In the Green

In the Green

Thinking about overhauling your garden this spring? Follow these pointers so you don’t outgrow your budget – Words by Jade Taylor Cooke


‘The Western Cape drought made everyone aware of the true cost of our gardens in terms of monthly water bills,’ says Chris Maddams from Red Daffodil Landscaping and Garden Design. However, you don’t have to be living in the Mother City to take advantage of the money-saving benefits of a water-wise garden. ‘Water-wise’ doesn’t necessarily have to mean a desert aesthetic of pea gravel punctuated by the odd lonely succulent, either.

Here are Chris’s tips for a water-smart garden, whether you’re looking to make small, effective changes or you’re starting from scratch:

1. ‘Assess your water supply when planning your garden. Are you creating a zero-addition garden, which must survive on rainfall patterns alone, or do you have access to extra sources, such as rain tanks or groundwater?’

2. ‘Planting the right species of tree in the right position in your garden will create a windbreak, reducing water loss through leaf transpiration. Trees also provide shade from the hot afternoon sun, drastically reducing your garden’s water demands.’

3. ‘Focus on increasing the organic material in your soil, so it absorbs and holds more moisture.’

4. ‘Choose plants that are slow and steady growers.’

5. And, yes, don’t discount succulents completely … ‘The drought has taught me the value of many succulents that I didn’t find too exciting before, I’ve been building hedges and filling pots with spekboom, instead of thirsty buxus, for example.’

A garden is a grand teacher,’ wrote the late, great horticulturist Gertrude Jekyll. ‘It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift.’ This issue, we’re focusing on that last quality: thrift. Because while nothing says ‘spring’ quite like a newly landscaped garden, a revamp can become a rather costly project if you’re not careful.

Chris Maddams shares his advice for staying within a budget while still achieving your ideal garden through the seasons.

We get it: You start planning a garden overhaul and before you know it, you’ve mentally sketched in outdoor entertaining for 16, a koi pond or two, and a labyrinth for all that deep thinking you’re going to get around to doing.

‘It’s easy to create a wish list of features or plants, but that can become overwhelming, especially when space is limited,’ remarks Chris. ‘On the other hand, having a clear understanding of how you want to use your space creates priorities – for example, including play areas versus a kitchen garden, or visually pleasing shrubberies versus a patio. Combine these priorities with the realities of your site and the demands of the plants – for example, shade from walls and trees will influence where lawns will thrive, or perhaps there’s a need for screening trees to provide privacy from a neighbour. This will lead to an organic design process that makes the most of what you already have.’ The only real necessities, according to Chris? ‘Enthusiasm and consistency in your activities are non-negotiables, and will return the best results.’

1. Opt for small, young plants
Full-sized adult plants may instantly create your ideal look, but they can be incredibly pricey. ‘Remember that garden designs play out over years, not simply in 3D,’ says Chris. ‘Patience is the single best way to save money, as buying smaller plants and waiting for them to fill out saves a fortune.’

Don’t cheat and opt for speedy growers to make up for their size, though. ‘We often see people making this mistake,’ says Chris. ‘However, in a few years, that plant is out of control, swamping the space and requiring removal, sending you back to square one – a costly error.’

2. Focus on feeding
‘Allied to opting for smaller plants is prioritising feeding,’ says Chris. ‘Don’t skimp on compost when planting, and make sure you are feeding regularly through the seasons to maximise your garden’s health and growth. Spending on fancy flowers that catch your eye in the nursery, rather than on compost and fertiliser, will cost you in the long run when that high-demand plant fades through lack of food.’

3. Be strategic about pots
Gorgeous, oversized pots instantly elevate a space, but Chris says to place them sparingly if you’re on a budget. ‘I love a beautiful pot as a feature, and adding them to a patio, with trees or creepers, is essential. But getting good pots is expensive, and plants are actually happier in the ground where they can reach down to cooler, moister soil layers, rather than relying on you to water them daily through a hot summer. Paying for a pot, plus potting soil, and then spending your time constantly watering (when the plant would have been happier in the ground) is the opposite of low-maintenance, and an illogical use of a limited budget.’

