Converting an exotic garden into an indigenous one.

Converting an exotic garden into an indigenous one. What an exciting project! Converting your garden is fun and very interesting. It certainly is rewarding to see the fruits of your labour not only in beautiful flowers but also seeing the birds and butterflies which will start visiting your new indigenous plants. I suggest that you first become familiar with the plants that are in your garden. If you don’t know the plant names, visit local nurseries or take leaves and flowers with you and ask them to identify the plants for you. You will be surprised how many plants are indigenous and you could well have them in your garden already! Become familiar with the indigenous plants that are growing in your area, your neighbour’s garden, the local park, Botanical garden and shopping centres as this will give you an idea of what will thrive in your garden. Don’t be tempted by looking in books at beautiful plants and flowers that won’t tolerate your conditions be they frost, coastal winds, rainfall at the wrong time of the year, soil conditions or extreme heat and humidity. Decide why you want to convert to indigenous and what you hope to achieve in the new indigenous garden. There are many benefits, for example it’s a worldwide trend to plant local as the plants cope better with the environment. The indigenous garden is low maintenance, water wise and provides an eco-system for ‘wildlife’ like birds and butterflies. One just has to be careful in your plant choices. For example one would have to plant the right host plants for butterfly larvae and if you want to attract birds into your garden then you would need to plant nesting trees, fruiting plants, nectar rich flowers and seeding grasses. A pond or water feature is also vital. To keep this eco-system happy one would have to use environmentally friendly pesticides and use organic fertilizers as it would be a shame to kill off the earthworms and wildlife that you have attracted. Having decided what you want for the new garden one can go about choosing the correct trees eg Halleria lucida Tree Fuchsia, is the best bird garden tree as the flowers attract the nectar feeders like the sunbirds and the black fruit is enjoyed by the fruit eaters like the Barbets. If you want to see butterflies in your garden then plant a Kiggelaria Africana, Wild Peach, and the Garden Acraea butterfly will be laying her eggs on the leaves. There are numerous books and information on web pages to guide you. My favourite is I’ve written 7 booklets on Indigenous gardening and the one entitled Constructing an Indigenous Bird Garden is helpful as it gives numerous plant choices from trees, shrubs and groundcovers. It’s soft cover and costs R60 Plan the style of garden that you want. It could be formal or informal. This will also help with your plant choices as there are indigenous plants that can be clipped into formal hedges. Plan the planting choices around their water requirements. Ferns require lots of water whereas Vygies do not. Your local nursery should be able to help you with that aspect. Remember that you also need to know if a plant should be planted in the sun or in the shade. One then has to decide which exotic trees and plants have to be removed. Remember to remove the exotic invader plants first. It is not necessary to rip out the entire garden and start from scratch. You could do it in phases and plan accordingly. If you plant your new trees with compost and bonemeel for root growth, you can expect them to grow about 1 meter per year. Some species are faster growing. Another of my booklets is Fast Growing Indigenous Plants and it would be helpful if you are impatient! I suggest that you enlist the service of an experienced landscaper to draw up a design and a plant list. Do ask your local nursery to recommend one that has a passion for working with indigenous plants. Local is lekker, so enjoy your new garden and welcome every bird and butterfly that visits your natural sanctuary.