Native plants for suburban gardens

By Heather Miles

I recently gave a talk to the Eastwood Garden Club on native plants for small or suburban gardens. This talk has been scheduled and rescheduled 3 times, due Covid, but finally happened. Here is a summary of what I shared with the enthusiastic group!

Why plant natives?

There are many reasons but the most pertinent are:

  • They are unique, 85 million years in the making – as measured from when Australia split from Antarctica, Africa and South America
  • They are beautiful
  • For the fauna – without the flowers, many of our iconic Aussie creatures will become threatened and extinct
  • For biodiversity – many of our beautiful Australian plants are at risk of extinction. Every 16 minutes, a football field of native bush is cleared in NSW. That’s every 7 minutes in Queensland!

How to design with natives?

Gardens can be exclusively native or blended gardens, with a mix of natives and exotics. Here are a mix of styles from formal to informal.

Which natives to grow?

Here I concentrated on lower growing shrubs and groundcovers, and shared how to find this information on our website at https://resources.austplants.com.au/plant-database/. Firstly I gave a few tips on growing natives:

  • Many Aussie plants only in cultivation for years, not decades or centuries
  • Growth patterns, tolerances, pests not fully known
  • Plants can bolt!
  • Pruning is sensible
  • Use low P fertilisers
  • Watch for weedy species
  • Select for microclimate
Fiona Johnson's garden

The species I highlighted were:

  • Banksia spinulosa and the WA banksia species like B. blechnifolia and victoriae and B. menziesii (the last couple often going better in pots)
  • Boronias – but treat them as pretty annuals
  • Ceratopetalum gummiferum, NSW Christmas Bush – particularly the dwarf variety
  • Chorizema cordatum, which can grow up a trellis
  • Croweas – long flowering and long lasting
  • Daisies like Rhodanthe anthemoides and Brachyscome multifida
  • The grevilleas – see the screenshot below from our plant database on the website
  • Hibbertias like H pedunculata with its lovely yellow flowers
  • Homoranthus prolixus, an arid plant with stunning grey foliage and arching boughs
  • Pimeleas, Scaevola, Tetratheca and Zieria