4. Consider the long-term cost of a lawn
‘Roll-on sods are relatively cheap, so people are often tempted to cover the whole space in lawn,’ says Chris. ‘When looked at over a period of years, however, the maintenance cost of watering and mowing far outweighs that of water-wise planting.’ If you do opt for lawn, be strategic about the species. ‘Shade-tolerant lawns, such as buffalo and berea, are slow-growing, so they cost two to three times more but require less water and mowing, and may therefore be cheaper in the long run,’ says Chris.

5. Avoid annuals
It’s easy to get carried away with the idea of rainbow swathes of colour across your garden. ‘However, while visually pleasing, annuals can be ruinous to your budget as they need seasonal replacement,’ says Chris. ‘A small bit of planning to choose species that flower in different seasons means there is always something brightening up your space.’

6. Shop around for a professional
Unless you’re an old hand at the garden game, you’ll probably want to consult a professional landscaper. Luckily, Chris says this doesn’t necessarily have to blow your budget. ‘You can hire designers to consult with you at an hourly rate before launching into a project, so you aren’t committing to open-ended bills. Many companies also quote for free, so it should be easy to find a firm to fit your budget.’

7. Don’t underestimate mulch
Mulch works seriously hard to help ensure the money you’ve spent on your plantings doesn’t go to waste. ‘We are major cheerleaders for using a bark/compost mix as mulch,’ says Chris. ‘We use it to prevent the top layer of soil from blowing away during windy periods, and to keep the soil below cool and moist. When it rains, we top it up to prevent mud splashing on walls and to ameliorate the effects of harsh downpours. Plus, as mulch breaks down, it provides organic material to feed your soil through the seasons.’

Sure, planting a herb or vegetable garden won’t halve your grocery bill, but every little bit helps. Plus, it’s a great way to introduce your kids to ideas around food production and learning to live more sustainably.

‘Fresh herbs also beat dried ones any day when cooking, in my book,’ says Chris. ‘And, while we don’t all have the patience to wait for onions or potatoes, there are simple things such as cherry tomatoes, spinach and rocket that grow like crazy – you’ll be giving them away. The best advice is to experiment to find out what works in your space. Just remember that anything that produces copious amounts of flowers or fruit needs consistent watering and lots of compost.’

The Slopes of Signal Hill – ProLandscaper March 2017

The Slopes of Signal Hill – ProLandscaper March 2017

At the first site meeting in winter 2014 to discuss the garden for a new house Chris Maddams of Red Daffodil climbed a steep stretch of muddy hillside, covered in rubble & building material overlooking the city of Cape Town. The idea of a lush garden seemed distant. Nevertheless, the plot had a striking location – its aspect provides it with an amazing view across the City Bowl to the façade of Table Mountain, its back garden is the upper slopes of Signal Hill & Lion’s Head peeks over the trees behind. Today the plot has been transformed into a waterwise, fragrant garden, and it is in fact the original hillside that informed so many of the decisions not just of the landscape design but before that the architecture of the house.

Stuart Anderson of Loudon Perry Anderson Architects had wanted to create a garden house – one which blended into its natural surroundings and conformed to the topography to merge with the natural environment rather than competing with its surroundings as a tribute to this plot’s incredible location.

So while Red Daffodil were approached only once building was well underway the importance of the garden in fulfilling the design imperatives and removing the evidence of the building works was vital.

Where the architects had initially envisioned a garden on the natural slope Chris felt that it had been damaged by building works and its gradient represented an erosion risk during the winter rains. To mitigate this he pitched the concept of curved, asymmetrical low stone walls employing the very rock removed in the excavation of the pool. Lightly dressed for neatness but still retaining some roughness these walls created informal terraces for optimal plant growth conditions without compromising the architectural values. The stone terraces were then planted with cascading shrubs and groundcovers to further disguise and distract from the hardscaping so that the walls never became too overt and prevented them from dominating the site.

While having part of a National Park as your backyard may make many of us envious it caused the client to make an unusual request when it came to plant choices – namely that the plants selected be biased towards those with reputations for discouraging snakes. After all riders and walkers on Signal Hill regularly encounter venomous cobras and puff adders.

As someone who studied Botany at UCT & recognising the garden’s proximity to the wild hillside behind Chris was keen to employ a predominantly fynbos palette – so searching for aromatic plants to discourage reptile invaders led to Artemisia afra, Pelargonium spp., Plectranthus neochilis, and Tulbaghia violacea. The latter plants are reported to be used around kraals in the Eastern Cape but they are sour smelling, so to keep them away from the patios a wide band across the top of the property of just these two species was established.

