Meet our July Guest Gardener!
Jan Bredenkamp is a garden enthusiast whose day job is serving the pharmaceutical industry as a rep! Despite the 9-5 job he has taken time over the years to nurture what was a bland space into something truly magical.
His captivating garden has us completely riveted and amazed- below is his story of how it all came to be!
”In mid 2005 (exactly 15 years ago) I started with a garden, shortly after moving into my newly bought complex unit in Wilgeheuwel. It was literally only an empty front yard with beautiful thick lawn. The first addition was a practical 11 000 litre splash pool with jet conversion and solar heating. Unfortunately most of the lawn had to go to accommodate this..
The first basic structure for a garden realised immediately thereafter:
Following 5 years of beautiful open plan garden, in 2008 I planted 5 large beautiful foxtail palms. Perfectly spaced throughout the garden. The 2009 winter knocked them so hard that they never recovered after that.
One of these palms happened to not have been affected by the cold at all and survived. This specific palm stood and still stands right next to the house outside the main bedroom window. I believe it was more sheltered and the residual/latent heat of the brick wall and tile roof added to its preservation.
Today most of the stem of that palm is covered with 2 species of staghorn fern.
The other 4 palms got replaced with a more hardened variety and then the height and framework/structure of the future garden was set. As the years went on the beddings increased in area and the lawn areas became smaller.
The big change was set in motion in 2010 when I introduced the first airplants. Spanish Moss was the first to be added. I literally hung them everywhere where I could reach; and even where I couldn’t. Later also throwing them from the roof or from the ground right over the tops of the palm branches; where they multiplied and grew into long hanging pieces.
I preserve each loose or blown off piece of Spanish Moss however small, by picking it up and twisting it around the nearest small branch, or just throwing them into a nearby potplant. These again grow into proper individual pieces, nicely growing all over the place.
The staghorns came next and was fixed to some of the palms. I have managed to keep them protected during the subsequent winters by wrapping them up at first to save them from possible frost.
I stay on kind of a hill thus frost is not that common. But one miscalculation and the damage could be severe. Thus rather be safe and protect. Later I designed a durable and protective see-through plastic housing surrounding the palm stem and staghorns, to be erected during winter. The covered plants remain fully visible and fully protected from possible cold spells.
The various airplants (especially when the variety of bromeliads was added to the mix) enabled me to steer towards the feel and look of a tropical jungle/rainforest that I have always wanted to create. In a complex in the middle of Wilgeheuwel, with a 6x16m front garden surface area.
The combination of strategically placed shrubs and trees combined with thick bunches of hanging Spanish Moss create the illusion of depth all around.
For me, the look and feel of a tropical jungle would be incomplete without the effect of hanging plants/lianas (or be it the illusion thereof). I embarked on his project 3 years ago.
A combination of long pieces of manilla rope and later also physical liana-type branches were fixed, hung, draped and positioned in loops as well as -vertically down from as great a height as possible. These swaying in the wind or swinging vigorously during a rainstorm create a full blown jungle effect.
The looping ropes/lianas are mostly strewn with more Spanish Moss and/or species of colourful bromeliads which I fix to them with tie strips.
Even some of the vertical hanging lianas have brightly coloured bromeliads firmly attached to them for a more luscious feel.
Many of the palm stems are covered by a variety of multiplying bromeliads initially attached with tie strips.
In 2008 I extended the existing guest bathroom by adding a 4 x 3.5m surface area in the form of a completely private outside section. I took the full bathroom outside (rain shower, toilet and basin; and installed a corner jet bath into the original inside section. The two parts are practically separated by a glass sliding door.
The shower remains open for the ‘outside-shower experience, whilst the roof of the rest of the added section was constructed with wooden supports and poly carbon sheeting. For the bush feel I have later added 5cm thick, long cut wooden pieces for the ‘ceiling effect’; properly spaced in order to still let through sufficient light.
The ‘jungle bathroom’ feel is completed and complimented by more mounted/hanging staghorn ferns, succulents and a variety of potted plants.
The vegetation of the garden keeps on changing and evolving every year with the passing seasons. Newer varieties of plants are constantly added. I have succeeded in creating and maintaining the tropical feel of living in a submersive jungle.
The constant sounds of playing selectively mixed nature sound apps round off the atmosphere of seclusion and transports the occasional guest to a world one perhaps wouldn’t have thought to exist in this suburban built up neigbourhood.”
Jan loves perusing Lifestyle Home Garden and admits that his love for gardening started when he found himself drawn to plants and being aware of their energy. “As a child I literally climbed every climbable tree I could find. When I first started my own garden years ago I found that basically anything grows. Some have noted that I have created a unique microclimate…”
What was your inspiration for gardening in the way that you do with such interesting plants and methods?
“My natural inclination to surround myself with as much green as possible; coupled with the challenge to create a unique atmosphere, a tangible experience. Then off course the satisfaction of attaining exactly this. ”
Below is a gallery of some more of his images which are truly beautiful. Thank you Jan for allowing us into your world!
All images belong to Jan Bredenkamp.