Growing demand for ‘lekker’, local plants

2011-04-26 00:00

How long has the indigenous plant fair been going for and what sort of growth has it experienced?

This is the sixth year that we are running the fair. In the first year it was run at the Botanic Gardens in Prestbury­ where all the nurseries participated and exhibited their wares.

Because many of them exhibited the same or similar stock it was decided­ for the next show to try to get the biggest range of plant material that was available from nurseries.

For example in the tree section we did an A-Z, from Acacia to Ziziphus, and were able to put 100 different species of indigenous trees on sale with no duplications.

The main event is the plant sale covering­ half the cattle arena with 10 000 plants covering 450 species of plant all native to South Africa.

We have experienced moderate growth, but we tend to see the old faithfuls returning every year, possibly­ 2 000 people over the weekend.

Gardening with indigenous plants has grown in popularity in recent years. What do you think are the main drivers of this?

The demand for indigenous plants has grown tremendously over the past 15 years, mainly due to a number of individuals­ — Elsa Pooley, Geoff Nichols­, Wally Menne, David and Sally­ Johnson,­ and Ernst van Jaarsveld — who actively subscribed­ to the idea and produced huge amounts of literature on the subject. They created the awareness and with this came the interest and the demand.

Government enviromental protection policies also demand that a lot of landscapes are indigenous, eg. around the new airport and stadia, green areas in cities and highways.

A lot of ecofriendly estates have also­ stipulated that houses in the estate­ can only have indigenous gardens­ thus forcing people to seek indigenous alternatives.

Generally today, through education, young people now think that indigenous is a better alternative to planting exotic. With nearly 900 species­ of trees to choose from in KwaZulu-Natal alone, why would you plant an exotic tree?


What’s the most exciting thing happening in the indigenous plant sector right now?

Recently growers are producing a lot of the veld grasses which are turning up in all sorts of landscapes.

I started growing a large tufted berg grass called Merxmurellera and got a landscaper friend to use a lot of it in a landscape at the Gowrie Golf Course.

Since then it’s been difficult to keep up with the demand for the plant.


Why did the organisers decide to introduce a food section? Was there a demand for this?

While we’ve had a good response to indigenous it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, so we decided to add a new dimension­ with the edible plant. A lot of people are excited by going the organic­ route and the best way to do this is to grow your own vegetables. It really is simple, anybody can do it and you do not need a lot of space.

This [edible] section will include the fruit trees — decidious and citrus — and vegetable six-packs will be available, plus all the usual favourite herbs as well as a few other interesting ones.


What other developments in indigenous gardening are we likely to see in the future?

I think we are likely to see the goverment impose stricter laws on planting certain exotic plants, especially­ invasive ones, and laws that will prevent you from selling your property­ if it has an invasive plant species on it.

Waterwise gardening will also take on more meaning when global warming causes severe droughts. More people will plant succulent plants such as aloes, vygies and euphorbia.


• The Midlands Indigenous and Edible Plant Fair will be held on April 30 and May 1 and May 2 from 9 am to 4 pm in the cattle arena at the Royal Showgrounds in Pietermaritzburg. David Johnson will be dishing out advice and selling his books. Other experts will be on hand to help you select the perfect plants for your garden. Entrance is through gate five off Hyslop Road. Phone Alex at 082 499 4082 for more details.


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