Australia is a vast continent with many natural environments, from the dense rain forests of the north, to the Alpine meadows of the south, and the hot dry deserts of the centre. In each of these environments, many plants have evolved to cope with their surroundings. The large lush leaves of‑rainforest plants, for example, contrast markedly with the fine prickly foliage of desert plants. Their need for water and nutrient, and their preference for sunlight, also differs greatly. And because of this diversity in growing preference and habit, there are native plants to suit almost any garden situation, in any climatic region. This MitrePlan looks at many of the interesting and often strikingly beautiful Australian natives available for different garden styles, with tips on planting and maintenance.
Step 1: Garden styles.
Contrary to what most gardeners believe, native plants are not just for “Bush-Style” gardens. There are species to suit all gardens, from the most formal to the very simplest. In fact, many natives are quite common to the most traditional of‑gardens without the gardener knowing it. Examples include the Pittosporum, Alexandra Palm, Cordyline and Tree Fern. There really is no bounds to their use. However, the style of garden you wish to create‑often determines which natives you‑buy.
Cottage gardens are a great way to landscape small gardens which many native plants suit. Many have perfumed flowers or foliage, they may be very compact and can stand some of our most harsh growing conditions.
The foliage of many natives are attractive too and can be trimmed into low hedges for borders or knot gardens. Collect the perfumed foliage for potpourri and the flowers for inside. Grasses used as borders or as a rough natural lawn that requires to be mowed only when it begins to look shabby at the end of the growing season.
Large decorative specimen trees often grace the large formal garden. Shrubs are often trimmed into hedges, and garden beds are regimented and‑full‑of attractive ornamental flowers. There are natives to suit all these features.
Plants suitable to trim as hedges for‑screen and privacy should have a‑dense foliage and take to regular pruning. Natives in this category include many of the Bottle Brushes (Callistemon), Paper Barks (Melaleuca), Tea Trees (Leptospermum), and Grevilleas.
Native plants are equally at home in the flower garden and can be used in the same way as other plants. Many can be used as cut flowers for indoor arrangements in the home, grown in special display beds, or simply included in the general garden for their beauty.
The Indoor or Patio Garden
If you live in a flat, or you’ve some space available on your patio, why not grow a native in a pot? Natives have been grown successfully this way for many years and plants from tropical areas, particularly the rainforests, do very well. However, the availability of some of these plants may be limited in some states as they are still fairly new in nurseries.
The Bush Style Garden
There is a great deal of satisfaction in reproducing a small part of the natural bush in your own garden, complete with the wonderful range of wildlife it attracts. Native plants produce large quantities of nectar that many of our native birds, insects and animals love, creating a balanced mini-bush eco-system in your yard. Banksia, Grevilleas, Kangaroo Paws, Eucalypts and Melaleucas are some of the more common natives used for this purpose. Others worth planting to provide nesting sites are very bushy and prickly including Hakeas, Grevilleas, Bursaria and some species of Acacia (Wattles). The green, unripe seed of many Pea flowering plants, such as Pultenaea, Davesia and Platylobium will attract finches and parrots. These pea plants are often called "Bush Peas" or "Egg and Bacon" plants because of their yellow and red flowers. Many native grasses are a must also to provide finch seed. If‑possible, include some water in your bush setting for the birds with ponds, small bird baths or simply rocks with deep depressions which you keep filled.