Xanthorrhoea is a icon of the Australian bush and the Australian coastal garden.
Whether you are designing a small garden, a medium sized garden or a large garden, the Australian Grass tree or Xanthorrhoea is a great choice. For a small garden, it is a great focal point with its dark charcoal coloured truck its green leaves and its beige cream coloured flowers. The impact can be even greater when lite with some well designed garden lighting.
How much do grass trees grow per year?
For small gardens slow growing plants like these are ideal. With a growth rate of around 25mm per year, it is will take a long time to outgrow any garden. In larger gardens, the irregular shaped trunk and profuse leaves can be used to soften any sharpe edges in your design. It is estimated that the Xanthorrhoea will live to around 400 years. It is also a great pot plant, but should be repotted at least every 50 years or so. To create an interesting contrast, consider planting some orange, red or pink Anigozanthos ‘Bush Pearl’ kangaroo paws nearby. Kangaroo paws also thrive in similar growing conditions.
How may species of Xanthorrhoea are there?
It will surprise many people to learn that there are around 30 species and these are only found in Australia. As with most plants, it is important to understand its natural habitat to recreate ideal growing conditions.
How do you take care of a grass tree?
In our blog on orchids and vertical gardens we mentioned the symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi helps plants to survive nutrient poor conditions. This means that if you take care of the mycorrhizal fungi, you take care of the host plant. To boost mycorrhizal fungi try diluting 1/2 cup of brown sugar in 5 litres of water. Apply this solution every month.
How did Xanthorrhoea get its name?
Every year of its growth, the Xanthorrhoea species produces a ring of leaves around the trunk. At the base of the leaves are resin secreting glands. It is this resin that gives the plant its name. The name Xanthorrhoea comes from the ancient Greek – Xanthos meaning yellow and rhoia meaning flowing. This resin binds the leaf bases together in a bundle. The glued bundle of leaves forms an effective insulator that restricts air circulation and combustion of the trunk. The resin was used as a glue by the original inhabitants of Australia for making tools and spears. Even if the trunk is destroyed by fire, plants can regenerate from root or stem buds.
Types of Xanthorrhoea
Some species of Xanthorrhoea have been know to reach 6 metres whilst some others like Xanthorrhoea gracilis, have a branched trunk. Some species. like the swamp grass tree Xanthorrhoea fulva have no truck at all.
In Queensland and northern NSW a common and widespread species of is the Xanthorrhoeajohnsonii. The nectar rich flower spikes attract birds, bees and butterflies.
This compact species with no trunk is great for any sized garden and is more tolerant of heavier soils. Like the other species, it it a great way to attract wildlife to your garden.
Do grass trees need to be burnt?
Xanthorrhoeas have adapted over the years to not only endure bushfires, but to thrive on them. Grass trees have evolved to induce flowering after bushfires as this is the optimal time for offspring to germinate. With little to no competition around and with ash present in the soil, the grass tree germination strike rate is greatly improved. It has been said that some people even do controlled burns on their grass trees using chicken wire, news paper. It is believed by many that this artificial simulation of a bushfire can Induce the plant to flower or stimulate new foliage and root growth after transplanting.
Choosing and caring for your Xanthorrhoea.
It is very important to only buy your Xanthorrhoea from a reputable garden nursery. Grass trees are often a harvested plant. This means that they are usually removed from land and re-potted for sale. They have a Xanthorrhoea Glauca hybrid which is entirely pot grown. It is important to note that it is illegal to remove plants from the bush in Queensland without a permit.
As great care is required in this process to ensure the mycorrhizal fungi is maintained in good contact with the root system in the potting process, a reputable supplier should alway be used. When planting your Xanthorrhoea ensure you keep as much soil as possible around the roots. These plants prefer sandy well drained soil and full sun. If you have a heavy clay soil, dig out an area equivalent to around 2-3 times the pot diameter and replace the soil with a sandy loam soil. Building up the level of the garden or adding extra sub soil drainage will help.
