Breaking architectural norms

    The interesting duo of husband Robert McBride and wife Debbie-Lyn Ryan, architect and interior designer respectively, are shaking up the world of design with their unique approach and outlook to doing away with any traditional and "normal" architecture in Australia. They inspire, in their uncompromising passion for good design, buildings that are considered "works of art" and, at times, attract controversy from traditionalists in the community.

Their outstanding architecture is changing the skyline of Melbourne and has achieved the ultimate accolade; winning the prestigious World Architecture Festival Awards in Barcelona for best residential house in the world.

Rob and Debbie-Lyn would hardly say that they have "arrived", but they concede the last few years have been easier. Rob has a measured, earnest way, while Debbie-Lyn has exuberance and lightness to her approach. The partnership began when they met as students, he studying science and she fine arts. But McBride (with an engineer father) was attracted to architecture and he transferred to architecture, working before and after graduation with Peter Corrigan, and Ashton Raggatt McDougall.

Debbie-Lyn had intended to be a social worker, but art changed her direction and she began working in textiles, set design and styling as a way of "using an artistic bent in a practical way". She studied interior design, then set up her own interior design business. In 1988 the economy was booming. With lots of good commissions on offer, McBride and Ryan teamed up with architect Tony Charles to establish McBride Charles Ryan (MCR). Then recession hit, the commissions vapourised and the fledgling firm began again from a standing start. The name was retained, although Charles left the business soon after.

Initially they worked from home in a gradual build-up to where they are now, starting with small additions, through to reasonable sized additions, to their first stand-alone building in Carlton. An insight into this first building and several other stepping-stone projects reveals the achievements and concerns that have marked the rise of MCR to Industry recognition and International Awards.

View MCR's website for more information on the brilliant projects they have undertaken.

McBride and Ryan

Global Leaf Area Index

Have you ever flown in a plane over a forest, or seen a picture of a forest canopy taken from above? If so, you probably noticed the forest canopy was colored shades of dark green. The trees' and plants' leaves give the forest its lush green appearance. The more leaves there are in a forested area, the greener the tree canopy.

Today, scientists use NASA satellites to map images that show how much of an area is covered by leaves i.e. Leaf Area Index (LAI).

LAI is a dimensionless quantity that characterises plant canopies. It is defined as the one-sided green leaf area per unit ground surface area (LAI = leaf area / ground area, m2 / m2) in broadleaf canopies and is used to predict photosynthetic primary production, evapo-transpiration and as a reference tool for crop growth.

For example, a leaf area index of one means the area is entirely covered by one layer of leaves. Knowing the total area covered by leaves helps scientists monitor how much water, carbon, and energy the trees and plants are exchanging with the air above and the ground below.

Sources : Neo - NASA Earth Observations website,

Leaf Area Index

Poisonous plants for your pets

Pet owners know that dogs and cats often have a desire for eating strange things. Cats often gravitate toward plastic or wool, while many a dog will chew on whatever it can get its paws on. And then there are plants. Whether garden plants, houseplants, plants in the wild, or flowers from the florist, plants can provide a tasty and tempting diversion for animals, one that can be at odds with your pet's health.

In order to prevent poisoning by cut flowers or house plants, avoid placing toxic ones in your home where pets may be able to access them. Or better yet, avoid buying flowers and plants that are known to be toxic. Outside is trickier, especially if your dog or cat has a wide range to roam.

For dogs, the animal science department at Cornell University suggests adding bran flakes to his food or switching her diet to one higher in vegetable fibers to deter cravings for vegetation. The only other thing to do is to watch your dog's behavior when walking outside and try to prevent them from munching on vegetation unless you know it is harmless.

NOTE: If you see symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, difficult breathing, abnormal urine, salivation, weakness and any other abnormal condition, take your pet immediately to the veterinarian because he/she may be poisoned. If you think your pet might have ingested any of these plants, don't wait for symptoms to appear - it might be too late.

  • Aloe vera
  • Amaryllis
  • Azalea/Rhodedendron
  • Gypsophila elegans
  • Begonia
  • Carnations
  • Castor Bean
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Cyclamen
  • Daffodil
  • Gladiola
  • Hosta
  • Ivy
  • Lilies
  • Milkweed
  • Morning Glory
  • Oleander
  • Poinsettia
  • Pothos
  • Sago Palm
  • Tomato Plant
  • Tulip/Narcissus
  • Yew

For a more detailed list of poisonous plants, see ASPCA's website.

Poisonous plants

White tranquility at the spa

The 12 Apostles Hotel And Spa is one of the most iconic hotels in Cape Town and is infamous for where it is built - the edge of the Table Mountain Nature Reserve. Many would argue that it shouldn't be there at all, but it would be the loss of an iconic piece of Cape Town History. The white building stands out of the edge of the mountain between Camps Bay and Llandudno and has unobstructed views over the Atlantic ocean.

The 12 Apostles establishment exudes luxury and fine finishes throughout their rooms, their restaurants, outdoor areas and the spa. The spa itself is open to both hotel guests and the public, but bookings need to be made in advance as they get booked up quite fast. The spa has a number of treatment rooms and a Rasul chamber, while the heated therapy pool, plunge pool with water jets and salt floatation pool can be used at any time by hotel and spa guests.

Little touches that add to the sense of being cared for during your time at the spa are: being given the choice of music preferred for the treatment (anyone who's not a fan of Enya has no doubt had to listen to her ad nauseum during a spa treatment at least once); a very toasty electric blanket on the bed, which is a must when you're having a massage done during winter; a choice of massage oils to be used (the choice is provided in an interesting and unique way); and the health bar conveniently located between the treatment rooms and the pools supplies a selection of healthy treats to fill the tummy - guests can help themselves to fresh fruit, herbal teas and homemade snacks.

There are separate men's and women's changing rooms with showers to rinse off the oils after a luxurious massage. The showers all have large rain showerheads and generous supplies of body wash and shampoo. All in all, the whole experience at the 12 Apostles Spa leaves a person feeling pampered, cleansed and relaxed.

For more information visit 12 Apostles Spa website.

12 Apostles spa

Hot News

Spring edition contribution

Don't forget to get your September issue of the SA Home Owner magazine - we have contributed to this Spring edition with tips for your garden.

SA Home Owner

Featured Plant

Aloe Striata

Aloe Striata
(Coral Aloe)

Family :


Description :

Indigenous succulent to 70 cm with orange tubular flowers on tall stalk.

Flowering time :


Conditions :

  • Full sun
  • Little water
  • Evergreen
  • Frost resistant
  • Wind resistant
  • Well drained sandy soil

View more detailed information on this plant in our plant directory.

Design idea feature

Design idea feature

An art sculpture can be included in the garden quite as easily as a tree.

The right art sculpture will fit into the landscape naturally, will make a specific statement and will accent and embellish the surrounding foliage.

Planting Guide

Herb or Veggie
Mung Beans

Seeds can be sown or plants can be planted for the following herbs and veggies this month:


  • Beans
  • Beetroot
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Lettuce
  • Mielies
  • Peppers
  • Pumpkin
  • Radish
  • Spinach
  • Squash
  • Sweetcorn
  • Swisschard
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnips
  • Herbs

  • Basil
  • Coriander
  • Chives
  • Chamomile
  • Dill
  • Parsley
  • Rocket
  • Thyme
  • Watercress
  • View our full planting plan in our resources section of our website.

    Brain Teaser

    We all love a chance to test our own brain capacity with brain teasers. Try see if you can figure out this one...

    Brain Teaser

    July's Teaser Answer :
    "Going around in circles"


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    Contact Cheral:

    Cell: 082 82 509 82