Art in the Garden 2

Gardens are per definition ARTificial; even if the gardener strives to let the garden look as natural as possible. We at The Green Cathedral of South Africa are very much aware of this and it is also one of the reasons we go beyond the general perception of a garden. Part of it is Art in the Garden. And it is easy to buy statues and other mass produced ornaments at the garden center. We rather challenge talented people to make something unique and preferable with material from the land or recycable material. An example of the last is the wooden cactus of 4 metres high made by local woodworker Marthinus Plaatjies from restpieces wood.

Recently land art artist Jody Joyner from Tucson, AZ, USA created is giant nest out of hibiscus twigs and a few years ago our own staff created the earthwork Mama Africa (we expect Mama Africa fully covered with succulent groundcovers within 1 year from now.

Here some pictures:

It’s easy to copy things you see on the way. For us it’s a challenge not to be the sheep that follow but the one with followers.


The development of a Dry Garden

general plan dry garden

general plan dry garden

Six years ago the idea for a Dry Garden was launched for a piece of bare land with a surface of approx. 1500 square metres. It was the most brackish part of our 10 hectare (25 acres) property and soil analysis in The Netherlands showed a pH of 8.3 and an organic content of 3 percent next to numerous deficits of nitrogen, phosphorous and diverse trace elements. We choose for the organic and slow way in improving the soil by deminishing the brack and bringing the pH down to 6.8 by adding coarse river sand and plenty of compost in the top 50 cm of the existing (too clayish) soil. After that we soaked everything a few times to get the brack level down (<40ppm; was 200 ppm). And than again mixing compost and gritsand through the top 30 cm of the soil. Considering that it takes approx. 3 years before the new soil (micro-organisms, etc.) is established we waited that long before we made the first trials with some cacti, other succulents and some acacia species including acacia hybrids.

preparation works

preparation works

This year we made the final decision and two students (Pauline Gillet and Sybille de Cussy) from the landscape university in Blois, France (ENSNP) have been fully engaged in designing the garden and implementing their design in practice.

De Cussy and Gillet knew literally nothing about succulent plants and lack of knowledge often results in an unusual surprising approach.

artist impression of aloe bush

artist impression of aloe bush

They created a dry garden with 7 spheres (totalling 78 different species, subspecies, etc.); creeping plants, shrubs/trees, rocks, cactus and euphorbia bushes, aloe bush, mixed border, agaves.

rock art in the dry garden

rock art in the dry garden

Students of the McGregor Waldorf School were engaged in rock art  drawings throughout the garden as part of Land Art Project in South Africa that is initiated by Soekershof.

detail of aloe bush

detail of aloe bush

A PDF-file with plan and plantlist is -free of charge- available for interested landscapers and other interested parties with simular soil ‘problems’. Request e-mail to info -at-

Landscaping a Rockery (part 3); Work in progress

Rocking the World

Rocking the World

A few months ago we updated the readers of this blog about the huge rockery we are creating at the entrance of our humble enterprise.

The American part of this rockery (closed in by sections with succulent plants from Australia and the African continent) has already progressed in such a manor that we could put rocks around the plants. In a later stage we will plant some smaller succulent plants between the rocks.

We don’t believe in instant gardens. A garden has to grow.


The existing (restored 1965) garden is looking great despite the early Winter here in South Africa:

A view in the restored 1965 succulent garden of Soekershof

A view in the restored 1965 succulent garden of Soekershof

Landscaping a rockery PART 3 (practical on THE spot)

During Festive Season (school holiday) 2007/2008:

At Soekershof Walkabout, Klaas Voogds West, Robertson, Western Cape, South Africa.

Daily at 11 AM and 3 PM:

Rocking the World; A succulent landscaping project in Robertson.

Designed for all (succulent) gardeners/landscapers who want to know more about the possibilities and impossibilities of waterwise gardening in South Africa with emphasis on the Western Cape. See this and that plus media release below.

R 150.00 pp including picnic and standard program with quest in maze and tour in succulent gardens (see

Duration 3-4 hrs. Only prepaid bookings.

Number of participants per educational limited to approx. 10 PAX.


1) Theoretical basics of landscaping rockeries (soil, composition, creating micro climates)

2) Landscaping a rockery in practice. Interaction between participants and the garden artists of Soekershof.

Discover that waterwise gardening is more labour extensive than generally perceived but also very much rewarding.

Info and bookings: Tel: 023-6264134

Rocking the world

Robertson (Western Cape); November 13 2007 – Soekershof Walkabout, Mazes & Botanical Gardens, commenced excavagation works for two rockeries which will the ‘growing ground’ of approx. 1000 succulent species from around the world within two years. These new species are in addition to the 2467 registered different succulent plants in the existing succulent gardens.
The gardens of Soekershof Walkabout distinguish themselves from those of other botanical gardens in South Africa with all plants under the open sky (not under roof or shade cloth) and all plants are organically cultivated without the use of fertilisers and other chemicals. Furthermore is Soekershof Walkabout the only botanical garden in South Africa which is certified by Fair Trade in Tourism in South Africa (

Both rockeries are near the entrance; one will be the ‘growing ground’ of caudiciform plants (f.e. ‘bottle trees’, including several baobab species, from Australia, Madagascar and Southern Africa) and the other one will mainly consist of American succulent plants such as cacti, yuccas and agaves next to Brazilian ceiba trees (Choriosa speciosa). Most plants of the new collection are home grown from seeds and hardly or not on display elsewhere in South Africa.

