Gorgeous Green House

The Renovation Journey of a 1940’s ‘Traditional’ to 2015 ‘Contemporary, Green & Gorgeous’


Creating a Grassland Habitat in Your Garden

beautiful imageMany people believe that wetlands and forests are the most threatened habitats on the planet and are unaware of how critically threatened our grasslands are as well. It’s easier to convert grassland to farmland than forest or wetlands and property developers also incur lower input cost.  Of course they are also victim to mining and forest creep.  In much of the literature on the subject they are referred  to as vanishing biomes which is most alarming.

In South Africa’s  only 2.5% of our grasslands are formally conserved and more than 60% already irreversibly transformed. Internationally only 1.4% are protected the lowest of any terrestrial vegetation types. Our grasslands host over

Wattled Crane

Threatened Wattled Crane





Threatened Hilton Daisy

Threatened Gerbera aurantiaca

4 000 plant species, 15 of South Africa’s 34 endemic mammals, 22% of our 195 reptile species and one-third of the 107 threatened butterfly species. In addition, grasslands are home to 10 of South Africa’s 14 globally threatened bird species, including the Yellow-breasted Pipit Anthus chloris, Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea, and the Denham’s Bustard Neotis denhami. As a consequence, grasslands have been assigned a high priority for conservation action.

The maps below show the level of threat to all biomes in KZN South Africa and how rapidly the problem is accelerating . I can’t find more recent maps (perhaps the province has not invested in further research into this area) and really fear for how grim the picture must look today.

KZN Vegetation TYpes Conservation Status 1995













Meadow Garden

Meadow Garden

In Europe and the UK it has been fashionable to plant ‘meadow’ gardens for quite some time.  If the rest of gardeners on the planet could get excited about this diverse and exceptionally  beautiful gardening opportunity we could make our own small yet collaborative contribution to species conservation.  Best of all its really easy and fun!


With all aspects of gardening prep is vital though my sense is because of the nature of the species the long term problem of unwanted grasses will be more difficult to manage.  I decided ‘scorched earth’ approach to be best because Cynodon Grass (common lawn species) can be extremely aggressive and I wanted to be sure I had all of it out.

Layering to kill off Cynodon

Layering to kill off Cynodon

Reluctant to use herbicide I used the layering technique, also called solarization if you use plastic.  Basically you cover up the soil with either layers of mulch and cardboard of plastic for an even quicker result. Hopefully I will be warding off years of tricky grass removal.


Now for fun part! We obviously want to use grasses local to our area so do a little research and see what you like.  This is what I’ve come up with for Durban

  • Melinis nerviglumis

    Melingus pubinervus

    Melingus pubinervus

  • Panicum natalense (prefers to be a little wet)
  • Andropogon eucomis
  • Eragrostris racemosa(prefers to be a little dry)
  • Eragrostis capensis
  • Themeda triandra
  • Hyparrhenia filipendula (tall up to 1.5m)

There are soooooo many bulbs and flowering plants to choose from.  I’ve got a long wish list of my own at the end of this post but here are a few gems  I’ve got in already:


Hypoxis angustifolia


Ceratotheca triloba (pink form)



Senecio polyanthemoides


Aloe cooperi


Gladiolus dalenii

Gladiolus dalenii






























Gomphocarpus physocarpus


Polygala virgata

Polygala virgata








The insects found me during the planting process and the birds (especially the Manikins) are delighted with the seed for food and nesting material.  I think it looks beautiful.  I’m looking forward to adding to it and seeing what new visitors it brings to the garden.

New vistors

New visitors

Two months after planting

Two months after planting












Short list of potential flowering plants

FOr KZN South AFrica:

Aloe maculata

Anomatheca laxa

Anthericum saundersiae

Aristea ecklonii

Aster bakerianus

Berkheya insignis

Berkheya speciosa

Berkheya umbellate

Bulbine abyssinica

Bulbine asphodeloides

Crocrosmia aurea

Gerbera ambigua

Gerbera aurantiaca

Gerbera piloselloides

Gladiolus daleni

Gladiolus woodii

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

Lobelia erinus

Plectranthus hardiensis

Pycnostachys urticifolia

Ruellia cordata

Scadoxus puniceus

Senecio coronatus

Thunbergia atriplicifolia

Thunbergia natalensis

Vernonia capensis

Vernonia hirsutus

Vernonia natalensis

Watsonia species

Helichrysum aureum

Hypoxis angustifolia

Hypoxis hemerocallidea

Hypoxis rigidula

Kniphofia tysonii