Open Gardens has come and gone, but Gilli and David Clayden still want to emphasise the importance of clearing alien vegetation from our gardens to create a flourishing, indigenous garden scape. About three years ago, the couple noticed that the municipal land near their home in Noordhoek had become misused. They decided it was time to do something to create a more beautiful and animal-friendly community. “It is a public, open space. Previously it was used for dumping. It became a general eyesore and a nuisance. Gradually, we started taking things out and adding new plants,” says Gilli.The work they have completed since then includes: adding more than 60 bags of organic compost;adding organic fertiliser and used coffee grounds;planting more than 12 indigenous trees;planting hundreds of indigenous perennials;adding Cape Honeysuckles and succulents.“It’s colourful now and, with it being indigenous, people call it our own little Namaqualand.”Having managed to sustain their plants throughout the drought, they still try to keep within the former water restrictions. They have continued to use the means that carried them through the dry periods. “Back then, we installed a system of Jojos (water tanks) to catch the rainwater. Today we still only try to use 50F per day,” she explains.She adds that clearing out the alien plant species was a big part of sustaining their plants throughout the drought. “The root systems (of alien plants) grow so vastly and transversely and take all of the water out of the ground. The indigenous stuff struggles to get water. The alien plants are also a fire hazard.”Taking her message further than the annual open garden celebration, she says: “We continued this week; clearing more of the alien plants.” Kathy Fish and Andy Mills from On The Verge community initiative offered the Claydens manpower to help with the clearing of these species.Gilli adds, besides the flora, it has had a huge impact on the fauna as well: “Wildlife – birds, bees, butterflies, cape mongoose, mountain tortoises – are coming back!” Horse riders and dog walkers who travel down to the beach through the green paths now cleared of unruly vegetation have also benefitted greatly.The Claydens’ garden helper, affectionately known as Moses Mabhida, also works tirelessly to keep the area in tip-top shape.Gilli encourages all residents to be nature-wise. “We all need to be aware of our surroundings, and not to let things deteriorate. If everyone does a little bit, there’s a lot that can be done,” she concludes.