with Deryn Thorpe
Many Australian plants put on their most spectacular flowering in late winter – so now is the perfect time to visit nurseries to see which beauties take your fancy.
You will find spectacular varieties ranging from ground covers to small trees but check that plants suit your soil type and conditions before making the final selection.
One of the easiest ways to get plants that grow well is to choose those that are indigenous to your area. Plants that originated in your region have adapted to suit local conditions and are more likely to thrive.
These plants will also provide the most suitable food and habitat for local native wildlife so choose a range of groundcovers, shrubs and trees to provide seed and nectar for a range of insects, small mammals and birds.
All the plants listed below are suitable for Melbourne and its surrounds and the southern states of Australia. They are all drought tolerant once established but will need watering during extended dry periods. They will cope with temperatures from -1°C up to the low 40's°C for short periods once established.
One bullet proof shrub for all soil types is the olive leaf Grevillea (Grevillea olivacea) which has small spider-like flowers in red, yellow or apricot in late winter and spring. It grows from 2m-3m tall and wide and makes a fantastic hedge, screening plant or windbreak for difficult sites. It needs watering during late winter-spring for good flowering and must have slow release low phosphorus fertilizer.
For a cottage garden look the aniseed Boronia (Boronia crenulata) is a pretty plant that grows to 1m tall and wide and has strongly scented foliage and pretty pink star-like flowers. It is one of the easiest Boronias to grow and suits all soil types but soil must drain freely. Trim regularly throughout the year and provide some afternoon shade.
Native wisteria or Hardenbergia is one of Australia's most beloved flowering climbers. There are many named cultivars including shrub forms and varieties with spectacular pea-like racemes of purple, pink and white flowers.
All plants, including local area natives, benefit from good soil preparation.
Improve heavy clay soils with gypsum and organic matter. Add clay and organic matter to sandy soils. Apply a wetting agent and water it in well.
Mix extra compost or soil improver into the planting hole.
After planting firm soil around the plants with your hands and provide a handful of controlled release fertiliser. Only plants in the proteaceae family (including Grevillea, Banksia and Hakea) need specialised native plant fertiliser.
Apply a thick 7cm layer of free draining mulch like wood chips to conserve moisture and deter weeds.
Keep bark away from the plant stems and water plants in with a seaweed tonic to stimulate root growth.
Most native plants benefit from frequent light trimming to keep them compact.
Heavy pruning is needed by some species and should be done after flowering.