Indigenous landscaping & garden design
in Johannesburg & Pretoria, South Africa

Bushveld gardens (African Birdlife)

  • Bushveld gardens (African Birdlife)

    As published in African Birdlife, Sept/Oct 2017

    (This article was published in African Birdlife, Sept/Oct 2017. Visit Birdlife SA for copies and to learn more about birds and birding in Africa)

    Mention ‘bushveld’ and most of us automatically think of a remote location with endless expanses of vegetation teeming with wildlife. This widespread southern African biome comprises tall grasses and clusters of trees and shrubs that serve as the habitat for several magnificent wildlife species and a multitude of birds.

    An escape to the bush can bring a sense of calm and tranquillity as you slow down to admire the marvels of nature. While we may not all be blessed with this ideal setting on our doorsteps, we can certainly transform our gardens to capture a miniature impression of this special landscape. Create a bushveld garden and you’ll be able to experience the wonder of a dawn chorus, the miracles of each season and the uniqueness of every day in Africa.

    A bushveld scene would be incomplete without at least one focal tree. Several species of the iconic thorn trees (formerly known as acacias) are common throughout southern African bushveld. Characterised by their fine, feathery leaflets and armed with hooked or straight thorns, they make a stately silhouetted presence, each with a unique form.

    Paperbark Thorn (Vachellia (= Acacia) sieberiana)

    This majestic, flat-crowned, deciduous tree with its attractive peeling bark is an excellent shade tree for large spaces as it can reach a height of 15 metres and has an average spread of 18 metres. It bears masses of round, creamy-white, scented flowers that attract insects and, in turn, insectivorous birds. With its long spines, the paperbark thorn offers its inhabitants protection from predators and is a favourite nesting site for many bird species; some barbets even excavate their nesting holes in it.

    Scented Thorn (Vachellia nilotica)

    This beautiful tree (opposite, top) is one of the smaller thorn tree species and develops an umbrella-shaped crown. It is well suited as a focal point for small to medium-sized gardens. The flowers are bright yellow balls that attract a variety of insects.

    African Wattle (Peltophorum africanum)

    A stunning semi-deciduous tree, the African wattle has foliage similar to that of the acacias but it doesn’t bear any thorns, making it more suitable for child-friendly gardens. It produces dense sprays of bright yellow flowers that attract pollinating insects and then, as a result, insect-eating birds. It makes a fantastic focal point and can be used in medium-sized gardens.

    Coral Tree (Erythrina lysistemon)

    This deciduous tree delivers a magnificent display of bright red flowers at the onset of spring. The flowers produce an abundance of nectar that attracts a multitude of insects and birds to the garden. The coral tree has a soft, fibrous wood that makes it easy for cavity-nesting birds like hornbills to excavate their nest-holes.

    The coastal coral tree E. caffra is equally magnificent and, as its name suggests, it does best in coastal conditions. In smaller gardens where space may not allow for a large tree, the dwarf coral tree E. humeana may be an option, as it reaches an average height of two metres. It can also be planted in a container on a sunny patio.

    Lavender Croton (Croton gratissimus)

    This beautiful semi-deciduous tree is a fantastic shade tree suitable for smaller gardens as it does not have an aggressive root system. The foliage is light green with silvery undersides. The cream flowers attract numerous insects that then lure insectivorous birds. Its clusters of bright orange fruits also draw birds.

    Bluebush (Diospyros lycioides)

    An evergreen shrub or small tree, the bluebush bears sweetly scented, creamy-yellow flowers that appeal to insects. The flowers are followed by red berries that look like cherry tomatoes and are relished by a variety of bird species. While this shrub does prefer full sun, it will tolerate some shade and grows in a variety of conditions.

    Pride Of De Kaap (Bauhinia galpinii)

    The bauhinia is a magnificent evergreen shrub that produces masses of brick-red flowers for up to seven months of the year. It is widely used as a screening plant and benefits from regular pruning. The flowers lure birds in search of the numerous insects attracted to the plant and, in addition, some birds feed on the flower buds and green seeds. The dense network of the plant’s branches provides effective shelter from predators. The bauhinia is hardy and will grow in a variety of regions.

    Puzzle Bush (Ehretia rigida)

    This hardy shrub (above) has a rounded crown formed by a tangle of drooping branches, from which it derives its common name: puzzle bush or deurmekaarbos in Afrikaans. The branches serve as ideal places for birds to perch, preen or feed, or to shelter in the dense cover. Its tiny, attractive mauve flowers appear in spring and attract insectivorous birds. The flowers are followed by orange berries that are favoured by many birds, such as mousebirds, go-away-birds, barbets, bulbuls and starlings. Can be pruned occasionally to neaten its appearance or alternatively trained into a hedge.

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      I found Grounded Landscaping through Google and liked what they were offering. I called, and they were very professional and efficient. Ryan came to quote and sent the design within 24 hours and the I received the quote within a week. I thought the price quoted was very reasonable. The work on the garden commenced as per agreed date and I am very happy with the final garden. Ryan kept me updated daily and the work carried out was professional and efficient, whilst being friendly and helpful. Once the garden was completed, Ryan and Glenice came to take me through the care of the plants and presented me with a book on indigenous plants which was a really nice touch. The small things make all the difference. A thoroughly enjoyable experience and I am very happy with the outcome and would definitely recommend Grounded Landscaping.

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      Thank you to Ryan and his team for our garden makeover! From the word go, Ryan was professional, punctual and so easy to work with. He always made sure to take our ideas and requests on board while adding his knowledge, creativity and experience to ensure a superb end result. Our questions were always answered promptly and advice was always just an email away. Ryan constantly supervised his team during the project and delivered exactly what was promised. We would highly recommend Grounded Landscaping.

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      It is no surprise that this is an award winning company. It has been an absolute pleasure doing business with them as well as watching them work on my garden landscaping and planting. This is a professional team that works together, is passionate about the work that they do, and understands indigenous ecology at a deep systems level. I look forward to watching my new bushveld garden establish itself - the birds and butterflies are already appreciating it!
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    Grounded Landscaping is an award-winning landscaping company specialising in indigenous, wildlife-friendly gardens. We are based in the Cradle of Humankind, a world heritage site and part of the grassland biome of Southern Africa. We service most areas of Gauteng, including Johannesburg, Centurion and Pretoria.
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