21-day lockdown – Day 16 – Plants for a grassland garden
When creating a grassland garden, we’re not just restricted to only planting grasses. On the contrary, unlike a boring lawn that is just a mass-planting of one grass species, a typical highveld grassland contains a variety of grass species and herbaceous plants. This combination ensures that there is variety to attract a range of wildlife as well as providing interest at any time of the year.
These are some of our favourite grassland plants:
Melinis repens (Natal redtop)
Melinis repens (Natal redtop) is a magnificent grass that bears feathery, bright pink flowers that are simply splendid when they catch even the slightest breeze.
Aristida junciformis (Ngongoni three-awn)
Aristida junciformis (Ngongoni three-awn) is a splendid, tufted grass that provides form and texture. It bears wispy seed-heads that add an element of gracefulness to the garden.
Aloe cooperii (Grass aloe)
Aloe cooperii (Grass aloe) is a slender-formed aloe with upright leaves. It bears bright orange flowers which attract nectar-loving creatures such as bees and sunbirds. The succulent foliage holds its form when the grasses have died back so the garden will not have a barren look.
Aloe greatheadii (Spotted Aloe)
Aloe greatheadii (Spotted Aloe) is a beautiful aloe species from our grasslands, and a field of these is magnificent when the plants are in full bloom. It does very well in cultivation, and deserves to be used more often in garden settings, especially grassland gardens. Individual specimens work just as well as a mass-planted bed.
Eucomis sp. (Pineapple flower)
Eucomis species are bulbs that die back completely in winter, but there’s no needs to lift the bulbs as it offers a pleasant surprise when they emerge in spring. They bear a tall flower stalk that resembles a pineapple and remains on the flower for months after the flowers have died back. They add decorative interest to a grassland.
Hypoxis sp. (African potato)
Hypoxis species (African potato) are hardy, bulbous plants that have several species and are a welcome addition to a grassland as they bear lush green foliage and bright-yellow star-shaped flowers. They attract several beneficial insects to the garden.
Bulbine abyssinica (Bushy bulbine)
Bulbine abyssinica (Bushy bulbine) is a hardy succulent which has thin, stalked leaves in a rosette form. It bears long stalks of bright yellow flowers that last throughout summer and are visited by several insect pollinators.
Scabiosa africana (Pincushion)
Scabiosa flowers are produced in abundance and are a rich source of nectar for butterflies and bees. When you look closely, you may discover some other creatures that benefit from the plant. We’ve a resident crab spider who sits, well-camouflaged on the flower and frequently catches prey such as flies and bees that visit the plant. Who needs chemical pest-control?
A grassland garden has much lower maintenance requirements than a lawn – no weekly mowing or fertiliser applications. And, it requires significantly less water to sustain it – seasonal rainfall is all it needs.