Sustainability, both ecological and social, has been at the heart of the villas and the hotel in Cap Karoso ever since its conception. So when it came to designing the gardens and landscaping, this vision was always going to be a driving force behind our choices. From a tree nursery to empower people from the local community – providing jobs, training, and developing leaders from within -, to a landscaping design that respects and protects the surrounding ecosystems and the environment, we talk to our landscape designer, Anton Clark, to hear how he’ll be bringing our green vision to life.
What are the main ways that the Cap Karoso landscaping design will realise our vision of sustainability?
A.C. An essential aim of the Cap Karoso landscape identity is to be ecologically aware in what we do and how we build the gardens. With a sustainable identity, the design is conscious of how gardens affect the surrounding ecosystems, and we strive to minimize the impact on these systems.
We’re achieving this in two main ways. Local composting and the use of natural fertilizers is one aspect, and the second is plant selection and how those plants will grow on the island, including our tree nursery.
So, could you tell us a bit more about the plant species you’ll be using to lower the impact on the local environment?
A.C. The Cap Karoso land has a shallow sand profile over limestone sheetrock, limited freshwater, and coastal salt water conditions, so the majority of the plants we’re using are lower water/drought tolerant species which will thrive in these difficult conditions. A mix of lower water indigenous and tough exotic species will achieve a lush tropical look to match the modern architectural building style. We’ll also use plants such as frangipani, bougainvillaea, yukka, cactus species, and coconut and date palms. These plant selections will enable us to draw less upon the limited freshwater, and therefore have less impact on the local environment. These strong species also have less need for nutrient-rich soils so we will not be reliant on synthetic fertilizer; another well-known polluter of the ecosystem.
And could you tell us about the tree nursery?
A.C. A large number of the plants used at Cap Karoso will be grown at an onsite nursery. We’ll primarily grow the coastal species which are native to the Sumba, along with 250 exotic fruit trees (including mango, avocado, Mangosteen, rambutan, guava, jack fruit, Soursop, Sugar apple, Sapodilla, and Pomegranate), 500 citrus trees, 1,000 papaya trees, plus grapes, passionfruit, banana, and sugar cane.
Producing plants locally means better acclimatization of plants as they are already hardened to the local conditions – plants shipped in from other growing areas will not be “toughened up” to the hard climate of the coastal area. As Cap Karoso ages, the nursery will supply replacement plants for the garden and other needs of the landscape.
How will the nursery benefit the local community?
A.C. The onsite nursery will have many benefits, for both Cap Karoso itself, and the local community, the most important being the provision of local jobs and training. Training and skills within the landscape and hospitality industry are lacking across most parts of Indonesia. At Cap Karoso, nursery staff will be taught basic horticultural skills such as propagation and nursery skills, plant health, plant identification, pest and disease identification, spraying, fertilizing, pruning techniques, and organic composting, as well as management and planning skills such as basic bookkeeping, banking and money management, time management, production planning, and output targets. We hope that these skills will help empower people from the area, and develop leaders from within who can perform leading roles at Cap Karoso in the future.
And you mentioned local composting as another way the gardens will be ecologically aware?
A.C. Indeed, as the soils in Sumba lack nutrients and organic matter, we will be collecting green waste from the hotel gardens to make organic garden waste compost. This composting will also work in parallel with our nursery training program, introducing staff to the principles of eco and green gardening.
Finally, what are the specific challenges of the Cap Karoso environment?
A.C. Sumba Island, and especially the coastal Cap Karoso site, is a delicate ecosystem of sensitive environments, including farmland/cleared land, natural forest remnants, and the gentle coast environment of sea and coral found at the front of the hotel and villas.
Cleared farmland needs rehabilitation, we need erosion control of topsoil from rain wash and winds, and we’ll be using artisan water table replenishment from water catchment swales and needing hedging trees as wind protection to reduce wind drying of gardens and to help create a micro-ecosystems to shelter and help the garden establish. To this end, we’ll be growing 3,000 acacia trees as windbreakers in the Cap Karoso tree nursery.
Staff trained at the nursery will also be skilled in soil stabilization techniques and erosion control, including building swales and wells to replenish the artisan base water reservoir and growing erosion control plants. They will also be taught skills in how to grow plants in sandy and windy beach locations, identifying local species, and redeveloping diversity of the coastal dunes.