Elegant and understated: Front view of the Stoeckl home in Plettenberg Bay.

Charles Reitz and his company Reitz Tree Care and the landscaping division, SustainaScapes, have become preeminent in the Plettenberg Bay region for outstanding creative landscaping, an example of which is a property called The Tree House belonging to the German couple Ernst and Christl Stoeckl who were previously resident at Highlands Farm with its Nguni stud cattle in the rolling foothills on the way to Prince Alfred Pass.

The Stoeckls had specific aims for the development of their property in Plettenberg Bay and while a “grand European” style to the landscaping was initially proposed by their Chelsea award-winning landscaper, the couple preferred a more natural African “creek-and-pond” look, and thus decided to approach RTC.

Water feature: The lowest part of the garden was used to create a pond fed by a borehole.

“We are very much into the aesthetics of landscaping and came up with a very simple design using the lowest part of the garden to create a pond, eliminating the need for any water tanks and taking advantage of the fact that there was an existing borehole on site,” explains Charles.

“Many of the existing trees are not indigenous, but they do form a large part of the character of the site, which suited our natural heartfelt desire to create a pond with a farm-like oval appearance and the terrace flowing down to it from the house.

Natural beauty: A “bubbling brook” cleanses the water on its way among the rocks and reeds.

“We also came up with the idea of a stream coming out of the ground outside the lounge window, like a bubbling brook, the water being cleansed as its passes through reeds and rocks, keeping it sufficiently aerated and preventing any algal growth,” says Charles. “We used the trees and simple grassy items from the farm nursery to create the feel of walking into a forest, which we have tastefully built with logs, boulders and old stumps.”

For the entrance, the SustainaScapes team took out some old sleeper planters near the gate and reinstalled them in a much more solid and suitable fashion. Then, using just two types of plant which have a similar strappiness of leaf, one being clivia and the other hiriope, a Japanese variety which grows quite tall, the creative team guides the visitor with peace, tranquillity and elegance to the front door!

“Privacy was very important to the clients, and it was decided to keep in place some of the existing plants such as the old fashioned ivy growing up the wall, and to prune the trees in a way that lets the light through, while retaining their character and without initiating major amputations, keeping everything simple and romantic.

“We tried not to ‘garden’, keeping the ivy growing right up to the road edge, nothing fanciful, no cultivation necessary, providing a relatively uncontrived garden,” explains Charles.

“What were here when we started were standard pruned hibiscus and a failed attempt at a rose garden – things that required too much attention. But we didn’t lose all of that and saved many of the hibiscuses, letting them develop a bit of a wild look. When making decisions like this, it is necessary to keep a positive and even humorous outlook towards gardening. This approach becomes clear when you see the simplicity of the final product, keeping what was relatively natural and not cultivated.”

Something that looks as though it has always been there is the lawn flowing down into the pond, with the bubbling brook feeding the pond with water, all of it installed by SustainAscapes. And little would one know that behind the berm containing the pond is a pump house and fully automated irrigation system, cleverly disguised.

It is only when looking at the plain neighbouring gardens that one sees the stark contrast with the Tree House property — the result of an obvious lack of passion and vision when dealing with the potential of a plot of ground.

In the entrance hall Charles inspects the indoor tree for potential insect damage, which is common with indoor specimens. In order to get a natural sense of height, his team built up the interior wall with volcanic rock, using a simple pallet of ferns, with saffron shoots showing themselves attractively at the time of our visit.

Indoor elegance: A saffron tree in a planter enhances the entrance hall and is lit by a skylight.