Gardening trends in Zimbabwe in 2018

As we all know, trends come and go, like your winter annuals, one minute they are in and looking gorgeous and the next minute they are out and being replaced with the summer annuals.

However, things are shifting with gardening trends. Before it was mainly focused on what colours were in, the shape of your rose garden and what hardscaping features were a must. Yes, they do still exist but there is also a big movement towards, excuse the cliché, ‘saving the planet’ and ‘ourselves’.

So ‘saving the planet’, how is that a garden trend?  Well, let’s take the recent 2018 Chelsea garden show as an example. This year they focused on two underlying themes. One theme was for the gardens to show the public solutions to some of the environmental issues facing us. So landscapers focused their designs on:

  1. Only recycled pieces, including plants from previous shows
  2. Raising awareness around ocean plastics
  3. Gardens that attracted wildlife
  4. Water wise planting

Worldwide, people and governments are starting to focus on a more sustainable lifestyle, just to clarify it is not about becoming a hippie, but it is about protecting and undoing the damage done to our environment. So in gardening terms, it is about how you make your garden a sustainable eco-system to better the environment as a whole. The new catch phrase is eco-gardeners!

So what environmental problems do we see daily in Zimbabwe, and how can we turn these around in the garden to become gardening trends? The solutions are not rocket science; it is just a matter of doing them. Here are a few of our main problems and solutions.

Unfortunately, we are witnessing more wildlife losing their natural habitat from trees being chopped down or areas being replaced by expanding development. The simple answer is to grow more indigenous plants to attract the birds, insects, butterflies and bees. Unfortunately, we have a large amount of exotic trees and bushes grown in towns, but these need to be replaced with indigenous ones, and a variety of indigenous trees – not just the fever tree. Indigenous trees and bushes fare better in our environment and they also provide food and shelter for our wildlife. Just on that note, can you imagine a garden without butterflies? Unfortunately, they are being pushed out their natural habitat, too.

Another problem is the over use of pesticides in gardening. It is amazing how nature survives without chemicals. Yet, we continuously spray harmful chemicals around us. And how many of you actually know what chemicals have been used to spray the veggies you buy from the supermarket? There is a large movement towards organic gardening worldwide, as the harm we do spraying our gardens with toxins not only affects our wildlife but also ourselves.

Invasive species  are taking over our land and unfortunately, this is becoming a bigger problem in Zimbabwe, without much action being taken. I know the Matobos society is tackling it by themselves on the other side of the country. But the toxic Lantana camara is on the rampage again threatening our local flora and fauna. Gum trees are spreading from unmanaged plots and drying out wetlands and our cypress are becoming an expense as their shallow roots are not strong enough during our storms. Please think carefully, about what you plant. Invasives can spread beyond your garden and destroy the local environment.

The other theme Chelsea garden show highlighted was how gardens are the perfect haven to escape from the stresses of everyday life.

So, for the first time, how can we save ourselves? As we all know, Zimbabwe is getting more stressful, the pressures are mounting as well as the number of family and friends suffering from depression. So how can a garden save us?

First of all, make a place in the garden to have time out. Most of us have ample space in gardens, but so many of us sit on our veranda or head straight to the sofa to switch on the DSTV. Plants, flowers and green spaces can have a positive impact on our lives, in terms of health, well-being and happiness. It is important to create your sanctuary in the garden. Whether it may be a tea garden, a braai area or even a hammock. Start making your garden the oasis which you can escape to. If you are not a gardener yourself, Zimbabwe has plenty of talented landscapers who can consult or landscape your garden, even if it is just 25 square metres.

Secondly, remove stress from the garden. One way of removing stress from our lives is through minimalism. I bet most of you have an expired chemical, a broken rake, a few unused seedling trays or a pile of old bricks or tiles in your garden? It is amazing what us Zimbabweans like to treasure! The ’Minimalism’  craze, which is the art of only living with what you need and removing clutter or excess, is taking the world by storm. It is time we jumped on the band wagon and decluttered our gardens.

Start by cleaning up your sheds and removing broken tools, expired chemicals, and any junk that is just lying around. Then take a walk through your garden and remove any old piles of bricks (it is amazing how many Zimbabweans have those in the garden!), broken pots and generally stuff that has no purpose. Take a look at what needs fixing, sharpening or needs replacing. Finally, start moving towards a low maintenance garden, by cutting back on lawn or generally removing the high maintenance plants. You will feel so much better after you declutter, as you will no longer feel irritated by the junk or plants that needs sorting!

Another trend that promotes health is growing your own organic veggies. This trend is actually one of the biggest movements around the world at the moment. The great thing about growing your own, it is cheaper and you can control what you spray your veggies with. Regardless of your space, you can all have a veggie garden these days whether it may be the large traditional one, or even a space saving vertical one. In Zimbabwe, we have the perfect climate for growing an abundance of everything!

Finally, get gardening yourself. In Zimbabwe, we are very lucky to have gardening staff. But how many of you get your hands dirty? Well, it is about time.  For those of you who are shopaholics, you might understand me when I say you get a dopamine high from shopping, well, you also get one from harvesting fruit and veggies. A much cheaper way to get a high, too.

Did you know that there’s a natural antidepressant in soil? There is bacteria in the soil that releases the happy hormone serotonin. So go out into the garden, get happy by getting your hands dirty or get high by picking a strawberry.

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