In my large garden in the Clare Valley, South Australia, I had great difficulty finding indigenous plants that would suit the high phosphorus limestone soil prevalent throughout this garden. The winter frosts, extreme summer temperatures and high evaporation made plant selection very difficult indeed.
So when we moved to SW Victoria in 2008, I found that plant selection was to be much easier. Last year we cleared a large section of the front garden of weedy plants; the soil in this area is limestone, but it has grey acid sand topsoil and the limestone doesn’t have high levels of phosphorus, therefore it is much easier to find suitable plants.
Last year we cleared a large section of the front garden which was riddled with weedy plants like agapanthus, tecoma and euphorbia which self-seed prolifically or run by underground rhizomes. I have now mixed indigenous plants with some exotics that I had planted prior to the removal of the weeds, including the lovely and dramatic tree daisies, Sonchus arboreus and Podachaenium eminens. I am also particularly partial to grassy plants, especially Lomandra hystrix and its cultivars. This lomandra is becoming very difficult to source from the wholesalers which is a pity because to me it supersedes the Lomandra longifolia varieties. And the Lomandra hystrix varieties are especially good in shady positions.
Other plants that I have grown in this front garden are Acacia covenyi, Syzygium australe ‘Pinnacle’ and ‘Sunset’ both for screening, Persoonia pinifolia, Lasiopetalum baueri, Lasiopetalum schulzenii, Correa, dwarf Acacia howittii, Allocasuarina muelleriana, Lomandra longifolia ‘Katrinus Deluxe’, Lomandra hystrix ‘Katie Belles’, Boronia coerulescens, Eutaxia obovata, Banksia marginata ‘Mini Marg’, Banksia integrifolia ‘Sentinel’, Hakea laurina ‘Stockdale Sensation’, Ispopogon – and the list goes on. So far they are all doing really well with minimal care other than keeping seedling weeds at bay.
Much of this cleared and replanted garden experiences shade for some or all of the day, with the canopy being mainly Eucalyptus gomphocephala. I never considered removing them, because I am an ardent tree lover, but there is also one tree that is an especial favourite with the koalas. They come and go from this tree, which is good to help regeneration.
I have used locally sourced rocks for the garden edging – there is a lot of ironstone rock in the area, or used large branches from trees that have had their canopies heightened to allow more light in. These branches used as edging give a wonderful Australian garden feel, and it is a means of recycling on site material that often would be taken to the dump.
I have a tendency with this new garden to seek southern Western Australian coastal plants, because this area has wet winters and dry summers, which is similar to our conditions, and the plants from this region are often quite stunning. Once the plants in the new garden have established, I intend to use minimal supplementary water, but I need to get them to this point first.