Landscaping

Background

In the operational development phase of the Schonenberg Estate, Landscape Architects Megan Anderson & Tarna Klitzner laid out the grounds in keeping with the design philosophy of the Estate. The layout of the Estate reflects the characteristics of the surrounding historical agricultural landscape and the main design elements relate to the subdivision of famland through tree lines and werf walls and the need to define boundaries between public and private spaces.This regional landscaping concept responds to the climate, topography, human scale and street plan and creates a unique character that promotes a physically and socially positive living environment. The desired effect is a sense of unity between the buildings and the landscaping, hence the different parts of the Estate work together to form a pleasing whole.

Landscaping guidelines

Landscaping guidelines were developed for the Schonenberg Estate and it is the responsibility of the Home Owners’ Association (HOA) to ensure that the landscaping of the Common Property is implemented as per the original Landscaping Plan and maintained. It is also the responsibility of individual homeowners to ensure that their private properties are appropriately landscaped and responsibly maintained. The Operational Environmental Management Plan for Schonenberg Estate incorporates the management requirements as a series of nine ‘programmes’, for example, Programme 8: Aesthetics and Landscaping. (For more information, refer to the Operational Environmental Management Plan (OEMP) Rev.1 August 2014 and the Environmental Audit Report 2015)

Picture: A page from Schonenberg Estate’s original Landscape Plan

Maintenance and rehabilitation

Since 2009, Crown Landscaping has been contracted to maintain the Common Property, which amounts to ca 60 hectares of landscaped areas meaning the entrances, parks, street gardens and 5 km of walking paths around the perimeter. Crown deploys a full-time site manager with a team of trained gardeners, and a part-time horticulturist who gives botanical input with regards to the planting plan and supervises the vegetation rehabilitation of “The Seep” – Schonenberg’s conservation area. The upkeep of the Common Property is supported by a nursery for the propagation and cultivation of indigenous and endemic species and preparation of compost, specifically for use on site.

Picture: A landscaped walking path around the perimeter of the Estate. Photo by Johan Dippenaar

Conservation Area

In 2002, there was an aquatic impact assessment report compiled by FCG (Ratcliffe & Ewart-Smith), before commencement of the construction of the Schonenberg Estate, in which “The Seep” was identified as the focal feature of the wetland conservation area and mapped out with approximately 3 hectares extending from the northeast to the southwest. “The Seep” was awarded conservation status in the OEMP of 2005 and declared a ‘no-go’ area within the Estate. Since 2012, the horticulturist, employed by Crown, has been assigned to manage the area, assisted by two full-time workers, who have been trained in the identification of indigenous vegetation and the control methods of undesirable problem species, i.e., alien invasive vegetation.

Picture: The Seep: Schonenberg Estate’s conservation area. Photo by Cherry Crowden

Irrigation system

The Common Property of Schonenberg Estate, that is all the areas that are not private gardens but excluding “The Seep”, are irrigated by a complex system that includes boreholes supplemented by a riparian flow of water from Helderview and municipal water, two holding dams at the bottom of the site and an extensive system of pumps and controlled irrigation systems. In 2014 -2015, the eight-year old irrigation system underwent a major overhaul by an external team and is now fully functional. The surface level irrigation on the Estate is maintained by a specially-trained, full-time Schonenberg employee. The upgrade of the irrigation system has resulted in improved water circulation which has assisted in curbing the growth of algae in the two holding dams.

Picture: Sam’s Dam: Schonenberg Estate’s main irrigation dam. Photo by Johan Dippenaar

Water-wise landscaping

Water is scarce and the affects of climate change are tangible. The HOA environmental management staff and individual home owners have to respond to the changing conditions, meaning landscaping concepts have to adapt to water scarcity and the use of water-wise plants requiring minimal maintenance. Water-wise landscaping is in place in some areas and is being expanded into others. Although the Schonenberg landscaping guidelines promote the use of indigenous plants that are appropriate to the Helderberg region, there has been a small scale introduction of exotic succulents, (e.g. Agave from the Americas) for aesthetic and water conservation purposes. (For more information, refer to Water-wise Gardening and the Approved Plant List.)

Picture: Water-wise plants at the main entrance to Schonenberg Estate. Photo by Johan Dippenaar

Alien invasive vegetation

Invasive species are controlled by the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act no. 10 of 2004) - Alien and Invasive Species (AIS) Regulations which became law on 1 October 2014. The landscaped areas have to be kept free of alien invasive species as they are thirsty plants that deplete the soil of water and nutrients. It is the responsibility of HOA to ensure that all alien and other undesirable invasive vegetation is cleared as far as possible from all wetland areas on the Estate, i.e. “The Seep”, stream areas and the dams. It is also the responsibility of individual homeowners to ensure that such problem plants are removed from private properties and that non-invasive and preferably indigenous plants are grown in their gardens. (For more information, download the Declaration of Invasive Species form from www.environment.gov.za or www.invasives.org.za.

Picture: Kikuyu Grass (Pennisetum clandestinum) has to be cleared from the wetland areas on the Estate. Photo by Cherry Crowden

Environmental management

The HOA is committed to enhance and sustain the landscaped areas and natural ecosystems on the Estate and to work on effective solutions to manage, protect and control them safely. The aim is environmental sustainability, meaning maintaining the environment in a responsible way to keep it healthy for future generations.

Picture: Upgrading of the irrigation system has resulted in improved water circulation. Photo by Johan Dippenaar