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Gardens at the Stables private home in Westcliff

Exploring Joburg’s Private Gardens

Every year in early summer, a bunch of private gardens in Joburg open up to the public as part of the Gardens of the Golden City series. This is a rare and special opportunity; This city has some incredibly beautiful gardens with incredibly beautiful houses attached to them. My friend Michelle and I visited one of these gardens — “The Stables” at 34 Pallinghurst Road in Westcliff — the weekend before last. The Stables is one of many Joburg mansions designed by renowned architect Herbert Baker around the turn of the 20th century. The garden was designed by Tim and Liz Steyn. Here are a few pictures. The Pallinghurst open garden cost R70 (about $5) to enter (most of the other open gardens are a bit cheaper). There was also a great little tea garden and wine/gin bar set up offering tasty food and drinks, with all the proceeds benefitting Johannesburg Child Welfare. It was such a lovely afternoon out. Sorry for the short post — I’m on the move. But I wanted to slap this up and let you know that if you’ve missed all the open gardens up until now, don’t worry. There are several more coming up […]

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Bonolo in her Melville garden

Bonolo’s Beautiful Melville Garden

Almost two months ago, I took photos of a beautiful Melville garden. The garden is only about thee blocks from my house and in plain sight along the verge (that thin strip of green between the sidewalk and the street) on 3rd Avenue. I’d never noticed it before though. For some reason I rarely drive or walk down that particular street. Marie-Lais wrote a great column about the garden in the Saturday Citizen. (Damn you, Citizen, for not publishing this column online. I’m forever frustrated that I can’t post it here.) I never got around to blogging about it myself. But then yesterday I drove past the garden again and remembered how amazing it is. The 3rd Avenue garden.  The garden’s creator is Andrew Mashilwane, who happens to live on 3rd Avenue, and was looking for something to do so he decided to make a garden. I call the garden “Bonolo’s Garden”, because Andrew’s three-year-old granddaughter Bonolo was there on the day I went and she is so freaking adorable and the photoshoot wound up being more about Bonolo than the garden itself. Bonolo and I developed a system during this photoshoot: I took a photo of her, I showed her the image […]

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the wilds Johannesburg

The Wilds: Joburg’s Controversial Garden of Eden

There is a big park in Johannesburg, very near to the city center, called the Wilds. For many years I didn’t go there because everyone said it was dangerous. Even the name — the Wilds, bwahahahaaaaa — has a menacing tone to it. I assumed the warnings were legit. I’ve now been to the Wilds twice over the last several months, and damn, is it beautiful. The Wilds is so stunning and peaceful and well landscaped and immaculately maintained that it puts most other Jozi parks to shame. (I don’t say this lightly, as I’m a serious fan of Joburg parks.) The park was opened in 1938, after the Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company donated it to the city on the condition that the land remain in its natural state. The park is hilly and planted with thousands of indigenous trees and other native flora, crisscrossed by several kilometers of winding stone paths. Walking on the wild side, through the Jozi Wilds. Walking on the Wild Side I don’t want to totally discount the perception that the Wilds is dangerous. I’ve visited lots of quote-unquote dangerous places in this city — Hillbrow, Alexandra, Yeoville, and many others — but none of them seem to elicit quite […]

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Houghton Heritage

Tomorrow is Heritage Day, a South African public holiday. South Africa has lots of public holidays. I have trouble keeping track of them and what they mean. Heritage Day is pretty simple though — it’s a day to celebrate South Africa’s heritage. This can mean basically anything, because South Africa, like the United States, is a very diverse place with lots of different heritages. So basically, Heritage Day is an excuse to take the day off from work and do fun cultural things. Heritage Day falls on a Monday this year, which means we have a whole long weekend of cultural celebrations to choose from. Today, my friend Horst and I celebrated Heritage Day weekend by going on a tour of private gardens in Upper Houghton, sponsored by a local charity called Gardens of the Golden City.

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Fronds Unfurling

Installment #2 in the Instagram for Art’s Sake series. A tree fern in the garden of the Lucky 5 Star. New fronds  are in the foreground, old fronds are in the background.

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Don’t Mind Me. I’m Working on Myself.

I recently sat in my therapist’s office, weaving my latest tale of woe. When I finished, she looked at me in that measured way that therapists do, and said: “How ready are you to really work on yourself?” My stomach seized up. I wanted to scream, “Not ready at all!” and run from the room. But I didn’t. I sat and thought for a moment. “I guess I’m ready.”

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A couple of hours ago I was sitting on my deck, looking out at the Melville Koppies. It was a beautiful fall afternoon, and a public holiday to boot. I felt like going for a walk on the koppies and taking pictures. Six months ago, I would have turned to Jon and said, “Let’s go for a walk on the koppies and take pictures.” And we would have gone right then, and it would have been lovely. But you see, this is one of the many reasons why it sucks when your boyfriend dies. Jon isn’t here anymore and I can’t just walk up onto the koppies alone. Much as I hate to admit it, walking alone on the koppies isn’t safe. I’m sure I could have found someone else to take a walk with. I didn’t feel like it though.

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A Rose by Any Other Name…

Yesterday I had a picnic with the girls in the rose garden at the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens. Under a tree in the rose garden on a quiet Wednesday afternoon. It was the perfect picnic spot. I’ve been to the rose garden many times and I wrote a post about it once, a million years ago. I hadn’t planned to blog about yesterday’s outing. But it was such an enjoyable experience that I decided it was blog-worthy. Especially because, for the first time ever, I got some decent photos of the amazing roses there.

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A Beetherfly in My Backyard

I went onto my deck this morning and found a curious insect resting on a green plastic chair. It appeared to be part beetle, part moth, part butterfly. Let’s call him a beetherfly. The beetherfly. His wings were round like a beetle’s. His body was flat like a moth’s. The way he slowly flexed his wings in and out reminded me of a butterfly.

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High and Low

I shot some photos in the garden the other day. All were snapped within a 10-foot radius of each other, although I shot half while looking down and the other half while looking up. The ‘down’ shots were taken in the middle of the afternoon and the ‘up’ shots were taken at sunset. There’s no need to search high and low for beauty around here. It’s everywhere you look. LOW Tiny wildflower.

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I Can See Clearly Now (Sort Of)

As long as I’ve lived here, the view from the deck at the Lucky 5 Star has been a wall of green. It was one of my favorite things about the house — the back yard felt like a private jungle, filled with unruly indigenous plants and flowering creepers (the creepers are pretty, but invasive). Yesterday, the creepers got the best of the yard’s largest indigenous plant — a twisty rock karee tree. Here’s a shot taken from the deck, exactly a year ago during a summer rain storm. You can see a limb of the rock karee tree shooting off to the left.  The other limbs are obscured by creepers.

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