As we try to come to terms with the severity of the drought in the Cape, we’ve realised that water is worth its weight in gold. We chat to Cape Town landscaper Mary Maurel about gardening during times of drought.
How has the drought in the Cape affected plant choices?
Waterwise gardening is very topical in Cape Town at the moment, due to our sustained drought. Thirsty plants are simply no longer an option. We’re looking towards local flora for the answers, but also Mediterranean plants where conditions are similar.
Is endemic planting the solution to gardening in the Cape?
Endemic planting is not as easy as it suggests. The Cape Floral kingdom is so diverse and complex. Some species occur only in very specific conditions (direction of the slope, type of soils). Also, many of the species are not commercially available. I prefer to use the word “regionalism” when referring to local planting, as it is less specific to a microclimate, but certainly relevant to the broader region.
How can you protect plants from drying out?
Desperate times call for desperate measures. We’re encouraging mulching and using stock absorb to retain moisture in the soil.
Gardening with little or no water is a major challenge. What is the first port of call?
Firstly, lawns need to be reduced to the bare minimum. Also, gardeners need to become more innovative in the use of spaces.
Sustainability is no longer just a nice-to-have. What can gardeners do to preserve water resources?
Rainwater collection from roofs needs to be enforced. As far as I’m concerned, if you own a roof, you need to own water tanks – and not just to stockpile. We need to find alternative forms of water all year round to allow our dams to replenish themselves.