Indigenous Landscaping and Environmental Legitimacy in Elite Housing Developments in Durban, South Africa

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Seminar Date
August 6, 2008
In South Africa, new gated communities have begun branding themselves as ‘eco-estates’, ‘game estates’ and ‘forest estates’. This is indicative of the way in which the marketing and consumption of nature has become prominent in the elite housing sector. A particular emphasis is placed on the use of native or indigenous plant species in landscape design. The relatively recent suburban fad for indigenous gardening represents a break with the conventional suburban gardening aesthetic which uses global horticultural plants. Indigenous gardening represents a concerted effort to bring nature appreciation, previously associated with distant nature reserves, into the domestic sphere. The fashion for indigenous gardening has been taken up with gusto by the development sector, particularly during the property boom of 2000-2007. Suburbanites seeking to escape the increasingly mixed and threatening post apartheid city are offered a chance to reconnect with nature in eco-estates. Where largely white elites often feel a precarious hold in the new South Africa, natural heritage offers attachment to place. Nature oriented gated communities offer spaces which exclude problematic plants and people alike. Yet, while attempting to capitalize on this new gardening fashion, developers have risked alienating conventional gardeners of exotic horticultural plants. The result has been the strategic accommodation of two different material expressions of landscape.
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