Kay Montgomery

Kay Montgomery

Wednesday, 26 July 2023 01:00

Turning the tide on mangrove deforestation

Mangroves are part of South Africa's forest assets. Turning the tide on the deforestation of mangroves involves raising awareness

Thursday, 20 April 2023 20:42

Can AI help end deforestation?

From hoovering kitchens and driving cars to reading and writing, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning are increasingly being used to save humans time.

But can this technological innovation help us save the planet?

Celebrate International Day of Forests on 21 March.  The 2023 #ForestDay theme is 'Healthy Forests for Healthy People'.

Planting trees and landscaping forests for people in cities is the key to mental health and well-being.

Wednesday, 30 November 2022 17:53

World Soil Day - Grow food in healthy soil

Celebrate World Soil Day on 5 December.  This year’s World Soil Day theme is 'Soils: Where food begins'.

Understand the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being by addressing the growing challenges in soil management, increasing soil awareness and encouraging societies to improve soil health.

Four indigenous tree species have been added to the National List of Protected Trees. The four species are the red and pink Ivory Tree, the Jackal Berry, Manketti and the Umtiza.

Celebrate World Soil Day on 5 December 2021.  This year’s World Soil Day theme is salinisation. Defined as an increase in water-soluble ground salts, excessive soil salinity is a global problem. 

Celebrate World Food Day. ‘Our actions are our future. Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life’ - is the theme for 2021 World Food Day.

SALI pays tribute to the passing of a SALI founder member and legendary landscaper, Gordon David Smith (84 yrs).

Gordon Smith 2004 400x600PS

Gordon Smith was a pioneer in the South African landscaping industry. Many corporate gardens, housing development and landscaping methods were pioneered by his team. 

Among the memories... 

* KEW GARDENS, LONDON: Qualified as a horticulturist in 1955 and took up a position at Kew Gardens, London;  In 1958, he married Cynthia Wycherley in London.

* JOHANNESBURG PARKS DEPARTMENT:  He returned to South Africa 1959 and joined the Johannesburg Parks & Recreation Department where he spent five years. 

* CHAMBER OF MINES:   Gordon became involved with the selection of grasses and plants to cover the sandy mine dumps around Johannesburg.  As part of the rehabilitation of the mine dumps, he implimented the grassing of the mine dumps around Johannesburg to reduce the dust pollution. 

* MARINA DA GAMA:  Gordon was offered the position of Landscape Manger with Anglo American in 1970 and moved his young family to the Cape.  As part of the Anglo American team, Gordon travelled the world for this project, visiting a number of residential marina projects as they worked out how best to design and build the Marina Da Gama housing development in Muizenberg, Cape Town.  

Over the next few years, Gordon Smith was to become an expert in marina landscape construction, developing windbreaks and landscaping in a marina development. "It was a very exciting time", remembered, Gordon on many occasions. He was on the team that broke ground, started the initial earthwork preparation and construction of the Marina De Gama Village set on and in the sandvlei wetlands of the southern Cape peninsula.

Gordon constructed and developed a site nursery where he propagated and supplied all the plants and trees to later be used in the landscaping development of Marina de Gama. He also oversaw the construction and windbreak planting on huge sand bank berm barriers. The berms acted as giant windbreak barriers to protect the proposed Marina da Gama development from the infamous south-easter winds which lashed the coast line from Sunset Beach to Muizenburg. 

After the completion of the Marina de Gama project, Gordon returned to Johannesburg in the mid-1970s. He broke away from the Anglo American Group and returned to Johannesburg to open his own landscaping construction business. 

* GORDON SMITH LANDSCAPING:  With a superb recommendation from Anglo America Group's Harry Oppenheimer, Gordon Smith took on a number of contracts with Punch Barlow - the entrepreneur building what was to become the giant Barlow Rand and Barloworld businesses.

Gordon's team went on to develop the much admired Barloworld head office garden complex with streams, ponds and wide borders. Barlopark was a pioneering example of the 'new' decentralised office park - one of the first to appear in the emerging business centre of then 'rural' Sandton. 

