Let me preface this article by stating that I am not a gardening guru. I have a distinctively black thumb and I am constantly astonished that there are green things in my garden at all. But I love native plants and I love the Australian bush, so I like to try and recreate even the smallest patch of it in my own backyard.
There are many reasons why you should predominately plant natives in your backyard:
- Once established, they are water misers and will survive on whatever rain falls from the sky.
- Native vegetation is extremely hardy and you are more likely to kill them with kindness rather than neglect.
- Most natives do not need a fertilising regime because they have evolved on low nutrient soils
- Birds are attracted to many species of flowering natives.
- If you live in acreage area or close to remnant bushland, you are less likely to accidentally cause damage to the local ecosystem by having a native garden.
I’d like to elaborate a bit further on that last point. Before you decide to plant any kind of plant (native or introduced), please check with this website to make sure that you are not about to plant an environmental weed. There are many plants that look lovely but can have an incredible impact upon different types of ecosystems. There are other plants which are fine to plant if you are an avid gardener and plan to spend a lot of time ensuring spread is contained to only one area of your garden. But for the lazy gardener, they are a definite no-no. So before you buy it and put it in the ground, do a little research first to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. The majority of reputable nurseries have knowledgable staff who will be able to advise you well.
Hedges are very popular in my area and for obvious reasons, you want a fast growing plant that tolerates closeness with other plants. A lot of people opt for Sheena’s Gold (native to Central America) and it is a really lovely plant which makes a fantastic hedge, particularly in formal gardens. A great native alternative to Sheena’s Gold is the humble lilly pilly (pictured at right) which is doing fantastically as our driveway hedge. It tolerates an astonishing amount of neglect and now that it is established, it no longer requires any watering at all to maintain its current appearance. Despite not having had much rain over the past few years, our row of lilly pillies have grown from tiny seedlings into a thriving hedge.
Other types of natives that are suitable for hedging or clustering include:
- Melaleuca linariifolia (“Little Red”)
- Callistemon (“Bottlebrush”) dwarf varieties
- Dodonaea viscosa (“Hop Bush”)
As far as stand-alone plants go, I love grevilleas, bottlebrush, banksia and eucalyptus varieties. All of these natives flower so they will attract birdlife to your garden and the different cultivars available mean that there is a wide variety of colours to choose from. You don’t even have to worry about the space requirement of some of these trees. Gone are the days when you needed acreage to grow a couple of eucalyptus trees. The majority of nurseries now stock dwarf varieties which don’t grow to 30m high and threaten to damage your house in a big storm. Some of the varieties, such as the “John Evans” grevillea can even be grown in pots – so no backyard required!
(Clockwise from above left: Eucalyptus “Summer Red”, white plumed grevillea, an unknown variety of bottlebrush and Ashby’s banksia)
Remember earlier I said there are plants that you just shouldn’t plant if you do not want a high maintenance garden? This plant here is a perfect example of that. I’ll have to be honest and say I have no idea whether it is native or introduced or even what it is. But from this one isolated patch here, it has sprung up in tiny seedlings all over my lawn, garden beds and as far as six doors up the street. I might add that this particular plant is not even on my block – that is how easily it is propagated. While it serves as a mere nuisance to me, it grows quickly and could be a significant problem in a nature reserve or patch of remnant bushland where there are few people to actively maintain the area, if any at all. If for some reason you actually like this plant, do yourself, your neighbours and the surrounding environment a favour and keep it in a container instead.