by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa
Why do I garden? Half for a view from the window, a place to sit with tea and a good book. Half for biodiversity. 'Build it and they will come' If the leaves aren't nibbled, they aren't earning a place in my garden. I move caterpillars from the potted lime to the large lemon tree, leave snails for the hadeda ibis, plant nectar for sunbirds.
Our watering system is four legged. As Cape Town's level 3 water restrictions take force we will need to rethink grey water use here. I only water, new plants thru the first few summers till they are established, and pots. Choose summer dry mediterranean plants - with a few cherished exceptions that are worth the life support of watering.
Lemon is fed monthly then watered for thanks. No poison ever. No chemical fertilisers, only Talborne certified organic.
Right plant right place. Such an enviable huge diversity from our fynbos. One of the world's six plant kingdoms tucked in our South Western Cape. Tokai's pine plantation is being rehabilitated for the endangered remnant of Cape Flats Sand Fynbos.
Our own pelargoniums or California's poppies give vibrant colour. My only deciduous choices are Japanese maple and Prunus nigra - both chosen for their dark leaves. An inherited fiddlewood turns orange now as a herald of summer. Choose some interesting texture, scale or colour to provide permanent focal interest. Grey fountains of Dusty Miller with lamb's ears. Deep purple and variegated white sparkle Cornish Stripe. Still looking for something golden that appeals quietly.
|Grey, white, russet and orange leaves.|
Rembering not to confuse INedible Plectranthus with potted mint
Always learning, especially from USA gardeners who are trained to climate zones and clearly aware when they are in climate zone denial. Sad brown lawns are blinkered zone denial. Fierce green lawns, despite water restrictions, appal me.
Rain gardening. Porous hard 'scaping so winter rain can soak in to good purpose instead of flooding 'away' as storm water. In Porterville we had swales to retain winter downpours once the 2 rain tanks were full.
|Purples in Cornish Stripe, the camera finds a gap beneath the lemon tree|
Summer Gold is a bit confused, Spring Promise with Dusty Miller
Listen to your garden. Learn to love the plants that are happy there and spread them around. Repetition makes for a soothing and harmonious garden.
|Pelargonium, Gilia, Oxford and Cambridge|
Mackaya. Felicia, Scabiosa
Iceberg rose, Plectranthus, Mexican sage
Weed mindfully, looking for seedling volunteers of happy choices. What are the serious problem Weeds in your garden, the invasive aliens? My saplings from the neighbour's Australian brush cherry. The over exuberant that need thinning, bietou and Coprosma.
If it doesn't WANT to grow in your space - zone denial - either wimp out with a pot option - or embrace a happier choice. We are so privileged to have wild nature to inspire our gardens in South Africa! Sort out your microclimates and make good use of shady corners - ferns, Mackaya, peppermint pelargonium, even roses. Sun all day exposed to the Southeaster out front suits the poppies and muishondblaar with bietou bushes.
Plant those trees. It is impressive how much they can grow in just two years here.
Enjoy cutting flowers. Mine are often harvested from pruning paths free, from rescuing fragile flowers that have been smothered by thugs. Take cuttings and concentrate on planting in March, April and May when our weather turns to autumn coolth and rain.
For Gail at Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday. South Africans with foreign poppies, Hibiscus, Gilia, Iceberg rose, Mexican sage and Maltese cross.
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