Australian Plants

  • A main feature of our front yard design will be a hedge that meanders it’s way across the front yard. We live on the main road that enters our estate, so we wanted not only something that could reduce the noise of the constant traffic, but also some privacy from the passers by.

    Surprisingly there are lots of native Australian plants that can be used for a hedge. Most people perceive Australian plants as being quite rugged and unable to coax into shape, but the same pruning techniques used to shape traditional hedging plants can also be used on Australian natives. Provided you have the patience to keep on top of the pruning, you can shape any native plant to fit into a formal or informal garden style.

    The plant we are using for our hedge is the Dodonaea Viscosa (supp Cuneata), or Wedge-leaved Hop Bush, and is indigenous to our area. Most articles on the internet mention the Hop Bush makes for a very effective informal hedge as well as a habitat plant. The Hop Bush is an open, evergreen shrub that grows between 1 – 3 meters high and about 1.5 meters wide. The majority of the examples I’ve seen in this area grow to about 2 meters.

    I see this plant used a lot in council landscaping and I get the feeling it’s a trusty work horse for the environment. One of the walking paths I frequently use on my morning walks has a row of them planted a couple of years ago. So it’s great to have been able to watch how the stock tube plants mature.

    I have also seen a purple version of the Hop Bush growing in front yards. Whilst the purple colour is very pretty, unfortunately it’s a New Zealand plant and not native to Australia – despite what is signposted at your local Bunnings!

    The Hop Bush flowers in spring with coloured fruit. The color can be anywhere from a deep red, through to oranges and yellows. The bush is really pretty when you stand back and I think it will look amazing in our front yard.

    Apparently the fruits were used to brew beer by the early European Australians, hence the shrub is called a Hop Bush. Maybe there is a side business for me – ‘Western Plains Beer’ perhaps?!

  • The Acacia Paradoxa – Native Bird Habitat Shrub

    One of the plants included in our front yard landscape redesign is the Acacia Paradoxa, otherwise known as the Hedge Wattle or Kangaroo Thorn. This plant will be planted on the ‘house’ side of the Hopbush hedge, and will act as a food source for moths, butterflies, insects, parrots and pigeons, as well as a nesting refuge for small birds, such as the Blue Fairy Wrens and Thornbills.

    I see this plant every day on my walk around the local lake. It’s used quite often in new parks and revegation projects around this area, so it’s likely you’ll have seen it. At first I thought it looked scraggly and unattractive, but it’s grown on me over the last few months. Each time I see it and take a closer look, it reveals more of it’s features that I know will work well in the front yard for our bird habitat.

    The Paradoxa is not a naturally attractive plant when compared to other native plants, and I will place an educated bet on you having never given it a second look! From a distance it’s an untidy looking shrub, that grows to about 2 meters tall and wide. The shrub has small sticky-looking leaves that grow close to the branch, and there are thorns on either side (which accounts for the ‘Thorn’ part in it’s nickname). Like most Acacias, the Paradoxa flowers in Spring with small little, yellow balls. The prolific flowering is a lovely reminder that the cold winder months are over and it’s time to get outside and enjoy the sunshine!

    The thorny nature of the Paradoxa gives it a weed-like appearance, and people do often mistake the Paradoxa for the introduced African Boxthorn (which is a classified noxious weed). It got grouped with the boxthorn because the Paradoxa easily establishes itself from seed in disturbed sites. But unlike the African Boxthorn, Paradoxa will natually thin itself out over time as other plants establish themselves around it.

    As you can imagine, the Paradoxa is a perfect plant for the small birds to shelter and nest in. I can’t see too many cats or Myna birds being determined enough to get through all those spikes when there might be an easier target elsewhere.

    From my reading it’s recommended to prune the bush lightly after flowering (apparently it does not like hard pruning) to keep the bush healthy and give it a denser and compact habit. Looks like I’m going to need to invest in some thick gardening gloves to deal with all those thorns!

    I’m really interested to see if I can prune the Paradoxa into a pleasing shape. The examples I see on my morning walks have just been left to their own accord and look messy. But that said, I really like the architectural nature of the shrub and think it could add a strong structural element in the front yard.

    And of course I’m hoping it will become home to a lucky family of Wrens, or other small birds!

  • 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.