Living green: how to bring colour to your home and garden

When you step off the airplane arriving in Durban, you’re met with a blast of warm, humid air informing you that you’ve just arrived on South Africa’s east coast. If I had to choose one word to describe this place it would be “subtropical”. Coastal KwaZulu-Natal is naturally green and verdant, almost bursting with life. Those who live here will tell you that during summer, if you watch carefully, you can see the garden grow!

With that in mind, I was delighted to learn that our theme for April is “Bold Botanica”. While Durban and it’s surrounding areas are lush, much of South Africa longs for rain. It got me thinking: how can we introduce bold colours and fresh vegetation into our living spaces in an environmentally-friendly way? Here are a few ideas:

Bold botanica in your garden

To start with, let’s clarify the difference between indigenous and endemic.

Indigenous plants originate or occur naturally in a geographical area without human intervention. For example: fynbos is indigenous to the Western Cape.

Endemic plants are native to an area or environment and – this is the important bit – do not occur naturally anywhere else. For example, some types of fynbos grow only in very specific areas, like the gorgeous yellow pincushion protea that grows exclusively within the Cape Town city region. See the difference?

Right, on to gardening. Add bright, indigenous (or endemic, if possible) flowers to your garden via containers on your verandah, flowerbeds under the windows, or if you have lots of space, with bushes, shrubs and trees. Indigenous flowers tend to grow well in their natural environments. They also use less water and attract butterflies, birds and wildlife to your garden. Imagine a carpet of vivid gazanias between the pavers in your courtyard, or a collection of agapanthus under your lounge window.

Indoor plants

Bring greenery into your home with indoor plants. They add life to your living space and help to clean the air, too. We published a lovely article on indoor plants a few months ago, so have a read for some more inspiration.

Fresh flowers

Rather than buying cut-flowers, grow and pick flowers from your garden to decorate your home or to give as gifts. Some examples: a bunch of proteas brings colour to a room. A few long-stemmed strelitzias make a statement in a tall floor vase. Potted spekboom plants add a fresh, green allure to a space and have the added benefit of being a permanent attraction – no need to wastefully throw out wilted flowers. If you adore cut-flowers in your home and can’t bear to go without, try to buy or grow indigenous flowers and add them to your compost heap once their time is done.

Bold botanica in your kitchen

Have you thought about using flowers in your kitchen?

Flowers as food

There are lots of ways to use edible flowers; your imagination is the limit. Collect vivid blooms like pansies to decorate a multi-layer cake. Bake fresh lavender into biscuits. Harvest zucchini flowers, stuff them with cream cheese, coat in batter and fry for a stylish party snack. Pick pretty nasturtiums from your vegetable garden to add to your salads. Experiment with home-grown pelargonium tea.

Herbs for cooking

If you have a kitchen windowsill, a few potted herbs will add greenery and provide a fabulous source of flavour for your cooking.

Bold botanica in your beauty routine

In your bathroom

Indigenous flowers and culinary or medicinal herbs from your garden make a wonderful addition to your bath. Tie a selection into a bouquet and place it in the water to release its fragrant oils.

As accessories

Look to your plants and shrubs for pretty hair accessories. How about a sprig of jasmine or a statement clivia?

How do I find endemic or indigenous plants for my home and garden?

If you ask around you’re likely to find a nursery nearby that stocks endemic and indigenous plants for your area. Alternatively, do you live in or near a residential estate (think golf estates, nature estates, etc.)? These estates often have indigenous gardening requirements. Try searching their websites for approved plant palettes and nurseries.