If you like the idea of an indigenous garden, but if you find the prospect of changing your garden daunting, here are some good reasons to give it a try

“There are many misconceptions surrounding indigenous gardens,” says Elsa Pooley, South African landscaper and botanist. “Sourcing indigenous plants is often quite difficult, but with a little bit of guidance, creating your own indigenous garden is easily done.”

While there might be some effort required initially, the results are spectacularly worthwhile.

Pooley forms part of the green-fingered team which has been tasked with transforming the previously cultivated land at Renishaw Hills on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast into an indigenous haven.

The mature lifestyle estate is situated within the ecologically-diverse Mpambanyoni Conservation Development which, for the past 150 years, has been cultivated with sugar cane. Pooley and a team of conservationists are working tirelessly to return the area to its original coastal forest and wetlands state, while establishing unique, indigenous gardens for each home on the estate.

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Here are Elsa Pooley’s top five reasons to plant indigenous:

1. Water-wise

Often people only consider planting indigenous plants during a drought but then this falls away when the rains return.

Indigenous plants are much hardier and require less water than their exotic counterparts. They do require some water but are much better adapted to local conditions.

2. Attracts birds and wildlife

Indigenous plants will attract butterflies, birds and a variety of wildlife to the garden.

Even in winter, we see so many butterflies around. Using a variety of plants ensures that a range of wildlife will be attracted to your garden.

3. Aesthetics

There is a misperception that indigenous plants aren’t colourful or pretty, and look too wild. This really isn’t true.

With careful planning, one can find indigenous plants that bloom or fruit in every month of the year. Leaf colour and texture also helps to enhance the garden. The garden design will ensure either a structured or more natural garden.

Most nurseries do not stock a large range of indigenous plants and often nursery staff are not familiar enough with these plants to be able to recommend them. This makes it an exciting challenge to go indigenous.

Image credit: Keran Jaap

4. Low maintenance

Once the indigenous plants are established, they need very little attention.

If there hasn’t been rain in a while, they might require some water and you can add fertiliser or compost but it is certainly not essential. They have developed to withstand local conditions.

Related: 8 Indigenous plants that attract birds to your garden

5. Value enhancing

It takes about three months (at the coast) for an indigenous garden to settle in and fill out. Within a year, it can be well established.

Trees will take more time to reach maturity. An indigenous garden provides both interest – in the wildlife attracted to the plants – and beauty. Together with the low maintenance costs, this adds a lot of value to a home.

Every home at Renishaw Hills is created with a complete indigenous garden filled with plants grown at Izinyoni Indigenous Nursery based at Crocworld Conservation Centre. A dedicated and experienced team is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of every garden on the estate and are also available for advice on ways to individualise the garden for the homeowner. Each garden has two or three trees to encourage bird life but care is taken in the selection, to ensure no views are disrupted.

For more information about this eco-friendly development visit www.renishawhills.co.za

Related: Why green neighbourhoods matter