Guest Gardener Hloni – a Waste-Free Warrior
Lehlohonolo Doporo refers to himself as “Hloni” and we stumbled upon him per chance! He entered our Earth Day competition and had previously, on many an occasion, sent us pics of his up-cycling and re-purposed gardening antics. Pretty amazing is how we’d describe what Hloni does – making beautiful things out of other peoples discarded items and plants, and we cant help but love his approach, whereby everything is usable, beautiful, recycleable and transformable.
Rooted in Orlando West, he heralds from a space that was once occupied by great beauty and flourishing plants, and explains how it was all destroyed, and the need to re-build was realised. He is the definition of Urban Greenie – someone who has taken truly unconventional spaces and made them into living green ones.
Tell us about your passion for gardening and how it started
“Our house in Orlando West, where I grew up, was once known to have a beautiful garden which was maintained by my grandfather. I never got to meet him or be in this garden – he passed on many years before I was born.
With his passing, and no-one to care for the garden, it was demolished – flowers were uprooted, fruit trees were cut down, the outdoor fish tank was blocked and filled with soil, so that today our house in Orlando West is a dry and open as a desert.
“What seemed to be a curse was a blessing before my eye because I was not happy living in a yard with little or not trees at all. In 2016 after my matric year I saw a strong need to question why all that plant and biodiversity was taken down, because we needed the fruits more than ever before. We couldn’t afford to buy veggies and food. It was in 2017 that I started growing interested in growing my own food.
But for some odd reason at home were I live I was told not to plant in the yard. I was give a patch along the walk path which is where I experimented with how different crops grew.
I started helping my elderly neighbours who had a huge yard and could use a hand, and in that way come harvest time I can also take some produce home. That was my first encounter of the Stinging Garden’s .
From there things started to feel familiar in the garden. I would spend many hours exploring and attempting to grow a variety of veggies both at home on my small patch and at the Stinging Garden’s*.
In 2018 – 2019 I started collecting different herbs, flowers, veggies seeds, trees and succulents. Sharing, exchanging, asking ,buying , pickings to propagate and most picking up from the dumpsite.
“This helped to establish a strong and biodiverse community at the Stinging Gardens, and today I look back and see how doors have opened for me to learn, and do more research of soil regenerative methods and how different people relate to nature. We are all so connected to nature in some way or another.
Through the abundance of different plants we find thrown at dumpsites all over Soweto we were led to find different ways to pot new plants and trees. Hence we started re-purposing, re-thinking re-doing reviewing and reducing a lot of waste. We now upcycle different objects such as plastic bottles, car tyres and damaged tubs in our garden to name a few.
“As a means of beautifying other peoples waste we often paint items and add some creativity to them. This works nicely as it invites the young and the old people to want to help. Some end up buying the pots and flowers we grow.
That’s how I started, and I know I have an exciting gardening and learning journey ahead of me.
Tell us about why you garden and how often you buy plants
In a good month I buy plants twice or three times, some to propagate and sell and some I just buy them for myself.
I spend my life and my time in the fields 7 days a week Monday to Sunday when I’m not in the garden I’m researching about the environment or podcasting with different farmers, gardeners and growers about what’s happening in their spaces.
I have a more than one reason why I garden in a non-traditional space. Firstly I am a creative and cultural entrepreneur. I wanted my house space to reflect my creativity and my personality as I spent most of my up bringing at an art centre. Secondly, it has never made sense to me why veggies travel so far from the farms to be delivered to super markets then to the consumers. To me it compromises quality, negatively affects pricing, and a large portion goes to waste when shelved and package. So growing my own food is the best solution.