GardenShop’s partnership with BirdLife South Africa takes flight
Nestled in the leafy suburbs of Dunkeld West in Johannesburg, BirdLife South Africa has its new ‘nesting’ headquarters at Isdell House. Named after its funders, Neville and Pamela Isdell, the premises were bought and renovated with the conservation of birds in mind. Both the building and outdoor living space has been converted into an energy – and water-efficient habitat that boasts an indigenous, water-wise and bird-friendly garden.
Redesigned with the intention of promoting biodiversity in the local environment and its surrounds, Mark Anderson CEO for BirdLife South Africa comments, “The garden, which is surrounded by urban development, offers a much needed green area and corridor for wildlife. The plants have been grouped into six different habitats, with a focus on Highveld grassland. The garden provides a home to many animal species including butterflies and many other insects, reptiles and small mammals.”
Mimicking some of South Africa’s biomes and vegetation types, almost 3000 plants comprising 220 species have been planted including Highveld grassland, savanna, bushveld, forest and succulent Karoo.
A year after commencement, Isdell House has attracted more than 60 species of birds, of which 35 make regular use of the garden. GardenShop has contributed to this garden, and thus the contribution of biodiversity in an urban environment.
GardenShop has a bird-friendly range of plants, called ‘For the Birds!’. These plants, as well as a selection of seeds and feeders, contribute to attracting birds and other wildlife to the garden. The products are endorsed by Birdlife South Africa.
Godfrey Budler CEO of the leading garden retailer and nursery, GardenShop comments that as a socially and environmentally responsible organisation a partnership with Birdlife SA creates mutual benefits for our organisations. However, the real success is creating sustainable gardens that benefits the environment, bio-diversity and our customers who create a balanced environment that welcomes Nature into their living space.
Another contributing factor to the success of the garden is the practise of ‘xeriscaping’ – dry landscaping, which emphasises the conservation of water by growing plants that are appropriate to the local climate as well as water-wise and sustainable gardening to conserve water.
To create a bird-friendly ecosystem, a large wetland was constructed and plant types were selected based on food production (fruit, nectar, seeds), open and secluded water sources (birdbaths and ponds), ability to provide roosting and nesting space for birds (nesting logs and owl houses), and plants that enable insects to feed, grow and reproduce on their host.
In line with BirdLife South Africa’s conservation efforts, using water sparingly is vital and rain water is harvested from the building roofs into two 5000 litre water tanks which are used to replenish the wetland and irrigate sections of the grassland habitat. A drip-irrigation system is connected to a rain sensor that switches off the irrigation when rain is detected. However, it has only been installed in a few areas where some watering is required to establish trees and for the lawn and pergola climbing plants to grow. Rand Water has also given many bags of bark chips and nutshells for mulching, an essential activity to save water.
To add aesthetic appeal, structure and functional areas for relaxation to the garden, Random Harvest Indigenous Nursery sponsored the vegetation alongside several other nurseries and individuals, while GardenShop donated garden furniture, soft furnishings, stepping stones and various containers for feature plants, including Strelitzia juncea, tree wisteria Bolusanthus speciosus, canary creeper Senecio tamoides and sage bush Buddleja salvifolia.
Anderson extends gratitude to the sponsors who supported the success of the project, “If it were not for their generous assistance, donations, sponsorships and many hours of hard work by BirdLife South Africaa partners and volunteers, Isdell House would be a shadow of what it is today. Our appreciation goes to GardenShop and all the contributors who made the bird garden development possible.”