African Design Magazine July 2016 - Page 59

Landscaping SALI Awards GICAL LANDSCAPING WILDLIFE IN A MAN-MADE FOREST Zimbali Coastal Forest Estate, KZN, South Africa. Winner of the 2016 Tshala Plant Brokers Trophy for Environmental Landscape Work. ‘ Ecological landscaping’ is a term that can truly be applied to Zimbali Coastal Forest Estate on the North Coast of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, where humans and wildlife coexist. The wildlife on this estate has certainly managed to sustain itself due to appropriate landscape management and maintenance practices, and often to flourish in the forest pockets between the housing. Landscape contractor Leitch Landscapes has been involved with property developers Tongaat Hulett Developments at Zimbali for twenty years, in close collaboration with horticultural consultant Geoff Nichols. Nichols comments that Zimbali is in reality a large nature reserve with existing forest areas where the footprints of the stands that were allowed to be cleared of vegetation for houses were marked out with meticulous care. A large percentage of the housing, however, is situated on ‘brownfield’ sites that were previously sugar cane fields and a plantation of alien Casuarinas. These areas have over the years gradually been revegetated with plants from the original forest types of the respective areas, Dune Forest, Coastal Lowland Forest, Swamp Forest and wetlands. The 400ha site has 110ha of natural Dune and Coastal Lowland Forest. The so-called man-made parts of the forest have been developing and maturing so that they contribute to the conservation effort of the estate as a whole. The continued advancement of habitat value requires the planting of locally indigenous species (that would have occurred on-site naturally) in the common areas. Homeowners are required to follow the estate’s stringent regulations which enable the coexistence of humans and wildlife. Residents are encouraged to plant locally indigenous species that will feed and shelter wildlife and accelerate the establishment of natural vegetation. There are residents that do not fully understand the ethos and environmental policies of Zimbali. Nichols says that he sometimes has to remind these residents that it was the forest ambience that enticed them to purchase at Zimbali in the first place. Nichols has written a book on ‘gentle gardening at the Zimbali Coastal Estate: guide to living in harmony with wildlife’ which recommends species. A few of the many species of plants (see photographs) that are of particular value to wildlife and either grow easily from seed or can be obtained locally from commercial nurseries are Justicia capensis (Money Plant), a woodland shrub with glossy dark-green leaves which flowers all year round; wasps and bees visit the flowers serving as food for insect-eating birds such as Drongos and Flycatchers. The fast-growing, scrambling Hibiscus surattensis (Creeping Prickly Wild Hibiscus) is a pioneer of disturbed areas and is browsed extensively by Bushbuck on the edges of the clearings resulting from development at Zimbali. Canavalia rosea (Beach-bean Canavalia) is a scrambling plant of the dunes with sweetly-scented dark pink to purplish flowers, which has been planted near the beach at Zimbali. Photographs: Carol Knoll 59