Gardening for biodiversity

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Summer is here and where could be a better place to experience authentic natural beauty than our local botanical gardens?

Although the ants were out and about, we wanted to entice a community of residents from the Camphill Village West Coast, a community for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, to the remarkable diversity of plants and the importance of their conservation.

The villagers that are working in the vegetable garden had participated in a past workshop where the Iimbovane team visited Camphill Village West Coast and spent a day looking at ant diversity and their benefits to soil and seed dispersal. This workshop aimed to support the work of the garden workers by further exploring the diverse uses of fynbos in particular and how fynbos plants adapt to their environment.

We began at the Jan Marais Nature Reserve with four groups sampling different parts of the reserve to calculate the species richness of each plot. Each of the groups collected and identified various plants using reference books. Groups observed more herbaceous plants in some plots, a mixture of herbaceous, woody and grass species in other plots. At the end of the activity, each of the groups presented on the various species that they found.
The next stop was the Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden, the oldest botanical garden in South Africa and well known for its remarkable assortment of plants. This small, yet diverse garden is a true spectacle showcasing a wide range garden themes such as tranquil waterfall features of the indigenous fern garden, waterlily ponds as well as the mesmeric aromas of the herb garden.
Our host, Stuart Hall, took the group on a tour and explained the various garden themes and origins of the exotic plants. We were lucky enough to be shown “behind the scenes”, where the magic starts- the nursery. Here the residents could see the different soil mixes and preparation of seedlings before planting in the garden.
Plant adaptations was another section of the study,  we explored stuctural diferences of plants found in the the arid and tropical glasshouses to see what makes certain plant species suitable to live in other types of biomes. We explored the arid and tropical biome glasshouses which are kept at certain temperatures to get see how they different.
We ended the day with a relaxed lunch at the garden’s restaurant where everybody shared their highlights for the day.
Leah one of the volunteers at Camphill Village West Coast had this to say about her day:
“The programme was very nice, we really enjoyed it, now we know the difference between grass and flowers. We also know that Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden have many different species in a small area for example herbs, ferns flowers and plants that can survive without water for a long time such as lilies, aloe and euphorbia. We really appreciate it”.