Gardens become vertical

    It is always great to hear about new and exciting things being created by landscape designers globally, and the vertical garden is just one such concept that can now be seen in South Africa.

    The world was first exposed to this botanical wonder when French botanist Patrick Blanc covered a wall, situated behind the Eiffel Tower, in plants. Co-owner of Fever Tree Nursery in Nelspruit and accomplished landscape architect, Leon Kluge has now brought this international gardening concept to southern Africa.

Considering the current social climate of water shortages, rat-race time constraints, economic crises and more, much is to be said for vertical gardening, on both grand as well as domestic scale. If installed correctly, vertical gardens are deemed water-saving, low maintenance and not excessively expensive.

The concept of vertical gardening also makes the possibility of "greening the cities" more attainable, as they can cool down large spaces of concrete, absorb the dust and pollutants in the air and provide small habitats for creatures like birds in commercial or industrial spaces. Surfaces like Parick Blanc's interior portion of a parking garage - Parking Perrache in Lyon - and his entrance wall to a tunnel - Pont Max Juvenal, Aix en Provence - or even the front facade of a building - Trio Building in Sydney.

Although the vertical garden might seem as if the plants are directly adhered to a structure, they are actually inserted into plugs onto felt-like layers of material which are fastened to a piece of stainless-steel mesh, a few inches away from the wall - ensuring no damage is done to the building.

A process of fertigation (the application of fertilisers, soil amendments, or other water-soluble products by means of an irrigation system) takes care of the plants' water and nutrient requirements.

Read more on Leon Kluge or visit Patrick Blanc's website (please note his website is graphic intensive and could take a while to download and go through).

Vertical gardens

Solar waterfall leaves us thinking - is this for real?

There is a lot of controversy over the "Solar City Tower" (an entry idea in the International Architecture Competition) that has been designed and proposed for the Olympic Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. This solar waterfall has the goal of creating enough electricity to make the 2016 games the first carbon-neutral Olympic event. For some, the concept is a scientific and architectural wonder, while to others it is an overpowering eyesore that ruins the natural landscape.

The concept, scientifically, makes one think. Can those surreal waterfalls in wonder worlds that we have read about in sci-fi / fantasy books actually be almost here, on our planet and within such a short period of time? The Architects of RAFAA in Switzerland who conceived the idea, seem to think it is attainable.

The project consists of a solar power plant that by day produces energy for the city (the Olympic village). Any excessive energy generated during the day will be used to pump seawater into a tower, where by night it will be released again. While plummeting downward the water will spin turbines and as a result will generate electricity for the duration of the night, thus creating and sustaining around the clock energy to power the city.

RAFAA say that on special occasions, this "machine building" turns into an impressive wonder of nature: an urban waterfall, a symbol for the forces of nature. At the same time, it will be the representation of a collective awareness of the city towards its great surrounding landscape.

But this is the point of controversy for many nature lovers - placing a huge "green" structure like this on an island that is almost 100% left to its natural devices, towering above the horizon and that would ensure a large volume of tourist foot traffic on the island - and could perhaps be called hypocritical in itself.

But Brazilians are not concerned. If this green machine is actually implemented and can do what its designers claim, then the Brazilian metropolis could be given the status of "green city of the future".

Source: RAFAA Architects

Solar Waterfall

Biolytic system

The current drought in the Eastern Cape has opened the eyes of many people living in South Africa. We have come to realise that the availability of and the distribution of water is perhaps not as effective as we previously took for granted.

If the...

  • Average toilet uses 11 litres per flush;
  • Average tap runs at 10 litres per minute;
  • Average shower runs at 22 litres per minute; and
  • Average person, within a middle class home, uses 150-200 litres of water per day inside the house.
  • An additional 200 litres is used on average, per person, to water the garden.

... then a situation where the majority of this water is returned into municipal waste treatment plants where, after treatment, it is further returned to the natural river and oceanic systems, is one of an absolute waste of precious resources and cannot be sustained.

Not only can most municipal sewage treatment facilities in South Africa not keep pace with existing residential and commercial demand, but the failure to meet this demand results in a poor quality of wastewater being released back into the natural system from these facilities.

With this said, it just makes sense to start implementing independent recycling systems into our homes. By treating wastewater at the source of its creation and converting it into a reusable resource for watering the garden, it is the ideal way to conserve water and minimise the strain household consumption places on municipal treatment facilities.

The Biolytix filtration process is a self-sustaining, aerobic treatment process where oxygen-breathing bacteria and other larger organisms (generally earthworms) decompose sewage and organic wastes in household grey water and black water. Grey water is the water that comes from showers, basins, dishwashers and washing machines, while black water is the water from the lavatory and the kitchen sink, as this water usually contains fats, greases, oil etc.

A significant proportion of human waste in sewage is organic waste. Both wastewater and organic solid waste contain valuable re-usable nutrients, reclaimable water and biomass, which in nature rejoin the nutrient and water cycles.

The domestic (household) system operates in the following way: liquid waste enters the system through a normal sewage pipe. This includes grey and black water. The solids decompose on the surface of the Biolytix filter bed, while the liquid percolates through a self-maintained, porous filter, which houses the ecosystem of organisms. The filtered water collects at the bottom of the system. Once it is pumped out, it is then re-used as a source of irrigation water. All the Biolytix systems are designed to take the treated sewage and re-use it via a drip irrigation system on the surrounding gardens and grounds.

