The brief discussion of the history of ornamental plants at the start of the thesis is
intended to provide the background to this study. It is followed by an exposition of
the values that ornamental plants bring to our world in terms of their physical,
psychological and economic benefits. To a great many people increasing
urbanisation all over the globe means that ornamental plants often provide their only
link to the natural world.
Using plants in gardens and landscaped environments for the benefit and enjoyment
of humankind comes at a price. As more landscape projects are being undertaken
by public and corporate bodies and also private individuals, and as the costs of their
creation and maintenance keep on rising, those responsible are becoming keenly
interested in selecting the most suitable plants to match their needs from the outset,
as well as in containing the cost of their subsequent upkeep.
The ornamental plant industry today is characterised by its great diversity, as are the
indigenous flora of South Africa. The aim of this study is to investigate current
patterns of ornamental plant usage in South Africa, and to determine the most
appropriate selection criteria for the horticultural use of indigenous plants in South
Using only the physical characteristics of plants as a selection criterion for sourcing
new ornamental plants from indigenous South African flora, ignores other important
considerations that should form part of the process of making informed selection choices on the part of the growers, suppliers and consumers. These considerations
in fact constitute significant needs among especially consumers and growers that
should be investigated, first, in order to understand them and then to craft practical
solutions. In exploring these considerations, one should bear in mind that there are
a number of factors inhibiting the horticultural use of indigenous plants in South
Africa, including serious competition from exotic plants.
This study has three specific focus areas, namely: (1) identifying those
considerations that have a bearing on the formulation of selection criteria of
indigenous South African flora as new ornamental plants; (2) establishing whether
growers and cultivators of indigenous plants are responding adequately to market
possibilities and industry trends; and (3) determining what other factors may inhibit
the horticultural use of such plants.
The study shows that there is indeed a range of selection criteria that consumers
and growers apply when selecting indigenous plants for horticultural uses. The
formalisation and practical application of such selection criteria could also help
industry role-players to take better advantage of the market opportunities for
indigenous plants. An ongoing interaction and exchange of ideas between growers
of ornamental plants and their customers would be a precondition for the success of
such a process. While the needs of these two groups differ in some respects, they
converge in others. Finding the greatest measure of compatibility between the two
sets of needs requires a closer examination of the selection criteria for the
horticultural use of indigenous plants in South Africa.
A review of the literature produced a collection of the most common factors
pertaining to ornamental plant selection. A formal survey was compiled, based on
these considerations, which was used to test their validity and relative importance
among retailers, landscapers and ornamental plant growers in South Africa. The final chapter contains the findings, conclusions and recommendations produced
by this study. The recommendations include, among others, suggestions for the use
of additional selection criteria.
The survey also revealed some questions that could be the subject of future
research, but which fell outside the ambit of this study. Recommendations in this
regard have been made accordingly.