Are you ready to take your environmentalism, landscaping, and garden art skills to the next level? Industry expert, Marionette from Plant Paradise describes xeriscaping as “the practice of designing landscapes to reduce the need for water, to have minimal maintenance, and to create a clean, stunning look that is sustainable all year round”. If this perks your green fingers, we’ve got loads more insight and inspiration for you below.
Plant Paradise has won the award for best garden centre in SA 7 times, giving you even more of an incentive to visit them and experience quality-approved customer service, excellent plants, and top-notch products.
October’s Topic: Rock-on Decorating
Theme: Modern Xeriscaping in South Africa
Industry Expert: Marionette Hoffman
Garden Centre Supplier: Plant Paradise based in Moreleta Park, Pretoria: www.plantparadise.co.za
1. How did you first begin your landscaping journey and what have been some of your favourite projects to work on (and where could our readers receive some inspiration from your stunning work)?
After finishing my studies, I moved to England and worked there as a landscaper and horticulturist for two years. After that, I moved back to SA and started my career at Plant Paradise Garden Centre as a horticulturist and eventually became the landscaper - never looked back since! Landscaping and creating different displays on the garden centre floor is my passion. My favourite projects will always be xeriscaping. My most favourite project of them all was House Thompson in Silverlakes, Pretoria, and House Leahy in Boardwalk Meander, also in Pretoria. The best place to view my work is at Plant Paradise. Our website is also a fantastic platform to view some of my gardens I’ve done for clients.
2. Based on your years of experience, could you please tell our gardeners what exactly xeriscaping in South Africa is and why they should consider implementing these practices in their own garden?
Xeriscaping is the new trend for old and young. Young couples tend to go with this style more and more. The new “lock up and go” movement tends to force lots of my clients to opt for this style, but also older people feel they want a beautiful garden, with lots of colour, but less maintenance. But the most important reason for everybody to go with this style is to conserve water.
Xeriscaping is the practice of designing landscapes to reduce the need for water, to have minimal maintenance and to create a clean, stunning look that is sustainable all year round.
3. Is it true that a waterwise gardening only consists of pebbles and cacti or succulents? Is there more to xeriscaping in terms of plant selection, colour, texture, accessories, and biodiversity?
Definitely, it’s not just cacti and succulents. A xeric plant can be any plant that developed a number of possible strategies for coping with little water, like smaller leaves and deeper root systems for instance. Colour and texture in a xeriscaping garden is so easy to create because of the vast variety of leaf colours, textures, sizes of plants, and huge amounts of different species available in the South African market.
I use a lot of accessories in a xeriscaping garden, to create that X-factor, point of interest, and biodiversity - ranging from grinding stones, big rocks, water features, pots, statues or wall art. This will all lead to attracting birds, insects, and animals, to create the biodiversity in your garden to enjoy.
4. What are some factors a home-based gardener should consider when thinking of changing their current traditional garden to a more modern xeriscaping landscape? How could they go about conceptualising these changes and what inspiration can they take from their existing garden layout?
Going for the very popular xeriscaping design in your garden, the look will be a Japanese Zen gravel garden meeting desert plants and/or drought tolerant plants. But it doesn’t need to look like a desert garden.
Decide on the look first and then start by deciding what plants are xeric plants, keep them and remove the plants that need a lot of water.
If you don’t like gravel, you can also go for bark chips, nutshells or xeric-type groundcovers to give you a more soft look. Decide on a focal point, where and what you want to use, and even use some of your existing pots or features already in your garden. Remember to keep it simple, minimalistic and with great impact.
5. How could a small space gardener incorporate sustainable yet decorative landscaping in the backyard? Are patio, balcony, and indoor gardeners also able to join in the fun – how could they go about this?
To do xeriscaping on a patio, balcony or an indoor garden is even easier than a normal size garden. With a patio or balcony, you should plan very carefully, because of limited space. So, the use of containers and wall planters are used. Be careful not to use too many different colours of containers when the area is very small.
In a small garden, make use of smaller xeric plants but still colourful enough to make a big impact. Rather opt for bigger pots where you can plant a mixture of succulents for a colourful effect.
With an indoor garden, there are selective plants to use that will cope with low light conditions, little water and low to no maintenance. Examples like: Sanseveria spp (thrives on neglect), Chlorophytum comosum (prefers bright indirect ligt), and Zamioculcas zamiifolia. Make sure you use a bark mulch or nutshells or stones on top of the containers to retain the moisture inside the pots as much as possible. Wall decorations like concrete figurines or pots are always great to use.
6. If you had to apply xeriscaping to create the ultimate modern garden entrance, what resources, plants, and accessories would you use and how would you arrange them?
- Always work with the height in the back and shorter plants or décor towards the front. Go for structure and minimalism. Go for more subtle colours when choosing pots or statues. Choose different textures like wood, steel, and concrete together with plants to really make an impact.
- Important thing first is to look at the height of the entrance and decide accordingly what your height of the focal point should be (it must be in proportion to the height of the entrance, not too short or too high).
- If it’s a more formal garden you’ll work with symmetry and equal numbers like 2’s or 4’s, whereas an informal garden works better with odd numbers, for instance, 3 different heights in pots.
- Use gravel or pebbles in between the plants and with a weedguard underneath to really create that ultimate modern garden entrance.
7. What are a few of your all-time favourite decorative plants and secret landscaping ‘weapons’ (your fool-proof and go-to practices/planting arrangements) – do tell!
My Favourite xeric plants: Spekboom (Portulacaria afra), golden sedum (Sedum adolphi), whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia), jelly bean plant (Sedum Rubrotinctum), verbena species, rosemary, blue fescue grass (Festuca glauca), Osteospermum species (African daisy), desert spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri), Madagascar palm (Pachypodium lamerei), and tree aloe (Aloidendron barberae) just to name a few.
My secret to creating the ultimate modern “wow” garden is to plant big focal plants in selective areas in the garden and plant low-growing shrubs or groundcovers around them to shift the focus on those plants even more. Also, plant in groups to make a bigger impact and use big rocks, slate stone, grinding stones, water features or statues in the garden.
8. Are there any garden accessories that compliment rock layouts particularly well, in terms of synergy, theme, contrast or texture?
The best theme I would say that compliments the xeriscape garden would be “modern minimalistic”. Different Textures must be used to create that wow factor. By that I mean different stones like pebbles, dumprock and gravel. Steel and wood and or concrete ornaments are an amazing way to create that perfect look.
Pavers also help to create that very stunning minimalistic feel to any garden. Try to go with more of the same colour ornaments, pots and pavers.
9. Are there any other general handy hacks and maintenance tips you could share with our readers who are looking at transforming their gardens to become more sustainable?
- Firstly, use a proper high-quality weedguard (not plastic) underneath any gravel, pebbles or dumprock. This will all contribute to moisture retention in the soil and will help with soil erosion too.
- Any soil covering or mulching is a must for all gardens to protect the roots of the plants, to retain moisture, and to attract insects and wildlife.
- Plant low-maintenance plants that are evergreen, hardy, and will stay neat in winter and summer.
- It’s always a good idea to install a rainwater tank to harvest rainwater as often as possible!
You can admire Marionette’s work first-hand at Plant Paradise (a SANA approved, GCA Garden Centre), where you can also enjoy their coffee shop and deli with tasty treats and a peaceful atmosphere. To find your nearest GCA, access our directory here: https://www.lifeisagarden.co.za/category/garden-centres/