Orchids are a great plant for landscape design and have many practical uses.
For the creation of vertical gardens, the use of epiphytic species from the Orchid and Bromeliads families are a beautiful and practical solution. If you are living in a Melbourne townhouse with a small garden, vertical gardens or green walls to hide a fences, an unsightly pillar or even a tree truck will add beauty and value to your home and help create the illusion of space. Recent studies have shown plants in green walls to be effective in reducing harmful nitrogen dioxide and particulate pollution in outdoor urban areas. If you are designing a landscape garden for a swimming pool a green wall, or vertical garden, might be a great way to hide the pool pump and filter and reduce noise transmission from the pump at the same time. The noise attenuation abilities of green walls could also be of benefit if you are looking to reduce the noise transmission from your neighbours or tyre and traffic noise from a nearby road. A solid wall covered in plants, placed as close as possible to the noise source will create an effective noise barrier. Where the green wall can be used to great effect for noise reduction is where there is a solid flat structure like a concrete tilt up fence or a high straight garden retaining wall. In these cases the green walls or vertical gardens can greatly reduce the echo as well has beautify.
These plants are also great as indoor plants and also have terrestrial or soil based species for your outdoor garden. Indoor plants have been shown to improve air quality by trapping and capturing pollutants. This could also be the case with narrow outdoor spaces with vertical gardens.
Orchids – Species and varieties
With more than 28,000 species and nearly 1,000 genera, the orchid family must be one of the most prolific as well as the most widely spread flowers in the world. Well known for growing in the wet tropics, these colourful and fragrant plants have also colonised the tropics, sub tropic and temperate climates. Some species have even been discovered in the deserts as well as north of the arctic circle. So prolific is the Orchidaceae, as the orchid family is known, that new species are being discovered on a regular basis. Orchidaceae is a member of Asparagales, meaning that it is related to both the asparagus and another beautiful showy flower, the iris.
The name orchid comes to us via the Latin orchis from the Greek ὄρχις (orkhis) meaning testicle. This name is based on the shape of the root tuber in some species.The name avocado has a similar sense.
Terrestrial or epiphytic plants
A plant that depends on the physical support of another plant or structure is known as an epiphyte. This includes some species of ferns, many bromeliads as well some of the orchid species. For these plants, nutrients often come from rain water and debris. Recent research shows that far from being harmful to the tree, there are benefits for the host tree as well. To survive on such slim pickings, the orchid makes use of a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi on the root system. These fungi effectively extend the root area of plants but can be disrupted by the use of the wrong fertilisers.
The ability to pull nutrients from thin air, and the fact that heavy soils or growing media are not required, make epiphytic plants ideal for the creation of vertical gardens. Whilst the majority of the tropical orchid species are epiphytes; nearly all the orchids in the temperate zones, however, are terrestrial.
Growing media for epiphytic plants in vertical gardens
For a medium to cradle the epiphytic root systems in vertical gardens, sphagnum moss is ideal. Moisten the moss and pack it against the branch. Use a bit of coconut coir around the moss to keep it contained and help retain the moisture. The coir can then be attached to the branch with hot melt glue, fishing line, twine or garden tie wire. Cut a slit in the coir and insert your plant and pack it with some extra moss. The coir can then be covered with mosses or lichens. A coir liner for a hanging basket makes a good pouch you can staple to a tree branch then fill with sphagnum moss and your orchid. Add some slits to allow the roots to grow out. Don’t be too worried if some of the root system is exposed to dappled sunlight. There is even a species of orchid that has given away using leaves for photosynthesis. The endangered Dendrophylax lindenii (Ghost Orchid) of the American everglades photosynthesizes with its roots and needs to be grown with the roots exposed.
For added impact, consider the use of Garden Lighting to highlight the colours in the evening.
Terrestrial Orchids for indoors.
Cymbidium orchid is a house plant that requires distinctive temperature changes between day and night to flower well.
