The grass at the bottom of the steps continually needs replacing as it gets worn and looks scruffy. Any ideas?

Why not create an attractive landing using hard landscaping? For uniformity, use the same brick or stone as the steps or make a feature with a contrasting material. Here rectangular cement pavers were set into the grass and pick up the colour of the urns on the pillars. Alternatively you can use smaller pavers and edge them with brick to link them to the brick steps.

A Our new neighbours have added another storey to their house. How can we screen our living area from their upstairs windows?

If you already have large shrubs along the boundary, remove the branches near the base to expose their trunks and shape them into trees. This will encourage top growth and leave you space underneath for further planting. Suitable plants are pittosporum, Viburnum sinensis (pictured here), bottle brushes and the forget-me-not bush, Duranta spp. Another idea is to pleach tall shrubs or small trees along a trellis erected at the required height (above left). A tip to consider is that the closer you are to the area you want to screen, the shorter the screen or tree needs to be.

A What can I do about the narrow gap between the boundary wall and the house? As its shady, the path becomes very damp and boggy during the rainy season.

One solution is to install decking slightly raised above the path. This creates a dry, level path to walk on which is also able to cope with a lawn mower and wheel barrow. Soften the area by planting shade and moisture-loving plants at the base of the wall. Dietes, the wild iris, is a good option. Its grass-like foliage makes a good contrast to Crassula multicava and the fast-growing groundcover plectranthus, P. strigosus, all of which can survive dry periods as well.

M I want to green up my tiny courtyard but it must look neat and tidy and require minimum work. I dont have the time to plant annuals and sweep up leaves.

Follow the example of Jean Almon, head gardener at The Cellars-Hohenort hotel in Cape Town, and plant a three-tiered clipped hedge around the perimeter. Select plants with different foliage colours and leaf sizes, and if you clip them at staggered heights, youll create the impression of depth making the area appear less confined. Accentuate this with a focal point like a bench or birdbath in a recess. The plants featured here are eugenia (Syzygium paniculatum), the new leaves of which are blushed with red, golden abelia (Abelia x grandiflora Francis Mason) and fine-leaved myrtle (Myrtus communis microphylla).

The soil under the tree in my lawn has become so compacted, which together with the fact that the area is so shady, means that grass simply wont grow here. Paving isnt an option as its lifted by tree roots. What can I do?

Why not make a feature of this shady area and plant one of the new shade-tolerant grasses in a clearly demarcated spot? As these grasses should be left to grow longer than normal lawn, itll have a meadowlike appearance and make an interesting contrast to the mown section. In a formal garden, a well-defined geometric shape works well, but in an informal garden, use free-flowing curves for a more relaxed look.

We no longer need our swimming pool. Rather than filling it in, could we cover it and use it as a reservoir for water?

What a clever idea. First check with your local authorities that this is legal. You could then cover it with decking and convert it into an outdoor living area. However, youd need advice from a structural engineer to ensure itll be strong enough to bear the weight of several people and furniture. Or do what Shannon Draper of The Gravel Garden, supplier of heirloom seed, has done. She covered hers with a metal framework and turned it into an area for growing shallow-rooted vegetables (see above). Another idea is to cover it with artificial grass. GEM

Apart from spectacular views and magnificent scenery, including the iconic lighthouse, Cape Point is the ideal place for eager ramblers to spot the botanical gems in the Table Mountain National Park. Its also the only part of the park thats fenced, so keep an eye out for eland, red hartebeest, bontebok and Cape Mountain zebra.

Part of the Cape Floral Kingdom World Heritage Site, the park is rich in floral biodiversity, the most common being fynbos. This ancient, unique vegetation has developed over millions of years and many plants that occur here arent found anywhere else on the planet.

Fynbos consists of four major plant groups. While were all familiar with proteas, ericas are heath-like, low-growing shrubs and restios are reed-like plants that date back millions of years. The fourth, geophytes, which include watsonias and gladiolus, occur mainly after fires.



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