Monday, 25 February 2008

Fast Food or Indigenous Plants?

I think I've always cheered for the underdog, or the team thats losing. So I guess its no surprise that I carry this philosophy through to gardening...
In South Africa, indigenous (native) plants still seem to be the ugly ducklings that few people really want to have anything to do with. Few people seem to see their incredible beauty. Not to mention their environmental advantages.

The majority of gardeners tend to stick to the good old favourites without broadening their horizons. By history or heritage the favourites are the same old exotic plants that I guess my grandparents would have planted.

Don't get me wrong, things are changing... be it ever so slowly. Indigenous plants are talked about a lot, and there is a strong drive by a good portion of nurseries, landscapers and nature lovers to use them.

I suspect our reluctance to use indigenous plants is similar to a preference for coke and fast food over good wine or fine foods. The bright colours or abundant flowers of a lot of the imported plants, seem to hit you in the face with their beauty.
There is none of the looking for that something special thats not immediately obvious. There is no anticipation for the particular part of the year when a favourite shrub sneaks into flower for a few short weeks, or a tree that has blended into the brown winter landscape races into spring with a virile green.

I think this is the responsibility of the landscaper, horticulturist, and plant lover - to show these plants off to the general public. To talk about them, plant them, propagate them. To look for new ways to use them, maybe even alongside some of the plants we ourselves might be tired of.

Hopefully, one day I'll be cheering for the exotics as underdogs...


Garden Wise Guy said...

Nice observations, and gently persuasive. I'm seem to have the same prejudice about California native plants right here in my own backyard. Seems like the other man's grass, perennials, succulents, shrubs and trees are always greener, grayer, variegateder (say THAT fast 5 times).

I'm just getting comfortable with a new palette of Australian plants, thanks to a transplanted Aussie nursery owner who's taken me under wing. Continuing your food analogy, it's like finding a new cuisine.

My recommendation is to create stunning designs that turn heads, using your native plants. Nothing succeeds like drop-dead-gorgeous compositions.


Unknown said...

Thanks Billy,
This does seem to be a big issue in South Africa at the moment. What amazes me is when I see other countries importing South African plants to their own countries - that we in SA are hardly using!

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