SOME IDEAS ABOUT GARDENING WITH NATIVES
Mention native gardens and most people immediately think of eucalypts and acacias.
Even quite recently the Australian bush was seen by many as ugly, full of grey, straggly plants.
However, there are many attractive species that can be grown successfully in the home garden.
Some of the advantages of growing plants from you own area are:
- They have adapted to the climate
- They are better suited to local soils
- They generally need less water than exotics
- They can be kept in shape by pruning, which is what marsupials did to them in natural settings
- They attract and protect native wildlife: birds, insects, reptiles etc
Australian plants create a feel, sense, smell and sound of their own.
Plants that occur naturally in the same environment usually look happy together in the garden.
There are sculptural Australian plants, like tree ferns, grasstrees, Gymea lilies and banksias that will distinguish a garden.
Three or four different species of the numerous Australian groundcover plants – daisies, hibbertias (guinea flowers), scaevolas (fan flowers) etc can be chosen and repeated to create a lovely tapestry effect at ground level.
Even in a small garden, a tree of the appropriate size such as one of the smaller eucalypts extends the space of the garden upwards, acting as a focal point as well as being a magnet for birds.
Don’t just look at the shapes of the plants in a garden, look also at the shapes of the spaces between plants; the balance of ‘mass’ and ‘void’ should be satisfying.
Australian daisies and grasses combine nicely with rocks – a pleasing contrast of soft and hard textures, with clumped or sprawling daisies and tufted grasses complementing the definite curved or straight lines of rocks.
A huge variety of fine foliaged tufted Australian plants look excellent beside water – rushes, sedges and lilies, either upright or weeping. There are shrubs and small trees too with weeping foliage which is very appealing when reflected in water.
A sympathetic formal touch – a well-made stone wall, paving of appropriate colour and outline, or sculpture – can bring solidity to the fine foliage of many Australian plants.
There are many small-leaved Australian plants (eg melaleucas, leptospermums, westringias) which can be pruned and treated formally for hedges or even topiary, can be used for example as a focal point among less formal shrubs.
From the variety of Australian shrubs now available, such as the range of beautiful grevilleas, it is possible to create wonderful massed or layered garden beds with colour schemes which can be vivid or subtle. Remember to tip prune. Grevilleas also require sand for drainage.
The rapid growth of some large shrubs or small trees, in particular some acacias, is of benefit in planting for succession – it enables them to be used as ‘nurse’ plants for a screen and for shelter while slower growing plants are being established.
A garden of low shrubs (a metre or less, pruned if necessary to maintain this height) gives an open and spacious feel to the garden while several small eucalypts with fine trunks could provide a vertical element.
The variety of foliage of Australian plants is amazing, in form texture, colour – from large and dramatic to tiny, delicate leaves – and many attractive effects can be achieved with foliage alone.
Here at the Botanic Gardens we can help by:
- Letting you see plants native to the Upper Darling Basin at their various stages during the year, and in wet and dry times
- Showing how deep ripping, mounding, soil modification, slow release fertiliser, mulching, protecting and early watering can get your plants off to the best possible start
- Propagating plants for you that cannot be obtained from conventional nurseries
- Filling bigger orders for farm forestry, riverbank stabilisation and revegetation projects