Friday, December 9, 2011

Henk Scholtz's Franschhoek Garden

The Franschhoek garden of landscaper and artist, Henk Scholtz.
Those of you who have joined me from the start of this series of posts, featuring the ten private gardens open to public viewing during the 2011 Franschhoek Open Gardens tour, may recall my having mentioned that we'd had the special privilege of being invited to view a private garden that was NOT on the list of open gardens. I am delighted to be sharing it with you, today!

To see more of this unique garden that was featured on the BBC Documentary series, "Around the World in 80 Gardens", continue reading.

This extraordinary garden belongs to renowned South African landscaper and artist, Henk Scholtz. We were driving past his home when, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a momentary flash of something that piqued my interest.
 I turned quickly in my seat to determine whether it was worth asking my long suffering husband to make a U-turn. Having established that this was indeed a garden I ought to explore a little closer, we pulled up at the kerb so I could take a photograph from the pavement.
 I hopped out, camera in hand and noticed a man bidding farewell to some guests in the circular parking area beyond the fenced off garden. Not sure whether this was the owner, or a neighbour from the adjacent property, I paused momentarily, then called out asking whether he'd mind if I took a picture of the mannequin standing sentry in the front garden. It was she who had beckoned me to "come hither!" Henk says she's his security guard.
Water feature in the front garden, framed in copy-cat style by a clipped hedge.
To my delight, my request was met with the broadest smile and I was told to "Go ahead!" Whether it was my clumsy attempt to lean into the garden from the other side of the perimeter fence, or my own delightful personality, I'll never know. The important thing is, Henk suddenly called out, "Please, come in. You'll find it easier to take your photograph inside the garden", an invitation that was hard for me to resist. Politeness caused me to decline, somewhat half-heartedly I am compelled to admit, since I really did want to accept this kind offer. Henk reissued his invitation warmly assuring me that it would be no problem at all. 
The clever use of shells add decorative appeal to this otherwise plain, galvanised gate, separating the front garden from the side garden.
Truly, a garden full of surprises! Here, Henk uses an old tyre to create a visually appealing bowl of potted pansies. Whoever would have imagined a tyre could become an object of beauty? There were two identical tyre gardens, one at each end of the front of the house. 
Henk mostly relies on indigenous plants in his garden. Although it is a small garden, he has used the available space to maximum effect and, with clever design, it appears infinitely larger than it really is. 
Groups of garden implements are arranged in 'dead' zones creating interest whilst simultaneously show casing some of Henk's collections. 
Once I was inside the front fence and on his thrilling turf, all barriers seemed to crumble. My eyes literally popped out on stalks in their excitement to see as much of this garden as possible in the few minutes I thought I had available. 
Henk had no doubt picked up on my unbridled enthusiasm, because once I'd hesitantly taken a couple of self-conscious pictures and was about to retreat back to the car, he offered to show me the hidden garden behind the house. I  felt common courtesy demanded that I decline once more. It was, after all, a Saturday afternoon and I had no intention of intruding on his privacy. However, Henk once again pressed me most sincerely and invited my husband to join us. Besides, who could have resisted those beautiful blue eyes? Certainly not I. 
So, without further ado, we stepped through the house and out the other side, into what I can only describe as being an arresting space. It conveyed an immediate sense of mystical calmness. Circular in design, the garden itself is beautifully landscaped, immaculately manicured and totally private.