Slipper orchids or Paphiopedilums have slipper shaped pouches to help pollination. The pollinating insect gets trapped inside the pouch. To be released the insect needs to rub against the anther. The insect then takes this pollen to the stigma of the next slipper orchid thus pollinating it. For pollinating insects there is no such thing as a free lunch.
For horticultural uses, the Vanda genus is the one most often used in the flower industry. These colourful orchids, from the family Orchidaceae, consist of about 45 species distributed from East Asia to Australia. Twelve of these species grow in Thailand. Most species have long, sturdy stems that bear closely spaced, strap-shaped leaves. By crossing species within the genus, many attractive hybrids have been developed. Some other hybrid species have been developed by crossing the Vanda species with species of other orchid genera. Colours include blood red, hot pink, blue, purple, or mottled.
Vanda flowers have spectacular colours and patterns with particularly large blooms. They are usually flat with have a short spur on the lip. The colours and patterns seen on many orchid flowers can be explained by the way pollinators are attracted to the flowers. Flowers pollinated by bees open during the day and usually have pleasant odours, bright colours a landing platform, nectar guides, (coloured lines running into the depths of the flower), as well as concealed nectaries. The basal portions of the orchid lip are usually formed into a tunnel with the column constituting its upper side. The bee enters the tunnel to get at the nectary, and as the bee backs out some of the stigmatic fluid may be rubbed on its back and carried with the bee to the next flower.
Orchids in Agriculture
One tropical climbing orchid was used by the Aztecs to flavor their chocolate beverage (xocoatl or chocolate). Later Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés was to bring this flavor of this drink to Europe. The ingredients the Aztecs used were ground corn, cacao beans, honey and vanilla pods from the Vanilla planifolia a tropical climbing orchid. Vanilla is now commercially grown in Indonesia, the West Indies, Seychelles, and Puerto Rico. Madagascar, Mexico, French Polynesia, Réunion, and in Dominica. In the early days of the industry, little was known about how the plant was pollinated leading to very poor yields when plants were grown outside of Mexico. It was later discovered that the plant required a small Mexican bee called the Melipona bee for pollination. Interestingly, this species can also be pollinated by hummingbirds. Another vanilla species, the Tahiti vanilla, (Vanilla tahitensis) is native to Oceania.
Vanilla planifolia, orchid flower.
Australian Native Orchids
With 6 new species of Drakea hammer orchids recently discovered in southern Western Australia, it is a little difficult to keep count of the exact number of orchids.
Sun Orchids are found throughout Australia as well as Indonesia, New Guinea, New Caledonia and the Philippines. Of the approximately 130 species more than 110 occur in Australia. Sun Orchids belong to the genus Thelymitra, and family Orchidaceae. The name sun orchid comes from the tendency of the flowers to only open up when exposed to strong sun light. In fact, the flowers of some self pollinating species do not open at all. The flowers have earlike appendages and the hooded column which give the genus its name of Thelymitra meaning woman’s hood in ancient Greek. In New South Wales Thelymitra ixioides is one of the most common species of Thelymitra. It can be seen growing along roadsides in NSW and southern Queensland. Despite the worldwide success of orchids, many Australian species are listed as vunerable, threatened or endangered. It is estimated that 17% of Australia’s orchids are in this category. As with the endangered Ghost orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii) of the Florida everglades, preservation of habitats and pollinators world wide is vital for wild orchids. Pterostylis tenuissima the Swamp Greenhood or Dainty Swamp Orchid is listed as vunerable and it depends upon its habitat of swamp land being protected. McIvor Spider-orchid, also known as the Audas Spider-orchid Caladenia audasii has less than 8 plants remaining in the wild.