Gordon Smith Landscaping worked on hundreds of projects over three decades during the late 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. These included the Rosebank business centre, the Old Mutual office parks. the Liberty Life developments … to name but a few. The team grew from 10 to 223 staff.

* KLIP RIVER TREE FARM:  Gordon acquired land in Eikenhoff to the south of Johannesburg and developed the Klip River Tree Farm which included a nursery, the tree farm, an animal farm and restaurant. From this property, many of Gauteng’s trees, shrubs and groundcovers were propagated and grown for the use on the company's landscaping projects. 

* LIFESTYLE GARDEN DESIGN SHOW:  Gordon Smith mentored landscaping students building gardens at the annual Lifestyle Garden Design Show which took place at the Lifestyle Home Garden Centre in Randpark Ridge, Randburg;

* ASPEN ESTATE:  Gordon worked into his 80s. One of his last projects was the Aspen Estate South of Johannesburg where he was involved for 3 years creating waterfalls, water features, dams, and landscaped areas.

* THABO ECO HOTEL:  Gordon worked with the Thaba Eco Hotel in Impala Road, Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve, southern Johannesburg. It was here that he continued with landscaping building dams and creating watering holes for game up until November 2018.



In 2008, Gordon Smith was awarded the SALI Chairman’s Discretionary Trophy for his 56 year commitment to the landscaping industry in Southern Africa. 

The 2008 citation reads:  

This prestigious award honours Gordon Smit as a founder member of SALI. 

  • For his 56 year commitment to the landscaping industry in Southern Africa. 
  • For his involvement with Jhb Parks Department;
  • For his ground-breaking marina reclamation work
  • For grassing of the mine dumps to reduce dust;
  • For his pioneering foresight in producing semi-mature trees for landscaping.
  • For his genius design and construction of prestigious projects from the infancy of the landscaping industry to the present.



Gordon Smith was married for 60 years to Cynthia Wycherley Smith (24th September 1935 – 26 December 2018).

The couple are survived by two children Craig and Debbie, and grandchildren - Gregory, Tarryn and Kevin.



What a wonderful man. Gordon taught many in the landscaping industry.

Most of the youngsters in the field today wouldn’t have a clue who he was or how our industry started all those years ago with Gordon Smith at the helm.

Deighton Clegg, Mike Gibbons and I were so lucky to have been part of that classroom.

I celebrate his life.

Oscar Lockwood - Life Green Group (Pty) Ltd


Gordon Smith was an extraordinary and unique person and so important to me and my development as a Landscape Architect.

I owe him so much for taking the chance with me all those years ago . I have so many fond memories of the time we spent together and the fun we had. Truly a giant of a man in so many ways.

Mark Young (BA Land Dip Land Arch)


I spent so many wonderful moments with Gordon that I would need a book to record them all.

We did spend some time together lately going over them so they are still fresh in my memory. We will miss him. 

Des Young


Gordon Smith 600x400PS

Gordon Smith Wife 600x600 PS

Gordon's was married for 60 years to Cynthia Wycherley Smith (24th September 1935 – 26 December 2018).



Wednesday, 16 January 2019 18:04

Waterscaping transforms Ballito

The presence of water transforms a shopping centre, a residential estate or even a home.

Across KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), talented South African Landscapers Institute (SALI) members are transforming business prospects and the landscapes with water.

On the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal in seaside Ballito, SALI landscaper, Harry Dickinson is showcasing a waterscaping success story.

Ballito Lifestyle Centre

Established 15 years ago, Ballito’s Lifestyle Centre was a successful regional shopping centre with a growing residential area that was attracting upmarket retirees and holiday-makers.

In April 2017, Ballito Lifestyle Centre faced their biggest business challenge to date.

A brand new 70 000m2 regional shopping mall opened their doors directly across the road. 30% of the tenants in the Ballito Lifestyle Centre, including all the fashion outlets, moved across the road to the new mall at the end of 2017, resulting in a 12 000m2 loss of previously tenanted floor space.