 An instantly striking feature is the peacock blue, perimeter wall facing on to the garden. It both contrasts with and complements the emerald greens of the lawn and formal plantings, creating the perfect backdrop to this incredibly arty landscape.
 From a purely technical perspective, I have NEVER seen such precision in the  shaping and clipping of formal hedges, green obelisks and lollipop heads as I saw in Henk's garden. My breathing literally stopped for a moment when I first laid eyes on this totally private, whimsical, yet highly controlled, formal design. I enquired as to who was responsible for the day to day upkeep. The answer was Henk himself. He does employ a gardener, but does not permit him to touch the hedges. 
Henk's genuine joy at sharing his personal sanctuary was palpable. He is a charming man, infectiously gracious and generous of spirit and it wasn't hard to instantly LIKE him. He has the friendliest Whippet Hound who goes by the name of La Rose. She is clearly the love of Henk's life and he, hers, but her demonstrations of warm affection towards us showed there's plenty to go around.
Henk has a wonderful sense of humour and regaled us with interesting snippets and quips, whilst we walked around taking our pictures. I would have loved to have taken many more, but I also wanted to simply imbibe the moment and offer our charming host the courtesy of my attentive ear, so I took far fewer pictures than I could have in the time we were there. 
Just look at these colours. How they stand out against the heavy, grey clouds draped over the mountain tops.
Henk's garden backs directly on to farmland, even though it is situated in the village itself. La Rose had dropped a small parcel on the immaculate and almost too green to be real (it was very real!) lawn. Quick as a wink, Henk fetched up a shovel, niftily flicked the offending parcel on to its tip and, almost in the same motion, deftly flung it high into the air and away into the farmland beyond his perimeter wall, explaining that "it all becomes compost, after all!" Who can argue with that? It was one of the funniest things I'd seen and I'd wished I could do the same with the parcels our six dogs leave all over the garden, but our neighbours would most definitely not be charmed.
Henk's artistic side really shows in everything we saw. He eagerly uses recycled materials and objects. With his keen imagination, he turns even the humdrum into something truly eye-catching. His love of "old" as opposed to shiny, new, modern and brash comes across in the earthy tones and materials he selects and in the respectful way in which he treats his subjects. 
All the artwork featured in his garden are Henk's creations. He takes  discarded, rusty relics, imbuing them with new life to create quirky, alien sculptural forms that add impact to the overall design of his garden. 
Each of the objects displayed carries its own story and each has symbolic undertones. I wish we'd had more time to learn all the stories.
Our unexpected visit truly was the highlight of our weekend and Henk's garden will remain an abiding memory of mine.
This garden is defined by the passion of its creator and his desire to preserve, restore and honour timeworn objects. One of the features displayed on the verandah wall is this collection of very old, hand tools. Henk told us these were owned by an old lady who had been an avid gardener. She had to modify the handles to continue gardening well into her 90s, without having to bend. When she moved to an Old Age facility and could no longer garden, Henk adopted the tools and has preserved them in her memory. This story really touched a spot in my heart as it reveals a loving, caring man. 
Another of Henk's simple collections becomes an artwork in its own right.
The rustic, outdoor shower used to rinse off after a day in the garden or swim in the pool.
All of this was 'right on our doorstep' and yet, until that chance encounter, I'd not heard of Henk or the BBC documentary. It just goes to show. One should always keep ones eyes open and never fear to venture where you've not been before. Wonderful surprises await if you're only open to them!

I do hope you've enjoyed your visit as much as we enjoyed ours. Please do visit 
Henk's website to view both his gallery and the video clip by the BBC in which his garden was featured in Around The World In 80 Gardens

Thank you, Henk for a most memorable experience. I know I have not been able to do justice to your beautiful garden or your artistic talents, but you certainly don't need any help with showcasing your work. It speaks for itself!


  1. What a magnificent treat! I love the art! The mannequin and all the other rusty pieces are wonderful. I love that white wire woman with the branches on her head. It sounds like he was a very gracious host too, so generous.

  2. What a privilege to be invited to visit this fascinating garden Desiree. I was particularly interested to read it features in the BBC series which we have heard about but unfortunately are not able to view in Italy.

  3. i believe, of all the garden posts you've done, this is my favorite. the incredible precision in those hedges, the whimsical sculptures and variety of forms, the fact that this gracious, generous man invited you in from the street - this is one very special place!

  4. If I wasn't convinced before I'm convinced now, Desiree. South Africa is home to the world's greatest gardens and gardeners. I'm sure your host Henk experienced as much joy escorting you and your husband around as he did the reporter in that BBC segment. Who wouldn't delight in showing off a property like that to appreciative visitors? I agree with Henk's philosophy of making the best use of available space and maintaining balance, harmony and simplicity. I love the symmetry of his garden, the spongy manicured hedges, the striking peacock blue wall which I at first believed to be a lake in the background, the use of ordinary recycled materials to create beautiful accents, and the grouping of garden implements to fill dead space. Displays like that old woman's tools honor her memory and remind us of the value in our lives of good, honest hands-on toil. All elements of Henk's domain are integrated into a cohesive theme, a symbiosis of the natural and the man-made. As he proudly proclaims on his website, Henk truly is a designer and artist and his imaginative garden a labor of love worthy of sharing with others. I hope that Henk logs on to your blog, views the pictures you took that day and reads your words of praise for his extraordinary garden. Thank you, dear Desiree, for allowing us to see it, too!

  5. I want to go out and paint a garden wall blue but first I have to build a garden wall.
    Beautiful garden.

  6. Hi Desiree,
    Once again you're showing us the most stunning photos from the Gardens. Really beautiful!
    I loved the pot with the pansies, smart solution. I also like the statues and [art] around the garden, very nice.
    Have a lovely weekend my friend! Big Hugs x

  7. I love the seashells and La Rose is too cute to ever be naughty or do anything wrong, I'm sure. I will check out his website and again thanks for the wonderful tour!

  8. What do they do- get out there with tweezers to manicure that lawn? Holy cow that's amazing! I am nearly always overwhelmed by the creativity of the owners of these gardens- their wonderful additions of color and their use of found objects in art! Oh how I wish I had their eye for it all!

    My FIL was a master gardener and landscaper. He designed and put in courtyard gardens downtown Charleston for YEARS! I wish Hubs' family had been into taking pictures so I could show them to you. I think you would love seeing them!

