‘Indigenous gardening is no longer a trend, it’s becoming the norm,’ says Joburg specialist horticulturist Andrew Hankey. ‘It’s now taking on a new shape in the form of wildlife gardening.’
Andrew explains that the first step to attracting insects and birds is to provide as much natural food as possible throughout the year – ‘that means a garden that provides nectar, fruit, insects and seeds.’
Equally important is the creation of habitats to sustain wildlife. ‘On the highveld, for instance, no garden should be without stalwarts such as the tree fuchsia, bladdernut or African dogwood. These trees produce masses of fruit for birds and create crucial habitats. Thorn trees are well known safe havens too whereas indigenous grasses and plants with fluffy seed heads provide nesting material,’ he says.
Andrew encourages gardeners not to cart organic material to the dump. ‘Shrikes and robins love to scratch through dense leaf litter for food – without that habitat you won’t have these birds in your garden. Also, we need to acknowledge our water scarcity. Established indigenous gardens need substantially less irrigation. We cannot afford the alternative, which is gardening with masses of clean drinking water.’
To attract an abundance of wildlife Andrew advocates planting with diversity in mind. ‘Many commercial developments use monocultures, such as vast areas of agapanthus. While this is a strong landscaping principle it provides very little habitat support,’ says Andrew. ‘Planting 20 species in the same space has the potential to attract countless pollinators. It may look more fruit salady but it’s exactly what we need! Most importantly we’ve got to stop being so destructive and that means avoiding chemical sprays at all costs.’