LANDSCAPE & GARDENS
Just as koppie means ‘small hill’ in Afrikaans, so fynbos translates as ‘fine bush’. This describes the small, needle-like leaves found on plants making up much of the Cape’s flora and on those covering 7 Koppies, which fall specifically within the Boland Granite Fynbos zone.
‘There is no defined moment of being out of the garden and in nature,’ explains garden designer Franchesca Watson. ‘In the same way the series of courtyards around the building slowly lets you into the greater landscape, so the garden slowly lets you into the natural vegetation.’
The flow works both ways. A carpet of indigenous plants covers the Valley Suite in a roof garden that appears, in Franchesca’s words, ‘as if the mountain has flowed onto the roof’. While elements, like the kitchen garden, draw guests out of enclosed areas.Walk through the raised beds, a moveable feast of produce, and they lead into a collection of fruit trees: plums, peaches, avocados, prickly pears, an olive tree or two and abundant citrus. Wander through the trees and they open onto a path heading towards a koppie behind the house.
The koppies define the property, not only in name. ‘It’s the land formation that makes this location unique,’ explains indigenous plant consultant Fiona Powrie, ‘and the stone and tree components come through strongly.’ As Fiona notes, there is a high percentage of trees for a fynbos area. The hilly outcrops shape what grows, offering enough protection for trees to thrive and encouraging a diversity of microhabitats because conditions differ on each slope. ‘Then there’s the interesting contrast between the rocky ridges and the adjoining land or the sandvlakte (sandy plains) running through the middle,’ adds Fiona. ‘It’s a vast area of really deep sands with Restio and Erica.’
Splaying out proudly on top of the koppies are prolific waaier aalwyns or fan aloes (Aloe plicatilis). The population is healthy, which is valuable in conservation terms as this variety only occurs on the block of mountain between Du Toitskloof and Franschhoek. The same goes for two flowers: a rose-pink Burchell's sugarbush (Protea burchellii) and the pretty Bridesmaid (Serruria rosea), which is not to be confused with the Blushing Bride (Serruria florida). Though, it bears mentioning, these observations are entirely seasonal.
Fynbos responds to winter rains and growing peaks in spring, which means it’s showing at its best anywhere from the beginning of August to the end of October. Under harsh summer sun the plants are largely dormant and the land takes on a starker silhouette.
When tasked with ‘What does the land taste like?’ foraging expert Roushanna Gray identified pungent wild rosemary and the scent of renosterbos in winter: ‘beautiful honey tones with pine and menthol, which come out quite intensely when everything is lush and wet.’ Roushanna also reported a buchu with delicate leaves that’s related to the citrus family. It is more easily seen in spring, when bees are active around the blossoms. In early spring the coral trees (Erythrina Lysistemon) Franchesca planted are in bloom with red flowers too.
These findings are a reminder that any experience of 7 Koppies is one moment in a cycle of seasonal transformation and each visit a rediscovery of the environment as it shifts in fragrance, flavour, colour and texture.