“Build back biodiversity” is this year’s theme at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Society’s Plant Fair which aims to create awareness about how to “know, grow, protect and enjoy” flora in South Africa.
The fair takes place on Saturday and Sunday October 7 and 8 and will be held in the Old Mutual Hall at Kirstenbosch, situated in the Visitors’ Centre at Gate 1 and not at the Stone Cottages as in previous years. Entry to the plant sale is R20 with free entry for children. Parking is available in the Kirstenbosch parking area. Proceeds support BotSoc plant conservation and restoration projects.
You are encouraged to bring along a wheelbarrow or trolley, or something suitable to carry your plants in.
What is biodiversity?
Biodiversity is every living thing, including plants, bacteria, animals, and humans – the variety of life on earth in all its forms. Biodiversity is fundamental to human well-being, humans depend on it for food, medicine, energy, clean air, and water, as well as for recreation and cultural inspiration.
How do you build back biodiversity and nurture wildlife in your very own space?
Master horticulturist and former Kirstenbosch production nursery manager Cherise Viljoen says advises to “use a variety of plants to support any wildlife through its entire lifecycle, ensuring you have food, refreshment, and shelter for the young, adult and mature stages to survive and thrive.”
Some tips to get started
Consider the foliage, flowers, and shrubs in your garden for their suitability for butterfly and moth larvae, as well as their nest protection.
Look at the flowers in your space, are they flat or tubular? Do they attract birds and insects with their showy petals, nectar guides, colour, and fragrance? Flowers use showy petals, nectar guides, colour and also fragrance to attract birds and insects. Birds are most attracted to blue and orange while yellow, orange, and blue are the most attractive to insects who can see the ultraviolet light which flowers reflect.
Floral scents are important as well, white fragrant flowers are most attractive to night pollinators such as moths and bats. With more insects, you will also attract a range of wildlife that enjoys them as a food source, really adding to the biodiversity in your garden.
Fruit and seeds after flowering further enrich the ecosystem in your garden. Allow a piece of your garden to remain untamed and wild, be it an entire stretch along the back or the quietest corner, or a branch/log/stump left to sit amongst some unruly plants, or a pot or two left neglected.
Water less often but for longer allowing deeper water penetration and hydration right down through the soil layers. This ensures a healthier population of microbes in the soil and more drought-resilient plants as they will send their roots deeper too and your soil will be able to store this moisture, holding it for the plants during the hot summer months.
Stressed plants become sick or infested by pests. Rather than spraying pesticides, look to improve the environmental conditions surrounding the plant.
Layer planting is also a clever strategy where taller shrubs are nestled amongst smaller rounder shrubs most plants like to snuggle rather than stand-alone, especially within the first few months or years of their growth. Seasonal plants such as annuals and deciduous plants, especially bulbs, also have an important part to play in building biodiversity so be sure to include them as much as possible.
Go to www.botsoc-kirstenbosch.org.za/plant-fair for more information, or visit the BotSocKirstenbosch page on Facebook for updates.