I am sometimes asked why I love Australian native plants so much and why do I want to plant the majority of our garden with them. So I thought I would write a post about why I’m partial to them.
Firstly, why can’t I take a liking to them and plant them throughout our garden? I could ask the same of someone who is adverse to Australian native plants and doesn’t want them in their garden. Why does someone prefer a cottage garden over a formal garden? Why does someone prefer yuccas to roses? Everyone has their own preferences.
I am pretty proud of our amazing array of native plants. There are so many to choose from, so there is something for everyone. Having them in my garden could be likened to a form of patriotism. I may not fly an Australian flag out the front of our house, but I do like to have a front garden planted out mostly with Australian native plants.
They have adapted to suit our climate and soil conditions
Australia’s plant have adapted to Australia’s climate and to our soils, which are quite depleted in nutrients compared to some other countries. An example would be the presence of proteoid roots on banksias and grevilleas (and other Australian native plants), which assist with the uptake of nutrients in phosphorus-deficient soils. This means that you can plant many Australian native plants into your garden without the need for excessive fertilisers to keep them looking good.
However, Australia is a large continent and so different areas have different climates. I usually choose plants that are used to Melbourne’s climate. Many plants from south-west Western Australia also do well in our garden due to us having a similar climate and soil conditions. Eremophila and Calothamnus species do especially well. If they are from the northern and more humid part of Australia, then I will only consider those species that have also done well down here in others’ gardens. An example would be the Lemon-scented Myrtle (Backhousia citriodora), which is native to Queensland but still does well in Melbourne.
There are some really unique genera within Australia. Ones that come to mind are kangaroo paws (Anigozanthos sp.), Conostylis sp., eremophilas, banksias, bottle brushes (Callistemon sp.), waxflowers (Chamelaucium sp.), hakeas, mint bushes (Prostanthera sp.) and waratahs (Telopea sp.). You can’t help but say “wow” when you see them in people’s gardens.
Much of our flora has adapted over time to be pollinated by our fauna. Therefore, by putting some of these plants in your garden, you are also providing food for local species. They also provide habitat for many animals, including birds, mammals, marsupials, amphibians, reptiles and an amazing array of insects that you may not be aware of.
There is now more to choose from
Lots of work in the nursery industry over the last few decades has led to new cultivars that are hardier and better suited to home gardens. These also include grafted forms so that you can choose plants that wouldn’t ordinarily survive in your garden. With so many more plants to choose from, including smaller trees that are better suited to suburban areas, there is really no excuse!
They can be used to suit different garden styles
Just because you are planting an English-style cottage garden, doesn’t mean you can only use English species. There are plenty of cottage-style plants to choose from, including Silver Spurflower (Plectranthus argentatus), Diggers Speedwell (Veronica perfoliata) and Cut-leaf Daisies (Brachyscome multifida). Formal gardens can replace box hedges with Native Rosemary (Westringia fruticosa) and Japanese-style gardens could include Scleranthus biflorus to create a moss-like look.
It makes bushwalking more enjoyable
Once you have started planting Australian natives in your garden, you will get excited (or at least I do!) if you see one in the wild and will be able to identify it. Even if you don’t know the exact species, you may be able to recognise the genus. This means that rather than walking through the bush and only seeing nondescript green and brown plants, you will actually enjoy your walk and feel even closer to nature. I know that I suffered from plant blindness until I became interested in them. Once I started noticing them, life was never the same again.