Ryobi Head Offices

The Ryobi premises in Midrand, Gauteng, have been landscaped in a minimalist way, in keeping with the fact that it is a fairly stark warehouse environment. Jon Jackson of Ilnika Landscaping says there is a slight 'eastern' feel to the landscape due to the origins of Ryobi equipment being from Japan.

Although he was given carte blanche in terms of the landscape brief, his point of departure was an oriental theme. One exception to this however was the planting of a bed of Acacia xanthophloea trees in front of the building at the specific request of the client.

The overall design philosophy was to soften the building by means of large trees and to retain a sense of open space. Tough site Jackson says that when he started on the site, conditions were fairly harsh as it was very open, windy and with considerable movement of sand. In addition, the soil was very clayey and organic compost was used to improve its structure. A requirement from the client was to establish an attenuation dam before construction commenced (this was carried out by the civils contractor) and Jackson was required to grass and maintain it. The dam retains surface water and allows it to seep underground.

One requirement of the planting was to separate the parking areas from the loading bay. Another was to introduce earth mounds in different areas to create elevations on the flat site. In front of the main entrance, a bed with stone obelisks on a slightly raised mound provides a visual level difference. This is a design feature of eastern gardens to create small scale hills. Waves of planting create a sense of flowing movement, brought about by tall grasses in the form of Chondropetalum tectorum. In this bed, Imperata cylindrica (blood grass) has been planted for its attractive red colour. It fills out well and retains a low growth habit. The aforementioned fever trees were planted close together so that their attractive bark can be enjoyed and appreciated. They were planted randomly - not in straight lines - and natural stone obelisks interspersed amongst them add to the eastern theme. They too have been placed in an irregular fashion in groups of three to create repetition and 'a sense of being part of the same garden,’ according to Jackson.

The planting occurs at two levels in the form of Carex 'Evergold', C. 'Frosted Curls', Acorus Gramineus 'Golden Edge', A Gramineus 'Variegata' and Trachelospermum Jasminoides. There are no shrubs or middle levels of planting. Cycas Revoluta and Strelitzia Reginae have been used as focal plants and to provide year-round colour. They are also low growing and dense. All plants used were grown and supplied by Ilnika Wholesale Nursery.
Where possible, indigenous plants were used, especially trees. These include Celtis, Acacia, Rhus, Olea, Combretum species as well as Dombeya Rotundifolia and Yellowwoods.
Jackson says that the planting has softened the building environment with its understated simplicity. "It takes a secondary role to the modern building but has served its purpose,” he says. A lawned area on the east side of the building near the attenuation dam has been created with the purpose of encouraging staff to use the garden.
Seven Celtis Africana trees were moved successfully from the company's previous site, and a further two from an adjacent plot. Says Jackson: "The height, of these existing trees, was important on a large site like this. We planted some Populus Simonii for screening as their upright and fast growth habit is suitable for this purpose.”

A rectangular water feature designed by Jackson is a simple structure, placed in front of the building's boardroom so that it can be clearly seen from inside. It is low and flat so as not to obscure the view looking out from the boardroom, and in accordance with the eastern principles of Feng Shui, the water flows towards the main entrance door. Three copper spouts pour water into the pond, creating a pleasing sound which is neither too silent, nor too noisy. A pathway was created so that people can walk close to the water feature.

Borehole water is used for irrigation and there is a ring feed of over 600 meters around the building for the irrigation. Water is pumped from the borehole into a 10 000 liter tank and from there into the ring feed system. There are 19 solenoid valves around the building and during winter, irrigation takes place every second day.
Easy project
Jackson says the project was relatively easy from an installation point of view as access was good and the client
was very accommodating. The grass was brought in and placed directly where it was needed, requiring less labour.
"We're pleased with the end result which was close to the initial plan and a good relationship with the client always makes a project more enjoyable. The client will also enjoy the landscape and see it grow." lsa

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