Cape Sugar Bird on Protea, Image credit: Alan Manson via Flickr; Perennials via bhg.com

We live in a world of excess, often taking for granted that our role on this planet is inheritor and protector of all living kind. Despite doing what we can to limit our consumption and provide for the ecological future, natural resources like water continue to be an increased scarcity. DECO investigates water-wise gardening…

With the ever-increasing need to preserve our planet and with water shortages ahead, designing the garden has become an opportunistic space to both ‘do your bit’ and improve your home without over-consumption.

This can become quite a daunting and complicated task, considering the fact that gardens need heaps of water to keep it thriving and luscious.

Enter the water-wise garden.

Image Source: houzz.com

But how, you ask, can you transform your thirsty garden into a water-wise, sustainable yet lush and verdant garden? DECO shows you how with these water-wise tips:


If your garden’s foundation is that of turf grass then this means that you are:

  1. Having to do heaps of maintenance
  2. Using loads of water

Keeping a green identity means that this is an absolute no-go. Starting your water-wise garden means thoroughly clearing the turf grass, making sure each and every root has been removed. Instead, plant indiginous and easy-care grass like Kikuyu.

When you do mow the lawn, go for frequent and light rather than seldom and intense.

Keep the blades at around 4cm long so they shade each other and minimise the need for more water. Aerate the lawn by piercing with a garden fork, making watering easily absorbed, and you’ll minimise the need for watering by 50%.

Water only in the evenings and early mornings to avoid evaporation.


Your soil is the most precious part of your water-retention process. Making use of the best top soils means your new foundation will take shape by adding organic matter to improve the texture of the soil and water-holding ability.

Also, use stones and rocks for accents on top of soil between plants. Not only is this a decorative feature, it also provides water insulation for the root systems below.

Image source: sunset.com


If you can afford it, irrigation systems are best for watering your garden. They use controlled amounts of water, far less than a hose pipe, and are super simple to rely on auto-watering.

Drip-irrigation is an even better water-saving tool, since it allows a set amount of water to drip onto plant beds and straight into the root systems, and can even make use of recycled rainwater.


Planting indigenous plants and shrubs is the best way to go. They’re usually less thirsty than alien vegetation.

Bear in mind that indigenous and water wise do not necessarily equate.

Always check that the plants you choose are both locally occurring and hardy, non-thirsty plants. Look for leaves that are oily, waxy, hairy, grey or needle-like, as these retain water. Succulents are a fantastic water saving and trendy option!


Organic mulch is the best way to retain water, block thirsty weeds and ultimately reduce evaporation. Your best formula for making mulch is by mixing shredded leaves, straw, compost, shredded newspaper and grass clippings.

Making your own compost heap doesn’t have to be unsightly and smelly – use a composting bin that retains smells and degrades materials faster.

Collecting compost fantastic for the environment, reduces the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, and is the miracle ingredient for healthy, thriving plants in your garden.

Image source: dwell.com


Collecting rainwater to nourish your eco-conscious garden will ensure that you distribute natural resources effectively. This can be done by placing barrels at the exit points or overflow from your downpipes.

Another watering tip is to soak the pots rather than the plants, as the ceramic will retain moisture for longer and seep into the roots.


These plants are just a few of the many popular perennial options that get the green light for water-wise eco-gardens:

  • Succulents
  • Fynbos
  • Buchu
  • Lavender
  • Air plants
  • Aloes
  • Clivia
  • South African Daisy
  • Geranium
  • Agapanthus
  • Sweet Pea
  • Wild Olive Tree
  • Jasmine
  • Milkwood
  • Cape Honeysuckle
  • Strilitzia
  • Keurboom

The ultimate goal is to have a beautiful outdoor space that is environmentally friendly and makes one feel good about conservation. If your space is attracting more bees, birds and butterflies then you’ve done something right!

Featured images credit: Alan Mason, Flickr; Better Homes and Gardens

Guest blogger, Martine Hendricks:

1385704_10151998897869258_672709359_nMartine considers every moment an opportunity to create inspiration by writing to evoke joy. She is inspired by the beauty around her, particularly the beach which is her place of refuge, getting sand between her toes. Coffee and pastries keep this flamboyant spirit going but when the day is done, she goes home to her four energetic kids and loads of TV.




ELLE Decoration Green Issue coverThe Green Issue edition of ELLE Decoration South Africa will be on the shelf of your nearest magazine retailer from 28 September. Packed with sustainably stylish interiors, it’s full of all your favourite features and decor tips plus the green spaces of Patrizia Moroso and Pietro Russo. Order your copy today – across South Africa wherever magazines are sold – and tell us what you think on Twitter @ELLE_Deco, sharing your #GreenIssue #DECOselfie.