Keeping your garden tidy

2014-08-15 00:00

DO not be fooled by the misconception that indigenous gardens are necessarily untidy. In fact, it is gardens that are not cared for that are untidy.

If gardening is not really your thing, then consider an indigenous garden, which can look after itself, up to a point.

I like having a garden that is sunny, fairly well-ordered and reasonably neat.

Gardening can be a rewarding pastime, but there is nothing rewarding about pulling out endless swathes of weeds each year. To discourage weeds, I cover the ground with low-growing plants like Crassula and a thick mulch of fallen leaves from deciduous trees.

In times past, the only indigenous plants available to us gardeners were species like Barleria. These rampant shrubs climbed into all surrounding bushes, did not flower terribly well, and generally evolved into a right mess. Fortunately, we have a much larger selection to choose from these days, thanks to some local botanist gardeners who have introduced us to newly tamed indigenous species.

By August, the really cold spells should be over and plants should be starting the new season’s growth. Cut deciduous shrubs back to older wood, spread compost or manure into flowerbeds and put in new plants in anticipation of rain.

Don’t rush in and plant too many trees. If you want colour in your garden, sun is essential and it is very difficult and expensive to remove shady trees, in hindsight. If you have quite a big garden, though, trees are fine, but plant them away from buildings. — Alison Young.


One of my favourite wildlife plants is the puzzle bush (Ehretia rigida).

In Zulu it is called umhlele, umankele or isalanyathi. The Afrikaans name of deurmekaarbos describes it perfectly.

From August, expect bunches of small, lilac, fragrant flowers that attract many different kinds of insects, with red fruits favoured by birds in October. This deciduous large shrub or small tree occurs naturally throughout KwaZulu-Natal. Left to its own devices, the stems form a tangle of tall branches that bow down, but pruning will rein it in. Birds use this tangle as a safe haven from which to forage on insects and to guzzle the juicy berries.

Other colourful options are Haemanthus puniceus (orange “paint brushes”), arctotis daisy hybrids (white, mauve and purple), gazania daisies (orange), delosperma (yellow and pink) and erythrina (coral trees with their red bird-pollinated flowers). — Christina Curry.

In August, Ehretia rigida produces bunches of small, lilac, fragrant flowers that attract many different kinds of insects.

PHOTO: supplied



MORE often than not, we are told what we cannot plant, what we should eradicate from gardens, and, recently, that we will be punished for not removing certain invasive plants. So what should we plant in our gardens instead? This Indigenous Gardening Wisdom column offers ways to incorporate local plants and wildlife-friendly practices in gardens. Members and supporters of the KZN Inland Branch of the Botanical Society of SA draw from their own gardening experiences to suggest fresh ideas for KZN gardeners.

• Comments are welcome: post on Facebook KZN Inland Branch BotSoc or e-mail

• The Botanical Society’s KZN Coastal Branch will be holding its spring plant sale at the Durban Exhibition Centre August 22 to August 24. Expect a fantastic selection of indigenous plants and plenty of experts on hand to give gardening advice.

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