Australian Native Garden

  • Redesigning our backyard

    Back in April our house was lucky enough to be chosen for a local council program, Habitat Heroes. Part of the program included a free landscape design for a section of our garden, and we chose to use it on our front yard.

    But that didn’t mean our backyard didn’t need any work. Far from it!

    Our backyard is as barren as a yard could be. Aside from some syzygium’s we planted along the back fence to give us some privacy from very close neighbors, we don’t have anything else growing. Mark and I had discussed many times on what to do with the backyard – do we put down turf and forget about it, or do we create a garden that we will enjoy, but needs some upkeep? With no clear direction, we chose to do nothing for a long time. Until a few months ago 😉

    We were so impressed with Betsy-Sue’s design for the front yard that we reached out to her to see if she could do her magic with the backyard.

    Design requirements

    The requirements we had for the backyard design were:

    • Protection and privacy from neighbors on all sides.
    • Habitat to attract native birds, bees, frogs reptiles (except snakes).
    • A windbreak to prevent the strong west winds from blasting right through the yard.
    • A garden that invites us to go outside and sit, relax and unwind.

    I remember saying to Betsy-Sue in the consult that while the neighborhood we lived in wasn’t that inviting, we wanted to make our little piece of the western suburbs as beautiful as it could be.

    Our backyard design

    About a week after the consult, Betsy-Sue presented us with this incredible design.

    I honestly didn’t think something so intricate and beautiful could fit into our backyard. I feel relaxed just looking at the design. It invites me to go and explore the garden, sit on a bench with a G’n’T and watch the wildlife enjoy a habitat created for them.

    I love it.

    A place to sit and relax

    Aside from lots of native and indigenous plants to provide visual appeal at the ground, eye and above the head levels, Betsy-Sue has drawn in a dry river bed on the left side of the yard, and what we are calling an ‘elevated daybed’ on the right. Surrounding the features are small eucalyptus trees, shrubs, wildflowers, grasses, groundcovers and a native lawn we won’t need to mow!

    The right-side of the house has a ‘frog bog’ just outside the Alfresco area, and a section toward the front of the house for native bees that come to visit the bee hotel we received from the Habitat Heroes program.

    The plants

    Ninety percent of the plants in the design are indigenous to the western basalt plains area that we live in. The other ten percent are plants native to Australia.

    I will likely swap a few of the native plants for an indigenous alternative, but I’m excited to see how this design takes shape over the next few years.

    Cleaning Up and Getting Ready

    I’ve already started on the left side of the yard and it’s going along really well.

    The space for the dry river bed was dug out and I was able to use the dirt in other areas of the garden. I’m going for regular walks down to the new development area to collect local basalt rocks for the river bed. We’ll need to make a special trip with the ute and ask the development site manager if we can take a few large rocks for the rock feature and stepping stones.

    This area is an old volcanic plain so there are masses of basalt rocks being dug up. Some people think the honeycomb look of the rock is a bit 70’s, but I find the structure and color of the rocks fascinating. Plus it matches the landscape of the area so it won’t look out of place among the plants we’re growing.

    Some plants are already in and establishing well. I will write about each plant in separate posts so that I can track how they grow, but this is how the yard is looking at the time of this post (September 2018).

    Bring on the next two or so years as garden starts to take shape and provide us with an area we can enjoy!

  • Redesigning Our Front Yard

    I’m what you would call an experimental Gardner – I plant something, somewhere (anywhere), and see how it grows. As a result I make plenty of mistakes by putting plants in the wrong places, and I end up pulling them out later down the track. The only positive out of what I do is that I’m good at growing plants and helping them flourish.

    But I totally suck at garden design.

    Take me for a walk in a local park and I can name almost all of the native plants I see. I can also tell you if they are indigenous to the Victorian Western Basalt Plains. But ask me for advice on how I would put them together to make an attractive native garden… nope, I’m as clueless as they come!

    Habitat Heroes Initiative

    My local council in the Wyndham area have a really great initiative, called ‘Habitat Heroes‘. The project runs twice a year and aims at helping residents in the council area to establish a native habitat in their garden that provides shelter and food for the native wildlife that pass through. Part of the initiative is a complimentary landscape design for a small section of your garden.

    We’ve been lucky enough to be included with this round of the initiative, and it’s been really fun to be involved in it! I kinda wished I had done it sooner though (and I want to see if I can be involved in it again!).

    A couple of weeks ago, the amazing Besty-Sue from Dirtscape Dreaming came to visit and drew up a landscape design for our front yard. And I absolutely love it!

    The requirements we had for our front yard design were:

    • Protection and privacy from the busy street.
    • Habitat to attract native birds and reptiles (except snakes).
    • Habitat that will entice the wildlife to venture into the backyard and make it their home.
    • A windbreak to prevent litter from coming into our yard.
    • A relaxing garden for me to look out on from my office window.

    The design Betsy-Sue drew up encompasses all those things.

    Our Front Yard Design

    The main feature of the design is a Wedge-leaf Hopbush hedge that curves it’s way across the front yard to provide privacy from the street and as a windbreak. Along the driveway a Silver Banksia shrub, Poa grasses and Nodding Saltbush ground-cover will offer food for insects and birds. Behind the Hopbush hedge will be an Acacia Paradoxa shrub to provide shelter for smaller birds, some Rushes, Red-leg grasses and Eremophila bushes Desert Cassia to give the birds fruit and seeds to eat, trailing ground-covers for attracting insects and finally, some Cushion Bushes to add decorative foliage and break up the green. We will also add a bird bath beside the acacia to give the birds something to drink from and have a bath in.

    Beside the fence will be two Native Violet trees. The tree has scented flowers and a prickly habitat for attracting smaller birds, and also to prevent rubbish from the neighbors constantly overflowing bin from coming into our yard (Aherm!). From the information I can find, the Native Violet tree is able to be pruned to look like a privet hedge, so it’s shape can flow on from the Hopbush hedge nicely.

    Finally, at the front of the yard, we will be keeping the existing prostrate Eremophila ground cover, but add to it some yellow wildflowers in the form of Billy Buttons, Clustered Everlastings and Lemon Beauty Heads.

    It sounds like a lot of work, but I’m pretty sure my experience with being able to help plants grow will be a positive skill in establishing and nurturing the garden.

    Another great bonus of the Habitat Heroes initiative is we will be given 30 stocktube plants for free, so getting part of the design established will cost me nothing at all! However my design has more than 30 plants, so I will forking out just a little bit of money for the remaining plants.

    Cleaning Up and Getting Ready

    Before we get the plants and put them in the ground, the front yard needs a little bit of preparation.

    Aside from the obvious weeds that need a bit of treatment, there is a little bit of garden removal that needs to happen.

    We spent last weekend getting rid of the Native Broom tree that was in the back corner of the yard. While it is beautiful when it’s flowering, it was coming to the end of it’s life and was maybe a bit too big for the area I had planted it in. But on the plus side, we have trimmed down and are keeping the thicker wood from the tree. We will use them to provide shelter and sunbathing areas for any lizards that decide to make our yard home.

    I’ve left a small gallery of what our yard looks like now so that you can see the progress along the way. If you like the design of the yard, you are welcome to use it for your own design or use aspects of it to create a little native corner in your own garden.