Bennington’s garden grew

Roché Bennington in her pride and joy.

Butterflies, bees, birds and cats – these are all to be found in 82-year old Roché Bennington’s garden, which has metamorphosed from a desert of patchy thin grass interspersed with weeds to a show place.

Her Diep River house is deceivingly small from the front but has five bedrooms and a massive back garden. A friend comes to visit.
Ms Bennington has lots of friends, another was leaving as I arrived and was replaced by a
handsome Sealpoint Siamese cat who wound himself around her legs as she pulled out dead growth.

The friend says Ms Bennington is a force of nature. “The garden was a desert when she moved in a year ago,” she said.

A row of buckets filled with rain water wait to be poured sparingly onto hundreds of pot plants which Ms Bennington has grown from slips. Her friend admires one of them and next thing it is in her hands. “I love sharing plants and people often share with me. Most of the garden is from cuttings,” she says.

We stop to watch a pair of double collared sunbirds on a hibiscus bush. Ms Bennington says she does not use poisons, only chicken manure and compost. She says all her plants are water-wise
and the only ones she waters are those in pots. The succulents are her pride and joy. “I love the architecture of them and their perfection,” she says.

Ms Bennington, who grew up on a wine farm in Wellington, inherited her green fingers from her mother and grandmother. “I’ve gone a little over the top. My mum’s garden encroached into the vineyards. The farm produced grapes, fruit and potatoes. My dad’s was known as Jan Patat. He would send potato slips to Egypt. I was one of seven children. My husband said you’ll pot
me up one day, and I did,” she laughs. “At school, a teacher asked where I was born. On my mother’s bed in a big room I told her,” to more
laughter.

She recalls having ration books on the farm but says they didn’t need them as there was plenty of food there.

Later in life she moved to a big house in Summit Road in Constantia where she started collecting bric-a-brac. She says the house was like a museum. “My daughter Marché lives in England and is the same although she collects items from the 1930s and beyond,” says Ms Bennington.

Now two of her rooms are higgledy piggledy with collectibles, a veritable treasure trove. Everything she has collected because she feels they could be useful to those who can’t afford to buy them
new.

Her only problem is that previously botanical names would roll off her tongue, now she can’t even remember a lesson on how to use Facebook five minutes later.

Last year Ms Bennington opened her garden for a donation which she gave to Westcott School, which is across the road. Now she is inviting everyone to pop in for a cup of tea in return for gardening tips and to see her “stuff”. Call her at 021 712 3773 or 076 5286 086.