Garden maintenance. Care of your orchids. How to plant orchids
The key to looking after your orchid is to know its original habitat and create a similar growing environment. Whilst growing some orchids can be a challenge, knowing the orchids natural habitat and recreating similar levels of light, water, temperature and growing media will help. Epiphytic orchids will not grow in soil or even potting mix. These plants require a course growing compost containing bark or sphagnum moss. Only ever use specific orchid fertilisers in the correct quantities to help maintain the health of your orchid and protect the Orchid mycorrhizas fungi. When the individual flowers droop and turn brown, carefully remove them from the flower spike. When all of the flowers from the spike are gone, cut the spike off around 30mm from the base. Once established the maintenance needs of your orchids are fairly low. Take care not to over water or over fertilise.
Bromeliads in vertical gardens.
As with the orchids, Bromelaids are either terrestrial (soil based) or epiphytic (tree based). These spectacular flowering plants number around 2600 species with nearly all of these originating in the tropics of the Americas.
Bromeliad flowers often have coloured bracts below a long spike bearing flowers with brightly contrasting sepals and petals. One species of terrestrial bromeliad is much loved by Australians and Queensland in particular. The sunshine coast of Queensland has even erected a shrine to it. The Ananas comosus or pineapple is native to tropical and subtropical America. Portuguese explorers are credited with the spread of the pineapple as an agricultural crop. It was so successful that by the start of the 1800s, it was being cultivated in most tropical areas of the world even on some remote islands of the South Pacific.
The arrangement of leaves on bromeliads including pineapples resemble that of succulents and particularly yuccas. The texture of the fruit also closely resembles pinecones giving the pineapple its name. Why would plants that are not closely related have such strong resemblance. The answer to this question comes from the field of mathematics.
Bromeliads, Pine Cones, sunflowers and other patterns in nature.
Around 1175 in Pisa Italy a boy named Leonardo was born. As his father was a customs officer, he travelled extensively around the Mediterranean and was well educated by Moorish teachers. This time in history, at the dawn of the renaissance, was when science and mathematics in particular was more advanced in the Arabic world. Leonardo of Pisa, or Fibonacci as he is better known, introduced calculation using the Hindu – Arabic numbers to the merchants of Europe thus making trade calculations much easier. Fibonacci developed his well-known sequence whilst theorizing over the maximum number of offspring a pair of rabbits could produce. As it turned out, the Fibonacci series had other application in nature that Fibonacci would not have known. It was not until the 19th century it was discovered that the Fibonacci series, where each number is the sum of the previous two, had applications in the study of botany.
So why would the plant world follow the mathematic sequence described by Fibonacci? Plants have evolved over millions of years of genetic mutation to where small advantages aid the survival of the species. For leaves this might mean capturing a little extra sunlight or rainfall. For seeds and insect hives, it means packing as much in as efficiently as possible. The result is the patterns and placements in a Fibonacci series or counter rotating spirals following the Fibonacci sequence.
For your vertical garden epiphyte plants that grow naturally on tree branches are the ideal solution. Requiring no topsoil or potting mix, the garden can be very lightweight. This is a very important consideration for some fence structures. Most often a fence will be designed and constructed without an allowance for the extra weight of potting soils. The other advantage is the epiphytes ability to capture moisture from light rainfall. In the humidity of the Gold Coast the vertical garden might only require an occasional very light spray. For the structure of vertical gardens consider using wooden trellis or lattice, recycled timber, driftwood of even recycled pallets. Some other plants to consider would be succulents, Hoya carnosa or Hoya lanceolata and philodendrons. If your vertical garden is close to your kitchen it is a great place to plant a few herbs to cook with. Many palm trees with their fibrous trunks also make ideal places to start a small vertical garden. Do not attempt this on varieties of palm trees like the canary island palm as these may be vulnerable to fungal diseases or weevils.
Contact us – Vertical garden installation service in Melbourne
For help with the design and development or your landscaping ideas, contact one of our experienced Landscape Gardeners. We can help with small garden design all the way up to Commercial Landscape design. Our specialities include fast growing screening plants, plant health and horticulture, garden lighting and outdoor pool landscaping ideas.
