Retiree reinvents garden to save water

John Mobbs, 68, from Athlone, has transformed his rose garden into a water-wise place of tranquillity, by planting indigenous, cacti and succulent plants.

Producing gardens bursting with colour, came naturally for John Mobbs, 68, who grew up on his grandfather’s farm in Keiskammahoek, outside King Williams Town in the Eastern Cape.

It’s no surprise then, that when he had to make the decision to say goodbye to his beloved rose garden because of the water shortages in Cape Town, he would come up with a plan to still be able to enjoy the tranquillity and beauty his garden offered.

The Athlone retiree was inspired to start a water-wise garden while on holiday in Port Owen on the West Coast.

“I had to adapt because of the water scarcity, even though I was sad for my roses. When I was in Port Owen, I noticed while on my walks that every house there had a succulent garden and it was so beautiful. I love to walk before the sun comes up. What really inspired me was that it was very hot during that time, but the gardens still looked so beautiful. When I came back home, I bought a few succulents and brought it home with me. I was determined to start my own water-wise garden,” Mr Mobbs said.

He learnt his gardening skills while working on his grandfather’s farm as a boy, Mr Mobbs said.

“My grandfather had a food garden, and I learnt quite a lot from him. It came naturally to appreciate gardens and nature. My grandmother also had a beautiful garden.”

Mr Mobbs is a former teacher and lecturer, and it was while he was a lecturer at the Southern Cape Teachers’ Training College in Oudtshoorn, that his love for gardening was re-ignited, as he helped to care for thes rose garden there.

Two years ago, he started his succulent garden on a small scale. He has since designed his garden in such a way that one can walk through it. He said this is to help visitors appreciate the garden and its offerings just as much as he does.

Speaking about how he benefits from gardening, Mr Mobbs said: “Gardening gives me a purpose in life at this age. Working in the garden gives me inner-peace. I forget everything around me and only focus on the garden. It cleanses my mind. It is good for my soul.

“I’ve always been a busy person and this calms me. Gardening is also good exercise. I work in the garden from early in the morning. I deliberately made it a walk-in garden, because I want others to appreciate it just as much as I do – I am community-orientated.”

Mr Mobbs hopes to have some talks on gardening and to create awareness on the importance of saving water and protecting the ecological system.

“If we don’t look after our resources, it can cause a lot of suffering. My vision is to get people into this garden to enjoy it, but also to create awareness,” he said.

His wife, Beverley, also enjoys gardening, and their son, Nicholas, helps him to carry the heavy loads he can longer manage to carry, Mr Mobbs added.