreate endemic landscapes.

“These gardens are a benchmark for sustainable and eco-friendly landscaping in the Western Cape,” said Premier Helen Zille at the official opening ceremony of the Mitchells Plain Hospital.

“The project is an outstanding example of eco-conscious rehabilitation, and an excellent showcase of the application of effective water-wise landscaping principles,” said Sali judge Pieterse. “The landscape conserves water, is sustainable, and uses endemic plants which provide a habitat for small creatures. In addition, it is unusual, different and very attractive.”

 

Built by the provincial Public Works department, the hospital was erected on a 6.5ha site. From the outset, the department specified that the landscape plantings must comprise dune strandveld plantings, which are endemic to the Mitchells Plain area, in order to preserve this threatened fynbos biome.

“The site underwent massive disturbance during the hospital construction, and also contained many invasive alien plants,” said Bevil Steyn. “In short, the area required complete rehabilitation.”

 

The project took 19 months to complete. It required extensive earthworks and included many hard-landscaping elements such as a complete (but temporary) irrigation system for plant establishment, a bore-hole, stormwater management, and a series of retention dams to conserve rain water.

In addition, during excavations about 6 000m3 of underlying calcrete bedrock were exposed. Proving to be too costly to remove, most of the calcrete was innovatively used in the landscape, with assistance from the Grinaker construction crew. Half was crushed, used in drainage and water purifying areas such as the swales and retention ponds.

The larger rocks were scattered randomly between plants as aesthetic enhancements. In keeping with the sustainability principles adopted on the project, the calcrete was also used for the cladding of various feature walls and seating throughout the building, in gabions, and as natural bollards in the parking areas.

“Over 500 000 plants and 850 trees were required to landscape the 25 different planting areas and 19 courtyards,” Steyn said.

Extensive plant search and rescue operations were carried out by endemic plant expert Deon van Eeden (Vula Environmental Services) to make sure that all plant material propagated for the site came from cuttings off authentic mother stock. A holding nursery on site was established to care for the plants during the extended installation period.

The Strandveld plants in the landscape include lion’s ear (Leonotis leonurus), rose-scented pelargonium (Pelargonium capitatum), Stoebe spp., white bristle bush (Metalasia muricata), giant honey flower (Melianthus major), watsonia, and restios. Many are special endemics that would have been lost if they hadn't been rescued.

A bonus is that many rare plants, including the Mitchells Plain form of the tough Phylica ericoides which flowers nine months of the year, are now available in garden centres.

Landscaper Grant Smith, who specialises in natural fynbos plantings, assisted with the accurate pairing and setting out of plants as they occur in their original biome in randomly mixed groups.

Because there were no large trees endemic to the area, indigenous species such as white stinkwood (Celtis africana), white karee (Searsia pendulina) and water berry (Syzygium cordatum) were used to provide shade, particularly around the entrance where people will congregate. The only non-indigenous plants used are in the hospital courtyards where they have to cope with deep shade.

The hospital grounds now act as a nature reserve protecting a number of threatened plants, such as Ortholobium bolusii, and small creatures, including grysbok, snakes, rodents and chameleons.

The ponds and the swales have become part of the aesthetic landscape of the hospital. Water-loving plants growing in these areas contribute to the diversity of the vegetation and animal habitats. This previously disturbed site has itself undergone a healing process, paving the way for patients to benefit from this restored and rejuvenated environment.

* For more information, contact Bridget on 021 788 1202 or 082 446 4046.

Kay Montgomery. Weekend Argus