An arbour made of love

The tranquil garden is a breathtaking feature at the Bonnie Doon home

Visitors will hardly believe that just four years ago, the breathtaking garden in Dr Wessel Strydom’s Bonnie Doon home was an overgrown, infested pit of building rubble.

Now it is a tranquil, majestic space that takes its visitors on a visual trip around the world.

It was completed in nine months with the help of labourers Strydom hired along Old Transkei Road. He said they let nature guide them as they planned and pottered around the expansive garden until they had crafted the masterpiece it is now.

Constructed on different levels on the sloping land, the garden features several handmade sculptures crafted by Wessel himself. To remind himself of his many travels abroad, Strydom recreated the Sagrada Família, which is a famous cathedral in Barcelona, a Hindu temple, and the Mud Maid who lies asleep at the Lost Gardens of Heligan.

Also in the garden is a replica of a waterfall Strydom saw in Mexico, a plant installation from the Amazon rainforest and head sculptures complete with the feather headdresses from the annual carnival in Rio de Janeiro.

The garden also has a wooden feature from a monument park in Minnesota in the US.

Besides their visual appeal, Strydom said some of the sculptures also represented different religions.

“It was important because I want to represent all faiths in this garden so all people will feel welcome,” he said.

“I not only wanted to create a beautiful space people could admire but I also wanted to touch on spirituality too.”

Strydom, who bought most of the plants locally, said 99% of the plants in the garden were indigenous. Planted in the garden are arum lilies, vienna irises, plumbago, spekboom, wild fig, paintbrush lilies and koorsboom.

He said the plants were all strategically placed based on where they would thrive.

The garden also features several benches, a little stream and a bridge.

Another enchanting feature is a replica of the Yoko Ono Wish Tree, coined by John Lennon’s widow in the 1990s. An artist herself, she created what was called the wishing tree, where people could hang notes with their wishes written on them.

Whenever Strydom has opened up his garden to the public in the past: “People put tags with their wishes on them and that tree, which was bare before, suddenly has all these paper leaves on it.

“To see that tree with all of those paper leaves was so impressive. To read all those messages and see what people actually wish for brings tears to the eyes,” Strydom said, adding that the garden was his own form of art.

“With my garden, I tried to re-establish my bond with nature and was amply rewarded. I created a peaceful haven away from the daily stresses of work.

“ I rediscovered my appreciation for beautiful things and I experienced the joy of nurturing and caring for things.

“I also established great bonds with my fellow human beings helping me look after my garden, which made me more conscious of the plight of my community.

“This was a true labour of love.”