Hardy gems unearthed

Hardy gems unearthed | Fiona's Garden

Life & Style
Pink flowering Crowea exalata, Lomandra Tanika and Carex buchananii, and self-seeding, bright magenta rose campion create a low maintenance planting. Stachys byzantina is in the foreground.

Pink flowering Crowea exalata, Lomandra Tanika and Carex buchananii, and self-seeding, bright magenta rose campion create a low maintenance planting. Stachys byzantina is in the foreground.

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Native plants aren't necessarily better adapted than exotics to an Australian garden, it depends on where they occur in nature.

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IN LAST week's column, I described how the summer of 2018/19 had provoked me into changing the garden in an attempt to make it more sustainable.

This week it's time to describe the plants, starting with the reduced lawn.

Turf is Desert Lawn Blend (www.ausweststephenseeds.com.au/) a fescue blend that as I write is still green.

Ironically, having made the garden more drought-hardy, we're well into one of our wettest summers ever.

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To emphasize the difference between the "cultivated" lawn and my "paddock" beds we installed a rusty-look steel edging (non-gal).

I love the look, though it was hard getting the curves right.

Also, its permanent nature didn't occur to me until too late.

Once you've buried a metal lawn edging you're not likely to replace it, but Bill is happy as it makes mowing easier.

I stared a lot at the shapes of the newly introduced rocks and the spaces between while I thought about plants.

I wanted new plants as well as old faves and I needed a plan - there's always a zillion plants to choose from - so I made a few rules:

  • Plenty of low-growing plants - I wanted to see the rocks
  • A balance of shapes: flat ground covers; spikey plants including grasses; mounds (clipped if necessary)
  • Interesting front row plants

I was keen to get the right shapes in place before embarking on flowers but I did have a few floral plans.

These included self-sowing annuals that I could keep or discard as the garden grew, and plants with airy stems and small flowers like gaura, purple-top verbena (V. bonariensis), and Billy Buttons (Craspedia globosa).

Regardless of whether native or non-native, everything had to be frost, drought and sun tolerant.

Native plants aren't necessarily better adapted than exotics to an Australian garden, it depends on where they occur in nature.

I started by placing the clumps of sedums and salvias that I'd saved from last summer, as once they were in I had a clearer idea of where I was heading.

Next, I planted shrubs to make mounds.

Favourites so far are Westringia 'Grey Box' and 'Jervis Gem', Correa alba 'Mighty Tuff' (grey leaves, good shape), C. pulchella 'Ring a Ding Ding' (sprawling, vigorous), Crowea exalata, gorgeous, continually in flower, Santolina pinnata, a pretty, pale green cotton lavender, silvery Artemisia 'Powys Castle' and lastly, several versions of Salvia nemorosa, an invaluable low salvia with upright lavender, mauve and rose-purple flowers.

Liriope muscari 'Evergreen Giant' and 'Amethyst' have glossy, strappy leaves and spikes of lavender flowers through summer.

Finally, grasses.

The outstanding performer has been Lomandra 'Tanika', a beautiful fountain shape, with similarly shaped, bronze Carex buchananii a close second.

I also love the blue-green, upright Lomandra 'Frosty Tops'.

I'm looking on this initial planting as an experiment that I can change as I go along.

I know there'll be failures but I don't mind, the journey is so exciting.

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