Monday 21 February 2011

Living dead wood

Today I'm going to deliver a lecture at the university in Alnarp about the benefit of dead trees in parks and gardens. Nowadays most people normally appreciate their trees more for staying alive rather than turning old, unhealthy and eventually dead for some strange reasons.

However for the biodiversity in your garden dead trees or very old and half passed away trees are even more important. There are for instance only about 30 different species of beetles depending on still living Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris) for their survival, but more than 300 species need dead pines to complete their life cycles, and more than 500 different species of beetles are living on dead oak trees (Quercus robur). Dead trees are thus actually more important in your garden, at least for insects and other invertebrates.

How can we then involve more of dead wood in the garden design in a natural and pleasant way? Well, here are some pictures from a patio I made in Gothenburg for an exhibition some years ago. A lot of dead branches and stumps are placed among the plants and in my opinion the planting looks even more naturally untidy and very beautiful with all the mosses growing on the dead wood. The planting was made just some few weeks before I took the photos, but still it already looked rather settled.

The wood is dead! Long live the dead wood in your garden! Don't you agree? The insects certainly do.

Saturday 12 February 2011

African grasses

Fountain Grass, Pennisetum setaceum

Although there are many native grasses in East Africa they are seldom used in garden or landscape design. Some foreign grasses can sometimes be found in parks and gardens, but you still see even them rather rarely.

Here however the indigenous Pennisetum setaceum is used at the entrance to Mamba Village in Nairobi. Pennisetum setaceum is native to open, more or less dry habitats in eastern and central Africa, Middle East and further east, but is introduced to many other parts of the world and is now well spread in southern Europe, South Africa, southern North America, Hawaii and many other places. The Fountain Grass is a perennial plant but not very hardy, so in colder areas when it is grown as an ornamental bedding plant it is treated as an annual.

Rhynchelytrum, the Natal Grass or Champagne Grass grows here in a naturalistic, meadow style planting in a private garden in Karen in Nairobi 

Grass as a forage plant is more common...