Ballito Lifestyle Centre 3 PS

Complex redevelopment

Facing a retail challenge, the Ballito Lifestyle Centre embarked on a redevelopment and repositioning project that aimed to ‘differentiate’ themselves from their newly opened ‘mall’ neighbour.
Three major areas of redevelopment were identified:

i) Waterscaping. Create an enchanting network of water features that act as a spectacular and welcoming waterscape. The ponds cool the complex, are an eco-focal point for visitors and provide a barrier zone between a busy main road and the Lifestyle Ballito Centre.

ii) The Market. Develop an open plan setting for an array of locally created artisanal food offerings, in a market setting across 1 600m2

iii) Eat Street. Develop a carefully chosen range of niche restaurants in a cosmopolitan open air environment beside the waterscapes.


Ballito Lifestyle Centre 5 PS

Waterscaping redevelopment

Green Earth Landscapes was given the contract to develop the multi-layered waterscapes that are so much a part of the recent Ballito Lifestyle Centre redevelopment.

The three month waterscaping project began in November 2017 and finished in early 2018.

“The waterscapes are 60m long x 4m wide in most places, but do get wider”, says Harry Dickinson from Green Earth Landscapes.

“We introduced layers into the water feature and oxygen into the system through stone cavities in the root area of plants”, he adds.

“The entire pond system is run on natural biofilter technology, is planted up with aquatic and marsh plants and is surrounded with timber decking”.


 The ponds have become a mecca of wildlife and include fish and frogs.

“Large geometric concrete islands in the ponds act as ‘lily pads’ and offer interaction spaces for the children to connect with nature.

The ponds have become a mecca of wildlife and include fish and frogs”, says Dickinson.


Ballito Lifestyle Centre 1 PS





Saturday, 01 December 2018 18:16

Firescaping plants for the Western Cape

The summer fire season has arrived.

Disaster management fire experts suggest that the drought during the summer of 2017/2018 kept fires in the Western Cape at a conservative figure. Good rains this year have increased the biomass in the region and more intense fires are predicted.

So far the predictions are regretfully on target. Close to 90 000 hectares was destroyed in the 2018 George-Outeniqua fire (29 -31 October, 2018).

It is estimated that the George-Outeniqua fire destroyed an area four times the size of the 2017 Knysna fires (7-10 June, 2017) - which saw 22 000 hectares razed.

“Professional landscapers spend their life working in nature and are sensitised to the dangers that fire pose to life, property and infrastructure”, says SALI National Chair, Norah de Wet.

Landscaping an area to be firewise requires planting in zones and is known as firescaping. “Knowing which plants to use in three firescaped zones on a property will go a long way to reducing damage in the face of a runaway wildfire”, says de Wet.

In the Knysna fires, for example, walls covered in star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) and pavements planted up with aloes were destroyed by the intense flames and heat.

However, they protected the homes and perimeter walls against which they were planted by being in the path of the fire and absorbing the impact of the fire.

Three firescaping zones

Landscape a defensible space against wild fires with three zones of firewise plants.

What plants should you choose to plant in these three zones of firescaping in your garden. Aim now to save lives and infrastructure this summer with firewise planting. 

Firescaping Cape Firewise PosterPS


Plants for firescaping in three zones

Consider these plants for firewise landscaping in three zones.

 1.  Perimeter zone

This is a buffer zone area on the boundary of your propert which should be planted up with low growing, fleshy-leaved ground covers, hedging plants and isolated forest trees or large succulent aloes that are fire-resistant and resprout when damaged by fire.

  • Low growing ground covers with fleshly leaves that have a high resistance to fire:      Vygies, (Lampranthus, Malephora, Drosanthemum, Delosperma and Carpobrotus), Gazania, Arctotis, Cliffortia ferruginea, Aloe brevifolia and other suitable ground-covering aloes.
  • Bulbs that resprout:    Tulbaghia violacea, agapanthus, watsonia.
  • Screening or hedging plant that resprout or do not burn easily:    Krantz aloe (Aloe arborescens), other suitable aloes, dune crowberry (Searsia crenata syn. Rhus crenata), Searsia glauca, glossy currant (Searsia lucida), Tarchonanthus camphorates, Pterocelastrus tricuspidatus, Osteospermum moniliferum, milkwood (Sideroxylon inerme).
  • Forest trees that do not burn easily:     Cape holly (Ilex mitis), Cape beech (Rapanea melanophloeos), wild almond (Brabejum stellatifolium), rooiels or butterspoon tree (Cunonia capensis), including indigenous cherry (Maurocenia frangularia), and rock elder (Canthium mundianum), tree fuchsia (Halleria lucida). 

