Tucked away down a dusty rural lane in the Franschhoek Valley, South Africa is one of the hidden gems we visited on our recent tour. In all fairness, we arrived shortly after unseasonably heavy rains had caused devastating landslides so visitors would normally have a much less adventurous arrival!
Le Poirier is a small farm where the original pear orchard offers privacy (although neighbors are few) and a relaxed perimeter to the more ordered plantings around the stunning traditional-meets-contemporary home. Yet the farm is the heart of this oasis, as British-born owner Paula explained (while accompanied by two parrots).
Using regenerative and sustainable techniques this farm produces a variety of fruit, vegetables and wine, and is home to a flock of sassy hens, rescued rabbits and much-loved alpacas who in turn contribute to the soil health and ultimately the organic produce it grows. Indeed Paula's mission is to give back to the earth and help it heal.
Like many great ideas, this adventure was conceived when adversity hit – Covid lockdown. Originally, Paula and her partner thought of Le Poirier as their personal escape from the city yet they transformed the former commercial pear orchard into a pesticide-free haven for animals, people and insects in less than one year. Taking advantage of the enforced isolation by watching online tutorials on farming methods supplemented with advice from other local farmers enabled her to fast track this new venture – and keep her small staff of helpers fully employed.
Paula has been experimenting with growing edibles in a variety of ways including companion planting, trellising and layering.
This area can be seen especially well from the roof top terrace which Paula kindly allowed us to visit.
There is also a small citrus orchard close to the home laid out in a grid pattern, the strong geometry complementing the homes architecture.
What at first looks like a lap pool or ornamental pond is in fact an irrigation reservoir that holds water from the well. Solar power is used to pump water during the day so that they can run the irrigation at night. The bronze sculpture was commissioned by Athol Moult. He was inspired by all the birds (hens, owls, parrots) at Le Poirier so the sculpture is a representation of a falling feather. (There's a much better photo of this on the artists website).
They also made use of a drip irrigation scheme called Responsive Drip Irrigation or RDI, which I found interesting and need to do further research on. Basically it is a 'plant-responsive water and nutrient delivery system'. If you've got any experience with this I'd love to hear from you.
As always, I look at the overall design of any garden we visit to glean ideas and gain a better understanding. Le Poirier was fascinating.
We entered the garden through the pear orchard – the wildest part of the property, with vegetables growing on mounds beneath the fruit trees using RDI irrigation mentioned above.
From here a small bridge provided a transition to more naturalistic plantings which acted as an entry sequence to the primary entertainment area. These beds were rectilinear in shape which made a pleasing contrast to the loose plantings and fine textures.
Boulders and columnar evergreens punctuated the plantings, creating focal points.
Use of Axis
One of my favorite design elements is the use of sight lines – or axis, so I was thrilled to see several strong examples in this garden.
The view above can be appreciated from the roof top garden too:
Mystery is another intriguing design ploy and suggested in this next image. The pathway/axis is evident – yet somewhat concealed by virtue of the tree-like vine which is growing in it.
Filtering light to throw shadows on walls and floors adds an additional artistic detail. This can be done with pergola crossbeams, foliage or a mixture of both as seen here.
Botanical inspired light fixtures and tactile art were the perfect addition to this light-filled home, which incidentally was magazine-worthy gorgeous (and especially delighted our four guests who were architects!)
We were all entranced by the magnificent wall hanging which depicts the native fynbos together with the pear trees. The artist, Gabriella Kruger creates these dimensional works by painting in acrylics on plastic, then peeling the paint away. Her website has more examples and information about the technique she has developed to produce such dimensional art works.
The front door was made using recycled pear wood and was set within the white washed archway – a perfect, personalized entry to Le Poirier.
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