It was also important to keep the plant choices to species that aren’t particularly tall – Chris chose lower growing buchus (Agathosma capensis), succulents (Aloe cooperi) and grasses (Aristida junciformis) as these wouldn’t create deep thickets for snakes to hide, plus it preserves the view of the hill from the lower levels of the house.

It wasn’t only the garden walls that required cascading plants – the architects had sought to further connect the structure to its environment through creating planters on the upstairs patios – off the kitchen/lounge and above the pool. Along with the wall that curves around the lap pool they asked that these be used to create a lush hanging garden effect to swamp the house in greenery. Tropical foliage tends to burn in the heat high on the slopes of Tamboerskloof where fynbos comes into its own, but the pool wall was a fairly shaded space. Adding a line of Cape Holly (Ilex mitis) for privacy added to the cooling effect so this has been planted with hardier indigenous ferns, Cyperus grasses, Toad Lilies (Tricyrtis formosana) and in a nod to the client’s request for yellow & red, Lotus berlothii cascaded over the plasterwork in a matter of months.

From the above its clear the garden isn’t 100% fynbos – exotic species were incorporated for specific reasons – the toad lilies to give a tropical feel with their lush leaves & orchid-like flowers, a large Leopard tree (Caesalpinia ferrea) was inset in the patio paving as the client’s specific request while prostrate rosemary & smaller-growing lavender were added around the lawn to add to the fragrant nature of the garden. Nevertheless, all exotics were only chosen if they could handle the hot conditions of the site in a low rainfall environment.

Today the garden with its mix of fynbos and waterwise planting is an aromatic tumble of textures and seasonal colours that add to the beauty of its surroundings, far removed from its bare & muddy origins.

Download the PDF article here. 


Interview – ProLandscaper

Interview – ProLandscaper

Chris Maddams
Owner of Red Daffodil Landscaping and Garden Design
Most referred to gardening book of all time?
Paul Bargay’s The Balanced Garden
Your most inspirational garden? 

Piece of Machinery/Equipment you couldn’t do without?

Top Plant?
Buxus faulkner

How is sustainability embedded within your business?
We focus on organic methods, encourage recycling and edible gardens. 

Biggest life influence?
My Mom started our business and I learnt about landscaping from her so even without her raising me, it’s definitely her. 

Describe yourself in three words
Talkative, always learning 

Thee people you’d like to invite to dinner?
3 best mates 

Lifelong fan of (sporting team)?

Favourite Drink?
Coffee and good wine. 

VISI – July 2016 – Wim van Zyl’s secluded garden

VISI – July 2016 – Wim van Zyl’s secluded garden

Cape Town hairdresser Wim van Zyl has created a secluded garden in the space adjacent to his Vredehoek home.

What is the story behind your garden?
When I bought my flat I had no access to the garden; I could only see it from my window. So I put in sliding doors to gain access to it. Back then, it was derelict and needed love and attention. I developed it and now look after all the gardens in the block. Valerie Stewart and Chris Maddams from the landscaping business Red Daffodil helped me with the planning and planting. I have a love affair with this garden.

What inspired you to create it?
The garden has become an extension of my home, a continuation of my living space. The white iron bench was my bed 25 years ago; the wooden table used to be my coffee table. I was gifted a baby Victorian chair by my neighbours, which became a plant holder. The little doll used to be on display in my bathroom. Many things moved from their spaces inside to become outside furniture and decoration. My father built the garden temple. It is very special to me, a monument that we built together and that will last for years.

What do you do in the garden?
It is where I eat, relax and find myself.

Read the original article here. – November 2015 – 8 Tips for a Waterwise Lawn – November 2015 – 8 Tips for a Waterwise Lawn

Red Daffodil were recently featured on Property 24. Read the full article here

No one should be too surprised by the headlines warning us about drought conditions because South Africa is a fairly arid country. Grass is the cheapest to install but down the line you’ll realise that it needs more water, more fertiliser and more labour than your beds. As such, it’s easy to see why having a lawn is a costly thing. This is according to Chris Maddams from Red Daffodil who says South Africa’s summer rainfall areas are facing a dry festive season. 

He says even in times of plentiful rainfall, water wise gardening is essential when you consider that the cost of municipal water can only increase. 

But, he says water wise gardening faces many challenges, the most serious of which is how much South Africans love their lawns. 