2. Garden zone

Within the garden, design 'island beds' surrounded by lawn, paving or gravel.

Choose fire-resistant trees and shrubs, but make sure that they do not touch each other or create a ladder effect that can deliver a fire to your home. Interplant the islands with low growing ground covers.

  • Resprouters such as Leucadendron salignum, Chondropetalum tectorum, Erica spp., Maytenus oleoides, Brachylaena discolour, indigenous Salvia spp. (Salvia africana caerulea, Salvia africana-lutea), Pelargonium cucullatum, king protea (Protea cynaroides), Felicia echinata, wild olive (Olea europeana subsp. Africana), wild peach (Kiggelaria africana), glossy currant (Searsia syn. Rhus lucida).
  • Corky bark:      Leucospermum cococarpodendron, Protea nitida, Mimetes cucullatus, Aloe plicatus.
  • Bulbs that resprout:     Agapanthus, watsonia, Haemanthus coccineus, Cyrtanthus ventricosus, Kniphofia praecox.

3. Patio zone

Create a 3m wide zone of hard landscaping, lawn or low growing fire-resistant plantings around the house. This patio zone is a great place for shade loving, flowering plants.


  • For sun: Cliffortia ferruginea, Otholobium decumbens, Dymondia margaretae, Gazania spp., Helichrysum argyrophyllum, Hermannia saccifera, Cotula lineariloba, Agathosma ovata ‘Kluitjies kraal’ and vygies.
  • For shade: Plectranthus verticillatus, P. neochilus (which can also grow in the sun), and P. ciliatus ‘Drege’.

Shrubs: Agathosma serpyllacea, Phylica ericoides, Felicia spp., Natal plum (Carissa macrocarpa & cvs.), Cotyledon orbiculata, Scabiosa spp., and geelblombos (Athanasia dentata).

Firescaping Firewise TbarsPS


Firewise plants for landscaping

Include these 40 firewise plants in any fire-prone landscapes in the Western Cape this summer. 

  • Trees: Cape ash (Ekebergia capensis), tree fuchsia (Halleria lucida), wild peach (Kiggelaria africana), Cape holly (Ilex mitis), forest elder (Nuxia floribunda), wild olive (Olea europeana subsp. africana), Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), all oaks, (Quercus spp.), milkwood (Sideroxylon inerme), all flowering plums, peaches, crabapples and cherries.
  • Shrubs: Buchu (Agathosma spp.), Marguerite daisy (Argyranthemum spp. & cvs.), camellias, Natal plum (Carissa macrocarpa & cvs.), tick berry (Chrysanthemoides monilifera), coprosma (Coprosma repens & cvs.), Cordyline australis & cvs., Erica spp., felicia, Gardenia augusta & cvs., Hibiscus rosa-sinensis & cvs., hydrangeas, Leucadendron spp., roses, Protea spp., dune crowberry (Searsia crenata syn. Rhus crenata), crane flower (Strelitzia reginae), Cape honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis), all succulents.
  • Ground covers: Ground covering succulents and vygies, agapanthus, artotis, rockrose (Cistus spp.), Dymondia margaretae, Gazania spp., Helichrysum spp., statice (Limonium perezii), Plectranthus spp., scabiosa, star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), wild garlic, (Tulbaghia spp.)




Click here to download page 1 of a z-folder entitled:   A Guide to Firescaping your Garden - Page 1 of 2

Click here to download page 2 of a z-folder entitled:   A Guide to Firescaping your Garden - Page 2 of 2


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Firescaping your garden2PS





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