New green festival taps in growing trend

2012-04-18 00:00

MARITZBURG’S annual indigenous plant sale has evolved into a green festival­. Being held next week, the Sustainable Living and Indigenous Plant Fair (Slip) aims to encourage buyers to look at all aspects of going green.

Andrew James, a Slip committee member, explained that they felt it was time to take the annual plant sale a step further and introduce people, who are interested in a greener, healthier lifestyle, to the multiple aspects of this way of life. James said it was obvious that there was a growing interest from consumers about ways of getting off the municipal grid, and that people are aware they can add to the biodiversity of the area.

The festival, which takes place from April 27 to April 29, will be held at the Royal Showgrounds in the Cattle­ Arena. Stallholders will be showcasing everything from natural beauty products and home-made foods to wormeries and crafts made from recycled materials.

There will be furniture made from alien invasive plants and a variety of solar energy and water-saving devices. A special feature of the festival will be the Fresh Film Festival and Speakers’ Platform which aims to educate and entertain visitors with the latest information on topical green issues such as fracking, over-fishing, the Wild Coast toll road, climate change, the fast-food industry, and how humans are destroying the planet on which they live.

“People are realising that they are able to make a difference to their lifestyle with a bit of effort, and every small effort contributes positively to the environment,” said James. “The trend towards growing indigenous plants has slowly been gaining momentum over the past 10 years.

“People are aware that by buying indigenous plants they are investing in the ecosystem of their area. The problem we found, and the original­ idea behind the indigenous plant sale, is that people tended to buy only the most commonly known indigenous plant species. We found that as nursery­ people many wonderful local species were being completely ignored, only because people were not being exposed or educated about these other local indigenous species.”

The original Indigenous Plant Sale started six years ago where the organisers offered an array of indigenous trees, shrubs, aloes and succulents, grasses and water plants, creepers and groundcovers. Now they are also aiming to tempt gardeners with the lesser-known indigenous varieties.

Indigenous gardening experts will be giving talks at the Fundis Forum, where Geoff Nichols, Elsa Pooley and David Johnson will be offering their wisdom.

“Many people have bought into the concept of indigenous gardening as it is ecological and it is also adding to the overall health of our environment,” said James. “People’s values have begun to change and instead of saying how beautiful your garden is, they ask how many types of animals it attracts.

“Pietermaritzburg is an ideal city for conservation-based gardening because it is the meeting point of different ecosystems (moist savannah, mistbelt grassland, mistbelt forest and Ngongoni veld), and that there are many wild creatures which use our gardens whether we know it or not — fruit bats, dassies, duiker, monkeys, bushpigs and hundreds of bird species, some quite rare.

“We are trying to encourage avid gardeners not just to buy indigenous plants, but to also try to create mini- ecosystems in their gardens. The challenge is to find a place in nature and to try and recreate that same scenario in your garden.”

James said the trend nowadays is to have less lawn, to use no chemicals and to try to attract local animals into the garden using bird houses and rockeries.

“In the past we had a proliferation of beautiful colonial gardens, but we are seeing a move away from that to using the plants that are from the area­.”

Trees will be collected for the Duzi Umgeni Conservation Trust (Duct) for the rehabilitation of areas along the rivers. They are also hoping to get a few culinary plants donated for Duct’s ecoschools initiative.

In addition, at this year’s festival the Green Valley Restaurant will be offering healthy, wholesome fare.


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