Australian native plants are well adapted to our varied and sometimes challenging climate. They’re reliable, tough and relatively easy going, and also surprisingly well suited to different garden styles.
“When planting natives, they look best when spread throughout the garden – not in a formal way, but to lead the eye around the garden,” says garden designer and horticulturist Narelle Happ of A Garden for Life. “This can be achieved by focusing on a particular plant aspect, such as flowers or foliage, and repeating it throughout the garden.”
Try planting strappy-leaf lomandra around a native grass tree (Xanthorrhoea glauca) to help highlight and soften its sculptural form, along gravel pathways, or to add height and drama to rockeries and garden beds. Layering plants also helps add visual intrigue. When grouping plants, consider their colour, texture, habit and size, and use them to either complement or contrast. Try drifts of low-growing blue fescue grass (Festuca glauca) to provide contrast in a sea of tussock grasses and creeping groundcovers, or clip westringia into topiary balls and dot them around a flowering gum.
There is a huge assortment of native flowers, all with diverse forms, colours and scents that attract birds, insects and other local wildlife. Everlasting daisies, callistemons, grevilleas, banksias and correas flower for months on end and generally come in warm shades of red, pink, yellow and orange. For cool tones, try scaevolas, native daisies, dianellas and wahlenbergias. Foliage can provide fresh interest, too. “The palette of native grey foliage is extremely diverse and it contrasts so beautifully with green foliage,” says Narelle. Highlight your planting scheme with the silvery notes of conostylis, westringia, woolly bush or the silver-leaved mountain gum.
Regardless of your soil type, it will always benefit from added organic matter, like compost and pelletised organic fertiliser. At planting time, dig organic matter in well and, once the plants are in, spread an organic mulch such as pine bark around the base. Water regularly, especially during hot dry periods. Once established, plants will be able to tolerate extended dry periods, but they will perform better if you are able to water them.
Australian plants have adapted to soil that is naturally phosphorus deficient, explains Narelle Peart of Evergreen Garden Care. “Use fertiliser that is specifically designed for natives, as it’s low in phosphorus,” she says. Contrary to popular belief, natives aren’t zero-maintenance plants and do benefit from your time and attention. “To keep plants happy, healthy and flowering well, regularly trim after flowering and apply Scotts Osmocote for natives twice a year,” adds Narelle.
First time planting natives? Here’s everything you need to know about planting, growing and pruning grevilleas.
Photo Credit: John Downs, Alamy Stock Photo, Getty Images and Gap Photos/Brent Wilson.
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