Before and after: The courtyard transformation


It has been almost two years since I moved from the city to Vastrap. Looking at photos of the house and garden back then I am amazed at the transformation that has taken place. When I first arrived I was frequently overwhelmed by the task of making Vastrap a home that both Quentin and I would feel comfortable in. This was the home he grew up in. Who was I to come in and demand changes? What did I know about farm life?

On good advice, we took our time and considered all the possible options, frequently changing our minds about what needed to be done. I’m glad we didn’t rush. It gave me time to understand what is important for a farm house as opposed to a slick city pad, especially through the changing seasons. In the end we opted for a pretty radical change, but it was the right decision. What we have now completely suits our lifestyle and will be adaptable to changing circumstances in years to come. There is still much work to be done and a lot of learning for this city girl, but happily I have come to a point where I can truly call Vastrap home. 

There are many places I could start in the Vastrap retrospective, but one of my favourite changes has been the outside courtyard which runs between the main house and the outside guests bedrooms. A previously dull and dead area has been transformed into a tranquil and useful space, which creates a link between the main house and the outside guest rooms. I had a clear idea of what I wanted, but I called in our local landscape designer and horticulturalist, Jill Stephens, to help with the design and execution. She interpreted the brief perfectly: I wanted low maintenance paving instead of grass; I wanted raised beds with herbs and ornamental fruit and vegetables; all my old pots needed to be reused; there had to be a fountain and a pergola for outside entertaining; and it had to look pretty from all the rooms inside!

Below is a photo essay of how the process unfolded. An improvement, don’t you think?

View of unexciting grass passage between the main house and outbuildings.

Ugly view of the back of the house from the guests rooms.

Half way through the building project with new sliding door from the main house onto the courtyard.

Construction of the beds and planting in late summer.

Jill discussing the paving with her team.

Covered in snow in August!

Stunning wisteria blossoms in Spring.

Thriving as summer sets in with table set for Sunday lunch.

Pergola waiting for creepers to get growing.

View from new TV room to the outside guest room.

Star jasmine.

An old African stone pot and pedestal used as a fountain.

Kumquart tree with yellow pansies.

Red rose and violas highlighted against green virginia creeper.

Abundant parsley, sage and thyme.

Mint, pansies and scabiosa.

Tarragon, fennel and pansies.

Very old red geranium that survived quite neglected in the old courtyard.

19 thoughts on “Before and after: The courtyard transformation

  1. Absolutely wonderful! A real credit to you Maris and to Quent for supporting all your ideas. It will be such a great space this summer. Dee xx


  2. Maris I’m sensing a book one day… Your recipes and cooking days with family and friends, mealtimes under the pergola or in your cosy winter kitchen, your rose and herb garden transformation and all this newly acquired knowledge on cattle and auctions. Wonderful!


  3. What an amazing transformation! So so beautiful! The picture from August with the snow reminded me of english gardens at christmas time. And I am super envious of all your herbs! Guess my herb garden plans will have to be put on hold for now though 😉


  4. What a wonderful transformation, good vision and forward thinking. The landscaping so beautifully executed as well. I am going to reblog this for my followers. Might just give them some inspiration in these wet and stormy days we are having here in the Western Cape. Thank you for sharing with me. *Brigid 🙂


    • Thank you! It still has a way to go so soften and settle but I’m thrilled to already have loads of self seeded primulas popping up all over the place!


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