Tribute to Gordon Smith (31st October 1934 – 4th August 2019)

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

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