Melbourne International Flower Garden Show is a great place to develop your landscape garden design ideas. If you are not in Melbourne, see if you can get to one of the annual garden shows around the country or around the world. One of the biggest shows in the Southern Hemisphere is the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show at the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens just north got the Melbourne CBD. Here you can see the work of some of the best landscape designers in Melbourne. This five day annual event runs until late March so if you have missed it this year, we have brought you some photos. Depending which climate you are designing a garden for, your plant selection may be different.
Melbourne Edible Gardens
This year’s show featured edible gardens, workshops with local industry experts, floral art displays, garden competitions and landscape gardens. For landscaper designers it is also a great opportunity to talk with exhibitors and suppliers of everything from garden tools to sculptures and garden accessories.
The Welcome Landscape Garden
For the first time ever, this year’s show featured a welcome landscape garden. This garden designed by last year’s winner Best in Show award winner Phillip Withers creative director of Phillip Withers Landscape Design. “Flourishing with a full spectrum of green hues, the biodiverse habitat is a place for visitors to relax and recline.“
One of the challenges for landscape designers is developing ideas for garden focal points. Once the focal point of a garden design is established the rest of the garden design more or less falls into place. Shows like these are ideal for helping to exploring ideas for garden design. Landscaping solutions from some of Australia’s best landscape garden designers are on display at one location.
Garden Shows – A great source of Landscape Design Ideas and latest trends.
Garden shows like the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show, Brisbane International Garden Show and the recent Brisbane Garden and Plant Expo are favourites with hobby gardeners, professional landscapers, horticulture students as well as members of the plant nursery industry.
Over 75,000 people have visited over 150 gardens to admire and get garden design ideas through Open Gardens Victoria
Related Landscaping Ideas from Red’s Landscaping and Civil
Palm trees form a quintessential part of the Melbourne Landscape.
Palm trees such as the Canary Island Date Palms (Phoenix canariensis) were amongst the earliest landscape garden plantings in Melbourne seaside parks. These, along with other varieties are often used to create a feature or a focal point in Melbourne Gardens. The climate of the Melbourne can make many plants susceptible to fungal diseases. This is also true with Phoenix canariensis. As with most plants, pruning will help to improve the airflow around the plant and reduce the chances of a fungal disease like Fusarium oxysporum. This is the fungus which causes fusarium wilt in Phoenix canariensis.
The famous floral clock at Melbourne Botanical Gardens with sweeping lawns and Canary Island Palms (Phoenix canariensis). A great place to go for Garden Design ideas.
Tall Palm Trees in the O’Donnell Gardens St Kilda near Melbourne’s Luna Park.
Sandringham Band Rotunda behind a Canary island palm near Sandringham Lifesaving club. A hardy plant for coastal gardens. Native grasses are good plants to grow beneath these trees.
A large palm providing shade near Sandringham Lifesaving Club.
When pruning, it is also important to sterilise the pruning tools to avoid spreading diseases between plants. Many fungus spores will survive in the soil, so it is important not to use any soils which may have been contaminated. The Centennial Park in Sydney has seen the destructive impact of the Fusarium wilt on the Canary Island date palms on the Avenue of Nations. As with the Irish potato blight, having all of the plants in an area from the same genetic stock can be a problem when diseases start to spread. If planting new trees make sure you choose disease free stock from a reputable plant supplier.
Macarthur street near Gordon Reserve East Melbourne. Palm trees opposite the entrance to Parliament Station Melbourne.
Frankston Park near Port Phillip Bay. Canary Island palm. Frankston is a southern suburb of Melbourne.
Pruning Palm Trees
Palm Tree Cleaning Melbourne
When pruning these trees it is important to use sharp, sterile and well maintained tools. Heavy gloves and safety glasses need to be worn, as the palm fronds have sharp spikes which can cause a nasty wound or infection. Make sure your ladder is well secured. as even professional tree pruners find this job difficult. Wait until the frond is completely brown before trimming it.