“When talking to clients, I am often fascinated by how fixated they are with this one aspect of the possible design. Lawns must be made as large as possible, irrespective of any other design concepts that may be mentioned.” 

Most often, Chris says this is a request from parents who are eager to offer their kids the kind of space to run in that they may have enjoyed before high walls and closed in spaces came to dominate suburbia. He says he can’t help feeling it’s a status symbol too – a little peacocking to show the neighbours. Unlike waiting for rain, you can be fairly sure that your showers and washing machines are going to be a constant, so reusing this water on your lawn is a great recycling initiative.The problem is that lawns are the least water wise aspect of a garden. In fact, Chris says he spends a lot of time each work week discussing why lawns are the most cost-intensive part of a garden. For sure, grass is the cheapest to install but down the line you’ll realise that it needs more water, more fertiliser and more labour than your beds. As such, it’s easy to see why having a lawn is one of the costly aspects of your garden. 

Chris says a few years ago, when there were strict water restrictions in the Cape, clients came to him asking for limited lawns and more sustainable solutions. He says dry lawns grow brown quickly, while water wise shrubs keep your space looking greener for far longer before they begin to wilt. He says after a year or two without restrictions, the memories seem to have faded and it’s back to huge parks of moisture-hungry grass. 

And lest you think your borehole protects you from this possibility, the number of such installations has increased dramatically, meaning that the combined draw may drop the water table drastically. In fact, Chris says he has heard of many people whose boreholes ran dry in the Cape last time when they had restrictions, and a costly drilling to greater depth was required. In time, he says he expects Government to step in and provide restrictions on this as well. 

Chris shares tips on how to create a water wise lawn… 

1. Limit the size of your lawn to what is needed
Harsh mowing practices expose the roots and soil to the heat, leading to greater loss of moisture.Chris says often he sees ‘dead space’ covered in grass down the sides of houses or round the corners. He says these areas are never used, but require constant mowing and watering. He says homeowners should use gravel areas or turn these spaces into water wise shrubberies. 

2. Consider your species of grass
Most lawns are kikuyu – its fast growth means it can handle traffic the best, but its high growth comes with high demand for water. Buffalo grass uses less than half the water and the interval between mowing is twice as long. Berea and cynodon are also more water wise than kikuyu. 

3. Water storage
Water storage is useful to many. Chris says, however, his issue is it is limited in its effects when you need it the most. When drought conditions take hold, your storage capacity can easily be depleted, and the lack of rain means it won’t be replenished. Professional systems ensure 100% coverage, and computers mean you can fine-tune the schedule so the correct amount of water is delivered.This is most apparent in the Cape, where the long dry summers mean tanks are exhausted by mid-summer even in a good year. During summer rainfalls, Chris recommends that areas likeGauteng and Natal collect water. 

4. Grey water
Unlike waiting for rain, you can be fairly sure that your showers and washing machines are going to be a constant, so reusing this water on your lawn is a great recycling initiative. Various companies offer different ways of achieving this too. 

5. Make sure your mower isn’t set too low
Harsh mowing practices expose the roots and soil to the heat, leading to greater loss of moisture. This is especially vital with buffalo lawns. 

6. Irrigation systems are not a luxury in gardens 
Who hasn’t turned on the tap, got distracted and ended up turning one corner of the garden into a temporary swamp? Professional systems ensure 100% coverage, and computers mean you can fine-tune the schedule so the correct amount of water is delivered. 

7. Feeding 
Correct feeding means your lawn is healthy, and healthy lawns can withstand dryer conditions. Dumping food is not a short-term solution. Feeding correctly every season means your lawn will withstand stresses in the next. 

8. Water loss is not just due to heat 
​The more wind your garden is exposed to, the more you will need to water it. Chris recommends windbreaks from walls and trees as they help address this issue.

Luke – Grand Designs Home and Garden Show MC 2015!

Luke – Grand Designs Home and Garden Show MC 2015!

We are proud to announce that our very own, Luke from Red Daffodil has been asked to return to the Grand Designs Home and Garden Show, as this year’s MC. With his extensive experience in landscaping and intricately-designed open spaces, Luke has a close relationship with Grand Designs, and compliments the event well. 

Keep your eye out for him on the day. The event is at the Coca Cola Dome, Northgate 29 – 31 May 2015.

Read more about Grand Designs Home and Garden Show here: