Gardening is a very popular hobby in Australia, in fact for many it’s a lifelong passion that brings great rewards.
Like many pursuits, gardening is a lot easier when you have the right knowledge and tools.
Leaf and Stone offers our recommendations on the best gardening plants and tools so that you can make the most of your time in the garden. A wonderful website providing a vast amount of information provided by Timber Supplies Brisbane, which promoting organic and environmentally friendly ways of gardening.
Leaf and Stone has trees, shrubs, Australian natives, ornamentals and edibles. We also stock a huge range of organic products such as potting mixes, mulches and fertilizers.
Which plants for your garden?
Your garden is a mix of different species of plants which may include groundcovers, shrubs and trees. This range of plant species determines what other creatures also live and breed in your garden. If you have plant species that are eaten by insects, then birds, butterflies, lizards and frogs are likely to visit or live in your yard.
When a garden is predominantly lawn and exotic plants, then there is usually a lack of insect life in the garden as the plant matter is not eaten by our native insects because they have not evolved to eat these exotic plants. Insects are very important in the garden because they convert leaf matter into protein (their bodies) which, in turn, provides food for birds, lizards and frogs. A garden that is predominantly lawn and/or filled with exotic plants means that there is little food for our native wildlife to eat and breed successfully.
Plants, insects, protein and baby birds
The relationship between plant type and insect life in the garden is critical when it comes to birds. Most bird species, including fruit/nectar/seed-eaters, need an abundance of insect life to feed their young. Baby birds need plenty of protein to grow their bodies quickly and produce feathers. This protein is usually supplied by insects. If there is a low insect population, it means that birds are considerably less successful in reproduction, which ultimately means their population numbers diminish.
This also holds true for butterflies. If your garden is full of exotic plants, there is nowhere for most of our species of butterflies, and moths for that matter, to breed.
What to Plan?
Australia has a diverse range of climates and landscapes ranging from the tropical north through to the more alpine regions of the south. We also have parts of the country that are very wet and other parts that are quite dry. This means there is a large and diverse range of native plants that could potentially be used in a wildlife garden.
Native and indigenous plants
With this in mind, it helps to make a distinction between native and indigenous plants. The former is a very broad category representing plants that have evolved here on this continent, while the latter is a subset of the former – the native plants which naturally occur in a local area. For example, a snow gum is an Australian native plant, but it, not a plant indigenous to North Queensland’s tropical rainforest.
Native or indigenous?
There are debates about whether to plant out gardens with plants purely indigenous to a local area, or whether to take a broader approach and use any Australian native plant. The answer to this debate in relation to your garden is a personal one. In my garden, I have a mix of indigenous and native plants based on careful thought about each plant.
Choosing plant species checklist
Height of the plant
Selecting the right sized plant for a particular position is critical. There are places you can place tall trees and there are other places they would be unsuitable. For example, planting a 40m tree within a meter of your back deck would cause many problems in time.
Full sun, partial shade, full shade
Plants have growing conditions that they prefer. Some plants do well in full sun and poorly in full shade, while others burn up in the sun but thrive beneath the canopy of a tree. Placing a plant into a position that offers its preferred growing conditions will maximise the chances of the plant growing to maturity and looking attractive in your garden.
Some plants like really dry conditions and do poorly or die when they are constantly in wet soil. Other plants thrive in boggy soils.
Is the plant a potentially invasive weed?
Sweet pittosporum (Pittosporum undulatum) is an example of an invasive native species. It naturally occurs in wet forests in coastal areas between the Great Dividing Range and the sea from southern Victoria to southern Queensland. Its creamy white, sweetly-scented flowers and brightly coloured clusters of orange fleshy fruit are very attractive to birds! It has been promoted by the nursery industry and has now become a serious weed problem outside its natural range.
Check your plants out by doing a google search and finding out more about them.
Plant in layers
Plants live in communities with other plants. The more vertical layers there are in your garden, the more complex the vegetative structure and therefore the more habitat created for a wider array of insect, bird and animal life. So plan you garden to have at least a ground cover layer with leaf mulch and shrub layer. If you have a larger urban property, you could also consider some larger trees.