Palm tree diseases prevented by pruning.
Some other problems to look for in your palm tree include the sugar cane weevil borer and the palm weevil borer. Do not use sugar cane mulch or bagasse near your trees as the female sugar cane weevil is attracted to it. Trees should be mulched with a top quality mulch that contains no palm or sugar cane material. The dead fronds as seen in the picture above, create a shelter for the adult beetles to hide under during daylight. For this reason, it is important to remove these fronds and dispose of them correctly.
Garden maintenance for your Melbourne Palm trees.
As with most plants, healthy growth will protect against diseases. Give your palms a good feed with a fertiliser like Neutrog Seamungus that contains nitrogen as well as trace elements like zinc. With a dripper irrigation system and some good rainfall your plants will remain healthy and disease free.
Tree pruning tools.
When tree pruning, it is important to make sure your chain saw and pruning saws are sharp and well sterilised. This will help prevent palm tree diseases moving from plant to plant. A 50/50 mixture of bleach and water or some methylated spirits will help sterilise your pruning saw.
Weevil and borer damage to trees.
Keeping the fronds neatly trimmed will remove a hiding place for pest. Insecticide and fungicide is applied at the same time to prevent disease. It looks like the help came to late to help the tree below.
Generally, many palm species create a lot of maintenance work, especially when they are planted near a pool. For this reason, we generally recommend other plants for poolside locations with better screening ability and lower maintenance. At our recent swimming pool landscape project in Ashmore we replaced many of the high maintenance palms with low maintenance screening plants.
The biggest mistake I see in garden design is people using palms to create privacy. A palm should never be used as a screening plant, the bottoms are full of dead fronds, they are messy and tacky. Hedging plants such as a Syzygium smithii ‘resilience’ or Murraya paniculata works as far better screen around pool and window areas. Hedges create less mess, are less maintenance and create a far cleaner look. A palm maintained to its true glory should be used as a feature. It should be lifted allowing light and fresh air in, it should show off its beautiful trunk and preserve only the lush green foliage at top. The same can be said of the banana like plants such as strelitzia nicolai.
Some interesting facts about Palms
Palms are members of the family Arecaceae which is also known as Palmae. Amongst the monocots, Arecaceae have one of the longest fossil records, once thought to extend more than 80 million years ago to the Late Cretaceous Period. Recent research by Dr Bill Baker of the Royal botanical Gardens Kew shows that diversification of extant lineages of palms started about 100 million years ago, during the mid-Cretaceous period. These plant were really around with the dinosaurs. As such an ancient family they give us an insight into the evolution of the rainforest. The Arecaceae are a distinctive and structurally diverse monocot groups. Palms also have collateral, rather than compound, vascular bundles in their stems and silica bodies that are borne in specialized cells (stegmata) throughout. Vessels, often with simple perforation plates, are found in roots, stems, and leaves.
(“Arecales.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Deluxe Edition. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2010.)
Related Landscaping Information from Red’s Landscaping and Civil
For help with the design and development or your landscaping ideas, contact one of our experienced Landscape Gardeners. We can help with small garden design all the way up to Commercial Landscape design. Our specialities include fast growing screening plants, plant health and horticulture, garden lighting and outdoor pool landscaping ideas.
By Callum O’Brien – The Melbourne Landscaper Blog
For more information on the Canary Island Date Palm
A Small garden can be a design challenge for even experienced landscape designers. If you are living in a Melbourne townhouse with a small backyard, and you might be thinking about what can be achieved in such a small space. Designing a garden for a small space in your Melbourne front yard or backyard can present some unique problems for the home gardener. Not least amongst these problems can be the lack of direct sunlight. Some similar design philosophies to large garden design can be followed, but there is more to it than just scaling everything down.
A fountain as a small garden focal point
A Fountain is a great focal point for a small inner city garden. The trickle of the water helps to disguise any traffic noises. The flow of the water catches the eye and has a calming effect. A fountain like this one produces even more calming background noise. It is also a great way for birds and other wildlife to get a drink after a day under the hot Melbourne sun.
