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Create a veld garden in the Highveld

Published on September 25th 2021
A close up of a flower
The best place to get fresh inspiration for your garden is from the source itself - nature. Natural ecosystems act to preserve a beautiful balance and harmony between the biotic and abiotic components. One such natural ecosystem we may consider is the Highveld Grassland.
The Highveld Grassland is one of the nine vegetative biomes in South Africa and is well-known for its diversity of dense, low-growing perennial grasses. This biome receives summer rainfall and winters are characterised by almost six months of drought. How does this biome manage to produce such bountiful swathes of grasses and flowers during these dry conditions one might ask? And better yet, how can you recreate this in your own garden?

How to create a veld garden

Replacing your lawn with symmetrical beds is the best place to start. Instead of growing a thirsty lawn, you can swap it out for grasses, annuals and perennials that can withstand seasons of drought and do not require watering and maintenance as often. In this way, you’ll also create a more natural habitat where pollinators like insects and birds can thrive and become part of the ecosystem.
A close up of a flower

Start with a grass matrix

Minimum soil preparation is necessary and this garden will require very little water due to the drought-adaptation of the highveld grass species. Start by selecting palettes of low-growing, low-maintenance, sturdy grasses and plant them in a subtle pattern to create a matrix. Bearing the size of the grass at maturity in mind, you can plant about five grass plants per square metre.

Selecting grasses

Neutral and evergreen grasses:


Festuca spp.

True Sedges

Carex spp.

Grasses with decorative seedheads:
Indigenous wild grasses:
Monocymbium ceresiiforme
Andropogon eucomus
Stipagrostis uniplumis
Eragrostis capensis

Add colour to your canvas

To add detail, texture and seasonal colour to the beds, interplant grasses with perennials like Agapanthus, Guara, Verbascum, Campanula, Shasta daisies and Nicotiana. Plant them in groups, rivers or dotted around the landscape.
Tip: Select a variety of perennials that will create interest during all seasons (yes, including winter!).
A close up of a flower

Selecting annuals and perennials

For detail below
For height
For colour en masse
For dispersed colour

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