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Cape Town - Become a green gardener this year and incorporate an environmental ethos into everything that you do. Now is the time to protect the environment by developing eco-friendly gardens and creating a smaller carbon footprint.
Your garden is an important link in the web of local ecosystems. What can you do this year to create an eco-friendly garden?
Remove invasive plants
There are over 9 000 alien species in South Africa. Of these, about 360 are declared as undesirable invasive alien plants. Aquatic invasive weeds that jump the proverbial garden fence can do enormous damage in waterways and agricultural dams by spreading across the water and blocking light to all fish and microfauna below.
Now is the time to check that you have no invasive alien species in your garden such as the yellow-flowering cat’s claw creeper, bugweed (Solanum mauritianum), Spanish broom (Spartium junceum), morning glory climbers, any of the cestrums as well as Lantana camara.
Also be aware that devil’s beard (Centranthus ruber), a perennial once known by the innocuous name of kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate or red valerian, is invading the perimeter of the Table Mountain National Park.
Plant local for wildlife
Connecting with nature and encouraging the growing of indigenous plants to replace invasive plants is very fashionable. Structured gardens are being replaced by wildlife-friendly gardens in which plants are chosen not just for their colours and forms, but also to provide food, protection and breeding places for birds, small creatures and insects.
Grow your own
With worldwide concern at the shortage of food growing, the “Farm to Table” or “Farm to Fork” movement that began in the 1960s and ’70s has gained impetus, with the emphasis on producing fresh local ingredients.
“Grow Your Own” shows how it is possible for communities to work together to create productive and attractive fruit tree, vegetable and flower gardens. Home gardeners are combining edible plants with colourful flowers, and making use of vertical space and trellis panels to grow edible screens.
Landscapers continue to introduce designs that are innovative and labour-saving, with the emphasis on clean lines, pure form and using space as a sculptural concept. This approach is appealing and welcome in view of our busy lifestyles, where homeowners want a place in which to relax and entertain friends with the minimal amount of attention.
Decks and thatched bomas with rustic seating are popular outdoor entertainment areas, modern water features such as millstones are replacing high-maintenance pools, and permeable surfaces such as gravel are replacing lawns in preference to hard landscaping. Walls and security fences around properties have encouraged homeowners to search for ideas on how to beautify and turn these utilitarian structures into attractive features.
Water is precious
With the need to conserve water, rainwater run-off from roofs is stored in tanks. These come in different shapes and sizes, making them suitable for all gardens.
Grey water systems are being installed in which household water is re-used in the garden. Grey water comes from baths, showers and handbasins, as well as washing machines that use biodegradable soap.
Decorating the garden
Gardeners are spending more money on decor in a variety of mediums. As well as traditional statuary, decorative balls and animal sculptures made from wire, screens, arches, balls and panels crafted out of wattle are being used as focal points. Perspex, fibreglass and metal containers with sleek modern lines are popular, and giant pots are used as focal points in the garden and are often left unplanted.
Simple planting in containers is fashionable. A row of containers will often contain only one type of plant, such as Cape restios that are chosen for their interesting form. Bold-leafed aloes are favourites for clay pots.
The environment has become a major role player in colour fashion, and this year will strongly reflect this global awareness in the garden in shades of green – from olive, avocado, forest and moss to tropical green. Green in the garden is not limited to foliage – green flowers have simplicity and freshness, yet can also be theatrical and sophisticated, depending on how they are used.
Green plants soften hard landscaping and add freshness and coolness to hot gardens; combined with water and weathered rocks, they create a tranquil garden that offers shelter to wildlife.
Identifying with our ethnic heritage, we need only recall a flaming African sunset in orange, red and violet-purple to see how these colours, balanced by black and gold, can play an important role in an indigenous and naturalistic garden. There are tawny grasses in autumn, aloes to light up the garden in winter, and Leonotis leonurus, proteas and pincushions, crocosmias, bulbine, watsonias and gazanias for summer.
In contrast to the brilliance of the previous colour scheme, there is the amethyst, apricot and soft pink of a sunrise that can be used to create a restful garden of soft colouring and gentle form, a quality that is increasingly important in our busy and often stressful lifestyles. Simplicity and harmony are the keynotes in this garden, using flowing curves instead of geometric shapes, soothing colours rather than contrasting ones, and delicate rather than strong fragrances.
The night sky is the inspiration for the deep, shadowy evening tones of indigo, purple and silver-grey. These are valuable colours in the garden, introducing depth and shadows, and softening or strengthening an existing colour grouping. An excellent example is Salvia “Black and Blue” with rich cobalt-blue flowers and near-black stems and calyces. Silver-grey with a hint of pearlescent green or blue brings a quality of restfulness.