Small Garden Focal Points
As with large gardens the logical first step with your tiny garden is to decide on the focal point or focal points of your garden. This can be a small tree in a pot or in the ground, a piece of sculpture , a small water feature or even a rock. A great focal point for the compact garden is a xanthorrhoea johnsonii. Once the focal point is decided upon, it can be made to stand out by some clearing around it and with some garden illumination.
A Path for a small garden
A path leading to the focal point will draw your eye to the feature. If your house has nearby windows, try to place the focal point where it can be seen out of the window. Consider how your garden will look from other vistas as well. Think about the views from other windows and any pathways. Less desirable views can be screened out with hedging plants or screening plants creating the illusion of depth. Walls and fences can be made more attractive with an espalier fruit tree screen or a vertical garden. If you have a views of nearby trees or parkland, work with these views to enhance the view from your own garden.
Small Garden Plant Selection
Select plants that attract native birds and other native fauna into your garden. This will certainly add to the interest in your garden. Aim to create contrast and balance in your plantings making use of foliage textures and colours but avoid having too many different plants or themes. By repeating shapes colours and shapes your garden you will develop a central theme. Choose species and varieties that are low maintenance and do not grow too large.
Garden Layering for a small garden
Starting with your focal point or tallest shrub use the design concept of layering to plan out your garden plantings. Proper layering will ensure each plant in the layering scheme has adequate light and add to the illusion of depth. If you are planning a garden against a hedge or a boundary, place the taller plants at the back. Unless you are building a hedge, use trees and shrubs of varying height in the back row. This way you will create a much more interesting garden that takes your eye along different levels.
Plants to consider for the garden focal point include magnolia grandiflora ‘teddy bear’ and magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’ and the crepe myrtle. These can either be planted in a large pot, with colourful annuals, or in the ground.
Low maintenance small gardens
For the bottom layer of your tiered garden, a ground cover like creeping boobialla is an excellent choice for attracting birds and suppressing weeds.
It is often the case with the small garden that regular maintenance tasks like mowing and edging the lawn become a real difficulty. Two native sustainable alternatives to lawn grasses are Dichondra repens and the Native Violet Viola hederacea. This will save a lot of effort getting the lawn mower out as neither of these require regular mowing.
Other plants to consider for the bottom layer include Lomandra hystrix , Lomandra longifolia and Lomandra seascape. These hardy grass like plants are well suited to Melbourne. Their tolerance of coastal sea breezes and their ability to tolerate full sun and part shade as well as a variety of soils. The species of lomandra with the blue green foliage, Lomandra Seascape, will create an interesting colour contrast in your garden.
Native grasses with Blue Green Foliage like this Lomandra Seascape are ideal for event tiny gardens.
For the levels or layers in-between consider using Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta), if you have enough room. It will grow in part shade or full sun and will tolerate some salt spray if you are right on the coast. Although it can eventually get to two metres tall it is very slow growing. Growing it in a pot will limit its height.
Another choice for the small garden is the Coastal or Native Rosemary (Westringia fruticosa). This plant is native to the sandy and coastal areas of NSW even growing down to beach level. This versatile plant can be either be grown as a tree, as a hedge, or even as a prostrate ground cover plant. For best results trim it regularly to achieve the shape you want. Other species that should be considered is the melaleuca, and the banksia robur.
Westringia fruticosa or native rosemary is an ideal plant for the Melbourne garden. Plants with fine leaves make your garden appear larger.
Add a splash of Colour in the small garden
Now you have planned your garden focal point, and vistas and various layers, it is time to add a few extra splashes of colour. This can done with annuals in pots or by planting plants like the Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae). This plant is tolerant of partial shade and it can also cope with the wind, salt and sandy soils of the Melbourne. Its stunningly beautiful orange and blue flowers will stand out against the layered foliage backdrop you have created behind.
