As empty erven within the Garden Route are steadily transformed for housing there is genuine concern from long-time residents whether any green areas will be left at all. Clearing of areas rich in biodiversity is often met with animosity, which at times is understandable. But let’s not forget that where every house stands, once existed the exact environment that we now condemn others for transforming. Is it fair to allocate blame to new residents whilst simultaneously ignoring our own impact? Perhaps instead of just expecting other property owners to forego their property and development rights, we should search ourselves in order to find ways that enrich our own properties so that they better reflect and embrace the local species and environment.
A practical area where one could start is within one’s on garden/erf. How well does it both simulate and stimulate the surrounding environment and can things improve? Plant choice is one area one can start and it can be done incrementally. Over time lawn and sterile wall to wall paving can easily be transformed into a textured landscape of restios, colourful flowering bulbs and soft coastal dune vegetation.
In a residential setting plants are at times selected for security purposes in order to provide a spiky barrier and first line of defence. Indigenous alternatives like Aloe ferox or A. arborescens, Carissas (Num-nums) and Kei Apples should be prioritised over alien invasive Agaves and Cacti.
When it comes to plant choice, favouring local and indigenous plants can result in decreased watering, less maintenance and helps support local biodiversity by producing the next generation of seed. It also provides food and habitat for a wide variety of birds and insects.
Due to development we have already lost a large proportion of our coastal forest species such as Milkwood. Whether cut down legally or illegally they are seldom replaced. Large indigenous trees are often keystone species that help define and support ecosystems and we should be doing our best to plant them back. Milkwood, Wild Pear, Candlewood, Coastal Coral and Boer-beans make a better feature tree than the awful, poisonous and invasive Manatokas that are currently extremely prominent in local residential areas.
If your favourite nursery does not stock local and indigenous plant species ask them why not, as a demand will create the supply. George Botanical Gardens offer many types of indigenous plant species at very reasonable prices. Alternatively, there are numerous indigenous plants that can be grown from cuttings and seeds that can be responsibly gathered from existing green areas. The sustainable harvesting of cutting material and seeds is a cheap alternative to buying established plants and provides an opportunity for one to further explore our green areas whilst they still exist. By emulating, favouring and celebrating our surrounding environment at home maybe we stand a better chance of conserving the rest of it.