In the South African winter of 2013 I created this little show garden with all the principles of sustainability in mind – a little 6 m x 5 m family garden that anyone can create in their backyard. I loved building this little garden, and might reconstruct it in my own garden the day I dismantle it. It can still be seen until March 2014 at Garden World in Muldersdrift, South Africa.
Let me guide you through these principles – maybe I can inspire you to do the same in your neck of the woods! We might even start a whole green revolution!
• Always start with soil conditioning. The site of the garden was typical of a show garden site – the sins of gardens past buried under 3 cm of soil. This is a potential problem for all new homeowners too. I decided not to just bury potted plants under a layer of bar chips like some landscapers do at garden shows – that is not real gardening! Since I knew the garden would grow there for a full nine months before the next show, I wanted to plant everything the traditional way. We dug up the site thoroughly, taking out layers of concrete and styrofoam. Then I replaced the soil with enriched garden soil and fed the soil with organic fertilisers (maybe I hoped judges or the public would not push their fingers into the soil and look for earthworms, but that is just me, the idealistic gardener).
• Choose a design to please the eye and suit your lifestyle. This little garden is very symmetrically designed, with a 2 m wide walkway under arches in the centre, leading to the bench at the back. The design starts with a pretty zone, which has a lawn interplanted with daffodils, as well as a quirky plant container stack with bird boxes.
Behind this is the veg zone, with raised veg boxes. Just behind the veg boxes you have a meadow, and the last zone, right at the back, is where you will find a herb rack with potted flowers, herbs and veggies, as well as the compost and paper recycle bins. The family can spend time amongst fragrant plants like star jasmine, lavender and sweetpeas, while tending to their veggies and herbs. The playful element can also be seen in the stamped walls and handbag containers holding garden tools, as well as the use of a straw bale doubling up as a plant container and a coffee table. The colour combination of yellows and blues is pleasing.
• Reuse and recycle. There are many repurposed items in this garden – the wall has been tiled with leftover tiles, the crazy paving walkway has been done with cement that was chopped up and discarded, there are plant containers made out of an old tyre as well as garden boots, old bottles have been used for seed collecting, old denim pants have been used as a plant container over the one gate, the gates have been made out of old pallet wood. There is also a compost bin as well as a paper recycle bin.
• Biodiversity as opposed to mass plantings. Especially the meadow areas have quite a variety of plants to attract bees, butterflies and other beneficial critters to the garden. We were still planting when they started coming!
On the walkway we planted lush delphiniums and tall sweetpeas amongst the climbers and pansies, verbena, daisies and Bacopa between the concrete pavers.
• Plant indigenous as far as you can – I have used plants like Bacopa, Cape daisies, Agapanthus, Oxalis, Anthericum saundersiae, Freylinia tropica, Plumbago, Euryops virgineus, Nemesia, Thunbergia alata, Felicia, Dymondia, Limonium perezii, Chasmanthe, Lobelia and Scabiosa.
• Use mulch for moisture retention and to suppress weeds. I have used straw as well as shredded leaves as mulch in this garden.
In hindsight, I can honestly say: 1) none of the students who helped me was hurt during the buildup period, 2) I miraculously survived the “judging” of the garden, but I will not elaborate any further on that matter, 3) I did not use anything fake in my garden, and 4) I discovered that having your name as landscaper on the signage apparently does not necessarily mean you have to actually get dirt under your finger nails or be sweating on site every day (I am not talking about myself), 5) for any freelance landscaper without company backup and comprehensive sponsorship taking on a show garden is just crazy and definitely not sustainable for the bank balance – I learnt that the hard way!
However, I have the utmost praise and admiration for my two main sponsors, Doonholm Nursery (for their two brands Healthy Living Herbs and Cover-Itt) and Akzento Sandstone for the beautiful arches, gate, edging, herb racks and obelisks.
• See more of this garden as well as Lizette’s own garden on her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/gardendiva1