History and Development
Here’s some history!
I ripped out most of the exotics and planted a lot of indigenous butterfly host plants like Kiggelaria africana (Wild Peach), Rawsonia lucida (Forest Peach), Allophylus dregeanus (Simple-leaved False Currant), Englerophytum natalens (Natal Milkplum) and many others. I planted a Sclerocroton integerrimus (Duiker-berry) and it did nothing until it got defoliated by Boisduval’s Tree Nymphs Sevenia boisduvali, upon which it grew from a scruffy little 1.5m twig in the ground to a majestic 5m tree (that still gets defoliated every year – see the photo). We have a flourishing ecosystem because we never used pesticides or weedkillers, although I made an exception for one plant. The couple we bought the place from had planted a horrendous Thunbergia grandiflora Clock Vine on the eastern boundary, which had gone riot and completely overgrown an old metal shed and a retaining wall. We had to demolish shed, wall, the lot – and the landscapers took away a five-ton truckload of tangled branches, roots, bricks, and sheet metal, but its roots go deep and even now, 18 years later, it still sends up its Triffid-like shoots. It resists injections of Garlon, topical Roundup applied to the shoots; you name it we’ve tried it!
But I’m not much of a gardener, and when my wife became ill with MS her ability and desire to garden faded. We’ve essentially let the place go wild. I kid myself that it’s rewilding, but it’s basically laziness and a lack of desire to spend money on it. Around ten years ago Lindsay Gray persuaded me that I should do something about the boring lawn around the pool and frontage, and plant some indigenous borders, and we could write a book around it. Well, it was fun, and the book came out, and I have a couple of photos of the garden when it re-established itself. But shrubs became trees, the borders have been taken over by Setaria megaphylla (Broad-leafed Bristle-grass), and it’s basically become iPhithi Nature Reserve ext.1. It’s getting a bit much now with the latest alien invaders taking over, so it’s time to get a landscaper in to rip all the borders out and start again.
Loads of local indigenous plants like Senecio tamoides (Canary Creeper), and various other flowering creepers like Distephanus angulifolius (Trailing Bitter-tea) turned up uninvited but are welcome. When that thing bursts into flower every butterfly in the area pays a visit. We have amazing cover for birds to nest in, some Aloe arborescens and Tecoma capensis for the Sunbirds, and I have a small lawn that occasionally gets cut and is next to my small ‘forest’. Phaulopsis imbricata (no common name) has always been here and I get both Protogoniomorpha species – parhassus (Common Mother of Pearl), whose larvae eat it, and anacardia (Clouded) flying around chasing one another or roosting in the shrubbery. I set a dead branch in the ground, and I occasionally anoint it with fermented banana. I can sit and watch from my ‘office’ (= dining room) through the window as the Charaxes and various Biblidinae pig out and fight their battles. Fork-tailed Drongoes and Black and African Dusky flycatchers help themselves. I get all three species of Pseudacraea (False Acraeas) breeding on the Milkplum, eight species of Charaxes, all three Leopard butterflies, both our Cymothoë Gliders, twelve species of Acraea/Telchinia and when their larvae are defoliating their host plants, I get all the green Cuckoos, Red-chested and Black as well. All the Pansies except African Blue, and Gaudy and Garden Commodores. The butterfly list is sitting at 120 species, and I really must update my bird list… Purple-crested Turacos for Africa, two Owl species, at least four Eagle species, various other Raptors and crowds of insectivores and seed-eaters…