In spite of the fact that verges are the property of Cape Town City Council, all verges surrounding a property are the responsibility of homeowners to mow (if grassed), cultivate (if a garden) and maintain. It may seem an arduous task, but the overall effect of a neat, green or colourful verge far outweighs the time spent tending it.
If you wish to remove the grass and replace it with lower maintenance material, be aware that not everything is practical or safe to use. River stones, pebbles or chipstone are not ideal and pose a number of problems: e.g. potential security risk (they can be thrown at your car or house windows); they can roll into the gutter and into the storm drains causing blockage, or they can roll into the road causing obstruction. A few large, ‘accent’ rocks can be used to add visual stability and interest to the verge garden.
The ideal verge and garden plants are a variety of Cape endemic and indigenous water wise plants. These plants are naturally suited to our hot, dry Summers and cold, rainy Winters. Most importantly they attract birds, bees and insects.
Planning before purchasing
It is advisable to first do research into what types of plants and trees will suit your property and your needs. Remember that the Cape is a winter rainfall area, so choose plants that will thrive with winter rains and survive in hot summers.
Consider aspects such as:
- your plot size;
- the plant’s eventual mature size;
- the existing trees; as well as your neighbour’s trees hanging into your yard (as this affects your sun and shade areas);
- the suburb’s by-laws and regulations; they will affect your garden and house in some way or another.
Example: View your garden over the period of 24 hours and take note of where your sunny and shady areas are. (Ideally this should be done on the equinox and solstice dates.) Having this information will make choosing plants a lot easier.
Set yourself up for success, by choosing the right plants for the right spot from the start.
What plants to buy?
Endemic is better than indigenous; yet indigenous is better than exotic. Choosing plants and trees that occur naturally within a specific natural area is endemic and ideal. A useful website is the South African National Biodiversity Institute (or SANBI) site: https://www.sanbi.org/
Pinelands falls within the Cape Floral Kingdom and we have one of the World’s most diverse plant regions. We are truly fortunate and we need to encourage these plants in our gardens. [True, there are some much loved, hardy exotics that thrive in the Cape, but the decision is yours as to include them or not. You may recognise a few below.]
Here is a short list of suitable plant options for our Cape climate:
- Suurvy / Elandsvy – low ground cover
- Arctotis / kusgousblom (various) – low ground cover
- Lampranthus (variety of) – low ground cover
- Mesembryantheum (bokbaaivygie / vygies) – low ground cover
- Osteospermum / Cape Daisy (various colours) – small shrub
- ‘mini’ Aloe hybrids (e.g: Red Rooster, Jester) – small to medium size (E. Cape)
Medium to large shrubs:
- Euryops daisy (variety of) – medium bush
- Aloe (larger, single stemmed varieties = Barbarae; Ferox) – medium to large (E. Cape)
- Restio (variety of – check mature size) – medium to large bush
- Aeonium abroneum (variety of) – medium to large shrub (Canary Islands)
- Erica (variety of) – medium to large shrubs
- Salvia (variety of) – medium to large shrubs
- Rhapiolepis – medium to large bush (East & S-eastern Asia)
- Hibiscus – large bush (Tropical regions)
- Leucadendrons * (proteas – variety of) – medium to large bush
- Leucospermum * (pin cushion) – medium to large bush
CAUTION: It is important to be aware of the final (or mature) size of the plants you buy. Proteas and Pin-cushions are lovely, but after a few years they can become huge, sprawling bushes that no-one can walk past. If you have a large property and have the space, then they are really great plants to have – good for bird life and very water wise. However, if in doubt, opt for a smaller shrub.
Invasive and Aggressive Plants:
Always check that a desired plant is not an invasive species (i.e. one that comes from another country). Indigenous plants are not termed ‘invasive’ as this means they would take over or control an environment; however, they can grow aggressively and become a gardening headache. Many ‘pretty‘or ‘practical‘ plants have gone awry in well-intended gardens around Pinelands. Nursery plant labels may not always give you this information, so you will need to enquire from nursery staff or do your own online research before purchasing. A good place to do research regarding invasive plants within South Africa, look at this website: http://www.invasives.org.za
= Link to Provincial Legislation w.r.t. invasive species: http://www.invasives.org.za/legislation/what-does-the-law-say#provincial-legislation
= Link to A-Z of plant invasive species: http://www.invasives.org.za/plants/plants-a-z
Example of alien invasive plants:
Western North America = Nephrolepis cordifolia (Sword or Blade fern): A tufted evergreen fern growing up to 1m high which forms extensive colonies by means of stolons. It has arching to erect, linear fronds with shallowly toothed, sickle-shaped pinnae. Easy to pull out, but tends to drop round stolons in the soil and so check the soil carefully after pulling out.
South America = Cestrum laevigatum (Inkberry or Yellow cestrum): a 1-2m (can reach 15m) high tree with dropping branches, small smelly, yellow/green trumpet-like flowers; self-seeds easily. Considered invasive in various other countries. Poisonous.
Japan/China/Korea = Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle): has a two-toned scented flowers (white and yellow). Very invasive.
Central and South America: Lantana camara (Verbenaceae) (Lantana): A spreading shrub up to 2m or higher. Stems covered with short, stiff hairs and recurved thorns. Dark green, rough, hairy leaves which are paler below and smell when crushed. Pink, red, crimson, orange, yellow or white flowers in compact heads, often with several colours in one head. Glossy green fruits which turn purplish-black. Poisonous.
Example of common indigenous, yet potentially aggressive growing plants:
Plumbago auriculata (Cape leadwort): best to restrict them to a large pot; roots can find their way into your lawn and then very difficult to remove.
Tecomaria capensis (Cape Honeysuckle): prune regularly to keep to a manageable size; and keep an eye on those wandering tendrils.
Asparagus plumosus (Asparagus fern): very fine, soft foliage, it is an eager climber. Has thorns on stem and is very difficult to extract once growing around another plants roots.
Can become choking and dense if not cleared regularly.