The investment in the new rockeries is the first phase of a three year program during which all ‘gaps’ in the existing landscape of 10 hectares will be filled with different sphere gardens. In the beginning of next year excavagation works are scheduled for a very formal layout of sample gardens for the own nursery customers and the extension of the Langeberg Garden (in fact a maze without dead ends and home grown indigenous trees and shrubs).

Since the official opening in December 2002 Soekershof Walkabout is increasingly attracting (amateur) horticulturists, garden societies, botanists, etc. from around the globe. Locally Soekershof Walkabout is mainly known for its Klaas Voogds Maze which is regarded as the ‘largest hedge maze in the world’.

and be
Soekershof Walkabout
Mazes & Botanical Gardens
Primary Unusual Destination
Certified by Fair Trade in Tourism in South Africa
Klaas Voogds West, P.O. Box 291, Robertson 6705, South Africa
Tel: +27 (0)23 626 4134
Skype: soekershof
Soekershof Science:

Mission statement:
Soekershof Walkabout is a sacred enterprise, based on an appreciation of nature, humor, play, creation, expression and respect for the land, and the growth and development of the people and plants that participate -employees and visitors alike.

Soekershof Walkabout is a personal event which is simply described as the “Largest Hedge-Maze in the world” and/or “a garden with more than 2400 different succulents from all over the world under the open sky”.
But Soekershof IS more than that.
The original concept goes beyond all prejudice perceptions.

Walk, Wonder and be Inspired!!!

Just let it happen and take your time; a few hours at least.

Experiencing Soekershof Walkabout is, globally, a unique and hugely entertaining exercise for Body, Mind and Spirit; not to be missed.

Daily Tours: 11 AM and 3 PM (sharp!!!)
See website for more details.

Landscaping a rockery PART 2


With reference to an earlier submission:

Last week we started excavagation works for rockeries with a surface of around

1000 square metres. This at the entrance of Soekershof Walkabout.

One rockery will, in due time, filled up with caudiciform plants like adenia, delonix, cussonia, pachypodium, fockea and fouquirea species. As you can see at the picture we already planted with main infrastructure (focal points) with Brazilian snow trees (Chorisia speciosa) and some adenia species. 

The other rockery will consist of 4 spheres; one American (we will call it ‘Little Texas’); one Australian (with Australian succulent plants including 2 Brachyton species (bottle trees); one Southern Africa with a mix from Madagascar, Botswana, Zambia, South Africa and Namibia and the fourth small one will contain mainly Sempervivum, Crassula and Sedum species.

It’s very important to gradually plant the rockery. Ours is a three year plan and don’t be surprised if it takes longer. As soon as all focal points are in we just wait and look and think before we make additions. The focal points are essential. You will have to visualise the future size and shape. During the next months we probably move a few ones.

Story to be continued.

Landscaping a rockery

Creating a garden is not always as easy as it looks like; expecially when you intend to create a special garden.

A rockery is a speciality garden and to make it right you’ll have to go through a lot of trial and error but the end result (end result? a rockery is a never ending story) makes it worthwhile.

To avoid starting up problems/errors a few general guidelines:

1) Soil must have good drainage.

2) Create slopes which, in cases of flood rain, let the overload of water drain away.

3) Arrange rocks in such a way that sensitive plants are protected against wind, rain and sun

4) When choosing plants you must have a good idea of what you want; large plants, small plants, colours. Advise: do not buy and plant all at once. Better is to start with a few focal points and  – as in the ongoing process ideas can change – buy and add with intervals the ‘filling up’.

5) Choose plants which are suitable for the local environment. Some plants can also kept in pots which you can cover up with rocks. Handy in case you move to another location and also a necessity for some plants in certain local environments. Maybe it’s even advisable to keep all the plants in pots so you can shuffle them around for a month or so in order to get a better idea of the look of your rockery from diverse angles. The disadvantage of plants in pots is that you will have to re-pot them every 2 to 3 years and that they won’t grow that fast as in the open.

6) Composition of the garden is essential. Always try to find a balance between shapes, colours and flowering seasons. A rockery should be attractive the whole year.

7) The art of making a rockery is that you are able to create a personal one with an own sphere. To achieve this you should visit and look into as many rockeries as possible and talk with the makers. This is a big help for you can learn of the trials and errors of others and you get a better insight in your own idea with all possibilities and especially the impossibilities. It surely will avoid a lot of misery although you will never be able to avoid all. And sometimes it’s good to go against every logical thinking. In this orientating process your original idea will mature into a unique rockery, whatever the size of it.

See also Landscaping a rockery PART 2