Our clients in Morningside Manor consulted us to design a new outdoor firepit/entertainment area for them. Their property borders the Sandspruit, so from their garden they have magnificent views of the river as it cascades over rocks and meanders around the corner. During the Covid-19 lockdown they realised they weren't making enough use of their spectacular view, so they asked us to build a new modern seating area and 'keyhole' firepit for relaxation, braaing and outdoor entertainment.
The garden, which borders the Sandspruit, and the old circular firepit
This was one of Grounded Landscaping's most challenging designs, but also one of our most rewarding. A number of factors needed to be considered, including the position of the firepit, the layout for adequate seating, and the multiple tiers - since the garden was on a fairly steep slope. An existing Combretum erythrophyllum (River Bushwillow) was also near to the space, and we wanted to keep the tree and incorporate it into the design. Additionally, because the home was right on the bank of the river, there were existing natural rock outcrops that needed to be dealt with.
After a few consultations with the client we came up with a curved design for the seating area, to mimic the natural curves of the river. A two-tiered space allowed us to partition the seating, with one built area on the top tier, and an informal lower section where additional guests could use portable chairs. Based on suggestions from the client we inset the keyhole firepit into the upper tier, so that it straddled the two tiers. A storage space, covered with a curved granite top, completed the design.
The 3D concepts: A curved seating area made for an 'organic' feel to match the flow of the river
To mitigate risks with regards to potentially rocky ground, Grounded Landscaping first undertook to dig the area to a depth of 500mm so as to evaluate what was under the ground. Although we did eventually hit solid rock, it did not impact on the layout of the design, and so the installation could proceed. We began by building the large retaining wall for the seating on the upper tier, which in consultation with our civil engineer, we protected by backfilling with gravel and laying perforated pipes at the bottom. These pipes would drain away any excess water that might collect behind the wall, and channel it out into the garden.
Existing loose rocks were used as features, which we positioned into place inside the firepit - which added to the effect of sitting alongside the rocky river. Foundations for the walls, and flagstone floors took time to ensure they were in the correct positions.
For the keyhole firepit, a number of features enhanced the final product, including a lining of clay bricks to mitigate the heat of the fire, as well as a custom-built stainless steel grid.
In consultation with the owners and various experts it was decided that the planting in the garden should be as locally indigenous as possible, to ensure that we did not impact negatively on the biodiversity of the already beautiful river system. Planting therefore involved species predominantly indigenous to the highveld, including aloes, bulbs and various forbs. A number of local shrub species were added, along with locally indigenous grasses, including: Cymbopogon pospischill, Harpochloa falx, Heteropogon contortus, Melinis nerviglumis, Panicum maximum, Pogonarthria squarrosa, and Themeda triandra.
The completed project
The project took a total of six weeks, and the owners now have a new wonderful space - with a magnificent setting - to entertain friends and family. A big thanks go to the owners who were very much hands on with suggestions for all aspects of the project, and this resulted in a beautiful outdoor space that we can all be proud of.