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GARDENING: Garden landscaping for the future

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Many are using sound water-wise principles to save this precious resource and grow sustainable beauty

How water-wise is your garden? Across the suburbs, gardeners are looking for ways to conserve water, while still enjoying gardening as a hobby and creating a beautiful outdoor space.

Regardless of where you live, it makes sense to adopt principles that will help to reduce your garden’s dependency on potable water. This effectively future-proofs your garden, saves you money and helps to protect the environment.

The water-wise garden at Eco House boasts a number of colourful succulents and cacti. Picture: Jeanne Hugo

Wise water ways

In taking up the challenge to use less water, gardeners are coming up with a range of enterprising ideas. Their gardens are also open to the public to raise funds for charity over the next 10 days.

◆ Helderberg Open Gardens

In addition to borehole usage, the owners of this Helderberg garden use underground tanks to store rainwater, with a 100 000 litre storage capacity. Picture: Jeanne Hugo

In the Somerset West-Helderberg Valley, a range of gardens that have adopted a host of water wise ideas will be open to the public October 12 and 13. All the gardens are water-wise and planted up with primarily indigenous flora.

Most importantly, they showcase how gardens can thrive in the face of drought and water restrictions. Eco House is almost totally self-sufficient, using harvested rainwater and solar power.

Rainwater is collected from the roof and stored in a number of tanks, with a storage capacity of 75 000 litres. “My wife Maureen initially turned a neglected garden into a water-wise garden but due to the severity of the drought she has done an incredible job of turning it into a beautiful, succulent garden,” says owner, Adrian Harland.

Regionally indigenous plants are well adapted to local conditions and once established, are water-wise. Pictured, the Cilliers garden, Helderberg. Picture: Jeanne Hugo

◆ Constantia Open Gardens

Four water wise gardens in Constantia are open next October 18 and 19. Each garden represents a different way of being water aware and as ecologically responsible as possible.

Angela McQueen of Small Space Gardens says her Constantia garden relies solely on grey water and harvested rainwater for a colourful and lush look.

“We use techniques to limit water run-off and ensure it soaks into the ground,” she says. McQueen’s organic garden is a combination of indigenous, water wise perennials as well as indigenous and exotic succulents.

“We’ve also retained the larger trees to allow for soil coolness,” sausd McQueen. “Plants are more resilient and require less water if their roots are cool.” 

The silver-grey foliage of the Cape gold (Helichrysum splendidum) reflects the sun’s rays away from the plant and reduces water loss. Picture: Kay Montgomery

Tips for water-wise landscaping

What can you do to make your garden more water wise this spring?

◆ Start zoning. Place those plants with similar water requirements in one area. Group plants that can survive for long periods with very limited water in one area. A no-water zone should comprise about 30% of your garden.

◆ Reduce the size of your lawn. Use permeable paving or build an entertainment/braai area with gravel and succulents.

◆ Rainscaping. When planting new species consider those indigenous to your area. These plants are suited to local conditions and local rainfall.

◆ Consider drought-tolerant plants and succulents from other countries.

The drought-resistant climber, starry white jasmine (Jasminum multipartitum), produces fragrant white flowers in spring through summer. Picture: Andrea Durrheim

◆ Before planting new plants prepare your soil exceptionally well. Add plenty of organic matter to increase the soil’s water-holding capacity.

◆ Waterscaping. Install water-wise features and avoid fountains that splash or spray onto paving.

◆ Keep beds mulched throughout the year. This prevents weeds from stealing water and nutrients from valuable plants and keeps moisture in the soil below. Choose an organic mulch such as bark chips, leaf litter or compost so it can break down in the soil over time.

◆ Utilise your grey water. It contains nitrogen and phosphorus which are good for plants and the soap helps to deter pets. If you use washing machine water, switch to an environmentally friendly detergent. For fynbos, be extra careful to use phosphate-free soap.

◆ Consider run-off from your roof and how you can best direct this water. Rain chains can be utilised to slow the flow.

◆ Build berms and swales to direct and slow storm water, thereby keeping water on your property and allowing it time to percolate into the soil.

◆ Invest in rainwater tanks.

◆ Water-wise plants: Pride-of-de-Kaap (Bauhinia galpinii), burn jelly plant (Bulbine frutescens), sour fig (Carpobrotus edulis), pig’s ear (Cotyledon orbiculata), pink joy (Crassula ovata), yellow wild iris (Dietes bicolor), wild rosemary (Eriocephalus africanus), Helichrysum spp., starry white jasmine (Jasminum multipartitum), Cape leadwort (Plumbago auriculata) and wild garlic (Tulbaghia violacea).

Visit a charity open garden

◆ Helderberg Open Gardens Festival

Sixteen gardens open on October 12 and October 13 from 9am to 4pm. Tickets on sale at Helderberg Hospice on Old Stellenbosch Road.

Cost: Adults R90; children (2-12) R45; under twos free. Fundraising for Helderberg Hospice. A map with garden details is provided with tickets. Refreshments at some of the garden or recommended lunch stops. For more information, call Natashja on 076 052 5855.

Angela McQueen has zoned her garden according to the water requirements of plants. Picture: Supplied

◆ Open Gardens Constantia 2019 

Four gardens to view. Dates: October 18, 2pm-6pm; October 19, 9am-5pm. Cost: R70 pre-purchased at selected outlets (Ferndale Nursery, Peter Guilder Jewellers, The Greenhouse Nursery or Sherwood Hardware) or R80 at 7 Dawn Road, Constantia, on the day.

Includes a cup of coffee/tea and eats. Plants/refreshments on sale. For more information call 082 502 2060 or see


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