When we think of native gardens we immediately think of Eucalypts, Grevilleas and Grass trees.
But native gardens can be amazingly varied in appearance.
If you consider the vastly differing areas across this continent you begin to see the range of soils, moisture and temperature that Australian plant species have adapted to.
There are tropical natives, wallum swamp natives, alpine natives and desert natives and all with differing appearances and requirements.
It’s possible to claim that endemic species (native or restricted to a certain place) will always be preferable to grow in your area. After all, they have been growing in those localised conditions for a very long time and are suited to the temperature, moisture and nutrient levels found there. But of course we are always looking for something more exotic, something unusual so we go looking for another species that will fit in with our plant palette….
The criticism of native plants by early settlers was that they were ‘narrow-leafed, dull and uninteresting’ and to be honest, some are uninspiring. However, you can use native plants will admirable qualities not necessarily found in your geographic area, so long as you can modify the microclimate.
Some native plants with broad glossy leaves found in the tropics can be used right down through the Sydney region provided that the temperature is not too cold during winter; plants from arid regions may be used in coastal locations provided they don’t get wet feet or when the summers are not too humid.
Moisture and temperature are the key to extending your native plant selection; you can modify your gardens by providing sandy and raised beds to avoid waterlogging. Grow plants in shaded areas where it will be cooler or against brick walls to take advantage of the stored heat.
Native plants provide food and nesting opportunities for birds and mammals.
If you have Grevillea and Callistemon you will always have birdsong!
Native plants mean a reduced fertiliser and water bill as little is required.
There are some excellent cultivars (cultivated varieties) on the market that are either natural selections of superior forms or plants specifically cross-pollinated to get desirable qualities from two sets of parents. These qualities may be brighter floral displays, compact habits or disease resistance. Look out for them!
Our native plants are a class set apart for world flora; they are vibrant, tastefully muted in colouration, have superb architectural form and well adapted to our conditions. Way to go!