  9. Hi Desiree. Gosh, what an honour to be invited into Henk's fabulous garden and given an individual garden tour! It was obviously your scintillating personality that did it for you my friend! Like Shady, I really thought that it was a stunning blue lake in the back ground when I first saw it. He is obviously very proud of his garden, and quite rightly so, and took great pleasure in showing you and your husband around. What a real treat for you both, and so unexpected as well. I loved all the artwork as well. What fantastic gardens there are in the Franschoek area. We are indeed blessed that you shared them all with us. Hugs my friend x

  10. Again that beautiful garden !! to come here Desiree....happy

  11. I'm very impressed after seeing pictures of the garden. Photos watched several times. This garden full of almost works of art is amazing. The ingenuity of the owner is great. The gate is decorated with shells, tires, old furniture LIFELONG it fun and interesting. I admire you, as you can see such wonders. Yours very nice and warm

  12. That blue wall makes you imagine you are looking past into a lake or even an ocean. I've never seen hedges cut at an angle like that. What a treat! I went to his website and watched the BBC video. The video was a real treat because then I got to meet him, to! And walk the ground and almost smell the icky hedge--LOL! What a delight! You must be so pleased that you asked the hubby to go back to get the picture of his security guard. :):)

  13. A fantasy garden indeed! Decorated with unusual females! No naked ones like in the olden days. Thanks for having a magnetic personality!

  14. It's hard to believe that someone's private garden could be so fun and interesting and formal like that. I love all the art throughout. I can't believe how perfect the hedges are!
    Hope all is well with you! I've finally made some time to visit my blogger friends, I've missed visiting you!

  15. Every inch of the garden seems to possess the artistic touch of some very gifted person...someone with the ability to make old garden tools look elegant! Another very beautiful post to enjoy and swoon over!

  16. Dear Desiree,
    I'm sure Henk's invitation came because of your "delightful personality"!!!!

    I'm rushed for time right now, but will return later to look at the BBC link.

    The garden truly is a testament to one man's passion for reclaiming and recycling and remembering.


  17. What a privilege that was - for you and for all of us with whom you've shared. Friends are going to SA in the spring and I've been telling them all about this wonderful place and its gardens.

  18. What a wonderful experience. This is wonderful. We have enjoyed your tour and it is so creative. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Thank you for all the compliments. I feel so flattered by all the positive response. To me this is what life is all about. To share our passion with like-minded people.
    Kind regards

  20. It pains me to think of all the years I had the wrong idea of how beautiful South Africa truly is. This was another absolutely gorgeous garden and had some really unusual pieces that make it so special. As always everything was so neat and well kept with so much attention to detail. Thank you Des for continuing to amaze this old guy with the beauty of your home country.

  21. I would have sat right there by that blue blue water and just made my husband miserable. That was incredible.

  22. This was my favourite of your garden posts too. How on earth do they keep them so manicured? I have trouble staying on top of a bit of hawthorn bush and a box hedges.
    To be honest your posts have kindled an interest in gardening for me which is in itself a minor miracle. I am going to try and sculpt my new garden fashioned on some of your inspirational plants and ideas.
    Odie is right South Africa is so beautiful.
    You should publish a book with some of these posts in it....seriously!

  23. I love Henk's garden. His use of the two mannequin like women - with a hat of flowers. And the shells for the screen - all the precise gardens and the gorgeous flowers.

    Thank you.


  24. You know what I do when I am having some bad moments? I pop over on your blog and relax, your pictures cool me down and bring me in a wonderful place, like in Henk's garden. Thank you Desiree!

  25. What a fabulous surprise visit to a wonderful and famous garden. His artwork and stories compliment his beautiful garden. It sounds like he has a beautiful nature also. Lucky you.

  26. Oh my...this is a magnificent garden...what a joy for me to open your blog on a Monday morning and see all this beauty...and he is such a gracious host.
    Thank you.

  27. He has some magnificent features in his garden and it shows that you don't need a huge garden to do something special.

  28. Loved Hanks garden! ( And enjoyed his BBC clip.) Also totally agree with facing50 that there is a book in your garden blogs - many books - seriously. Well done, Des and thank you for sharing your talent. Love - Carol.x

  29. What a privilege to see that - thank you for sharing your photos. It's a real artist's vision in both the overall landscaping and those quirky details. Wonderful.

  30. So beautiful! I'm this how your garden looks? I bet it looks beautiful, too!

  31. What a treat for you and for all of us! I love the whimsy of the artworks. And now I'm off to check out Henk's website...

  32. Once again I am in awe of another garden like I have never seen before. Thank you for sharing your tour with us. What a nice man!
    Also thank you for your always sweet and enlightening comment on my post. My doubts and intimidation at sharing my home seems to vanish as if by magic after reading what you write.

  33. How beautiful and unique. So many of these pictures inspire me. I could write whole stories about them ;)

  34. OH Desiree...I'm so happy you posted this. I remember when you said you'd bring it to us and I was worried I had missed this tour! The garden is truly 'enchanted' and so many eye catching delights to behold! I love how you almost didn't meet Henk and his garden, yet fate stepped in!
    Happiness in a garden and shared with all your followers, thanks Des. As always I am astounded with the beauty of South Africa!

  35. Such a lovely blog and post. So glad I 'found' you and will pop in again. I would just love to see this garden.


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