Biolytix is the only sewerage and wastewater treatment system to win a Global Eco-Tech Award at the World Expo in Japan, 2005 and can be adapted to manage different levels of consumption in new or existing housing units. With the Biolytix system, developers, builders and individual homeowners have a trouble-free waste treatment solution, which turns waste into a resource that creates significant water-saving benefits.

Unlike many conventional treatment processes, this process is odour-free, uses no chemicals and does not create any by-products such as sludge. This significant advantage means that the on-site treatment system can be located close to developments and households.

For more information on this system, visit Biolytic's Website

Biolytics Wastewater System

Hiking in the Western Cape

There is such a variety of hiking trails throughout South Africa that it is quite difficult to make a choice as to which one to try. One hiking trail that has always appealed to many walking and nature enthusiasts is the Boesmanskloof hike between Greyton and McGregor in the Western Cape.

This hike (approximately 14km) starts at the entrance to the Nature Reserve beside the river that runs around the quaint town of Greyton. The hike involves meandering trails, steep gorges, large rock pools, waterfalls (the Oakes Falls) and lovely Cape wildflowers.

There is a great diversity of plant species; the stream conebush and wild almond grow along the watercourses, and many different types of Protea and Erica can be seen during the hike. Animals found in the area include the Duiker, Grey Rhebuck, Klipspringer, Baboon, Dassie, Spotted Genet and, rarely, Leopards. Birdlife includes the Black and Booted Eagle, Cape Sugarbird, Malachite Sunbird and many others.

Physically the trail requires a reasonable degree of fitness as it continuously ascends, descends and contours the slopes of Boesmanskloof. Realistically, the trail requires between 4 - 5 hours to complete, which leaves plenty of time for swimming in the rock pools, a leisurely lunch and time to enjoy the views.

The hike can either be done one way in a day finishing approximately 14km south of McGregor at Die Galg, or can be extended to a 2 day hike overnighting in McGregor and returning back over the mountain to Greyton again on the second day. No overnight camping is allowed on the trail, however, it is worthwhile staying at the Greyton Municipal campsite the night before the hike to save a drive all the way to Greyton on the morning of the hike.

The only logistical issue that would need to be sorted out before the hike commences (if you are only doing a one way hike) is how to get back to your vehicle in Greyton. If you are doing this hike for longer than a day, the return trip is just a beautiful - instead of the view going forward, you get the view that was at your back, and doing it the second time extends the opportunity for seeing many other things that might not have been seen the first time.

This is a winter rainfall area (generally cold and wet) and the summer months are extremely warm and dry and therefore water may be required during the summer months.

For more information on this route contact Cape Nature at Tel: (021) 659 3500 or download the hiking and trial brochure from their website.

Please note : Permits are necessary and are obtainable from the Sonderend State Forest in Robertson. The permits should be carried with you on your hike.

Boesmanskloof Hike

Hot News

Living Matter in SA Home Owner again

SA Home Owner Magazine has published articles on "Themed gardens with stylish entertaining" and "Hardscaping for the garden" in their November Issue of the magazine, assisted by information and comments from Cheral Kennedy of Living Matter - Landscape Styling and Design and other experts.

Plant Directory launch

November marks the month when Living Matter launches its online plant directory. This online directory provides home owners, garden enthusiasts and landscapers alike, with detailed information and pictures in an easy to read format.

Living Matter's first selection of commonly used and easily available plants (mostly indigenous) have been added and will continuously be updated with new additions for all areas of South Africa.

Should there be a specific plant that you would like to have profiled in our directory, please feel free to send us an email.

Featured Plant

Aristea Major

Aristea Major
(Aristea Major Andrews)

Family :


Description :

Indigenous perennial that grows up to 2m with purple-blue flowers on the end of a tall spike.

Flowering time :

Spring / Summer

Conditions :

  • Full Sun
  • Lots of water
  • Evergreen
  • Wind resistant
  • Some frost
  • Enriched soil

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

Wine of the month

Wine of the month

The High Road Reserve 2007

Winery : The High Road
Winemaker :
Mark Carmichael-Green

Description :

50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot and 12% Cabernet Franc all sourced from "the Golden Triangle" in Stellenbosch.

Aroma : Intense berry fruits of ripe blackcurrants and dark chocolate.

Palate : Balanced line between acid, tannin and alcohol. Cabernet Sauvignon offers intensity and richness, supported by plum and red fruit of Merlot with dark chocolate and length of finish on palate from the abernet Franc.

Winemaking : Matured in 100% new French Oak for 12 months. Blending has ensured balance of fruit, structure and ageability for at least 8 years if cellared correctly.

Awards : Double Gold Veritas, 3rd in Bordeaux Blends Category at Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show.

If you want to purchase or require more information on this wine, or if you are interested in a private or corporate tasting, please email Karen or visit her website.

Planting Guide

Herb or Veggie

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


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

  • Basil
  • Coriander
  • Chives
  • Chamomile
  • Dill
  • Mustard
  • Oreganum
  • 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
    October's Teaser Answer :
    "Missing you"


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    Contact Cheral:

    Cell: 082 82 509 82