One trick for the small garden is to pick a colour theme from inside the home and carry this them out into the garden. This can also be part of the colour scheme for climbing plants on a pergola or fence. The same can be applied to potted plants under the verandah or near the door.
Window Boxes and Hanging Baskets.
Additional colour can be added to your garden with window boxes and hanging baskets. These use very little space and can be used on balconies and patios.
A Pergola and garden Path to create vertical interest in your Melbourne Small Garden.
If you still have room in your garden, a structure like a pergola could be considered and another trick you can use is to to create curved garden pathways using a light coloured gravel or stone path. Using light coloured paving or fine gravels along with fine leaf plants in your garden will help to create the illusion of extra space.
More home garden landscape gardening ideas from Red’s Landscaping.
The melaleuca is a genus of flowering evergreen Australian native shrubs and trees. It is a member of the myrtle family, Myrtaceae.
What soil does the Melaleuca prefer?
Melaleucas generally prefer well drained friable soil and full sun.
What are the other names for Melaleuca?
The smaller varieties have been known as honey myrtles, tee trees, ( including tea trees or ti trees) or bottlebrush. The Larger species are also known as paperbarks.
Is the name Melaleuca Greek?
The name Melaleuca comes from two Greek words. In Greek melas means black, similar to the word melatonin. In Greek leukos mean white and comes from the proto Indo-European work leuk meaning light or brightness. It is related to the medical term leukaemia. It is not really known with absolute certainty how the melaleuca got this name. Perhaps the first ones seen had been affected by a bush fire that turned the trunks black. The white could be from new branch growth or even from white flowers. Some species have white trunks.
Which Melaleuca variety is used to make tea tree oil?
Melaleuca alternifolia, also known as the narrow-leaved paperbark or narrow-leaved tea-tree is grown commercially for the production of tea tree oil. This species is native to South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales.
What is tea tree oil used for?
Historically tea tree oil has been mainly used for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also now known for its anti fungal properties. It has been said that Captain Cook learnt about the medicinal properties on the Melaleuca from the indigenous inhabitants of New South Wales, who had probably been using it for tens of thousands of years. It wasn’t until the 1920s that western medicine discovered that tea-tree oil was much stronger than the commonly used antiseptic at the time (carbolic acid) and caused much less irritation. With the invention of modern antibiotics during Work War 2, tea-tree oil declined in usage. I
What varieties of Melaleuca can be grown as Garden Plants?
There are quite a few varieties of Melaleuca that can be grown as garden plants in Australia. One important note is when selecting plants, make sure they are in good health and free from rust or scale. Check for the presence of powdery bright yellow or orange-yellow spores on the leaves or stems. These are indicators of myrtle rust. Melaleucas are suitable for both home landscaping and commercial landscaping.
Melaleuca Armillaris Bracelet Honey Myrtle
Rounded shrub or Small tree which grows 3 to 6 metres tall and 1.2 to 3 metres in diameter. It has fine needle like grey-green to deep green leaves. In spring and summer it produces dense clusters of cream bottle-brush style flowers that will attract birds.Tolerant of most well-drained soils and situations, including moderate frosts and extended dry periods and temporary water logging. The Fast growing plants respond well to pruning and can be grown as a fast growing hedge or screen. A note of caution, as this variety has the potential to spread rapidly. Melaleuca thymifolia is probably a better choice for your Melbourne garden.
Another rounded shrub or tree, it grows to between 2 to 5 metres tall and about the same in diameter. The leaves are an elliptical mid to deep green on the upper side, but paler on the underside. In summer it produces 20 to 25 mm in diameter bottle-brush style red or crimson flowers 40 to 80 mm long.
Melaleuca thymifolia (Thyme-leaf Honey-myrtle)
With its frequent flowering and ability to be successfully grow in a range of conditions in a small garden, Melaleuca thymifolia is a popular choice for Melbourne gardeners. As It comes naturally from New South Wales and Queensland, growing in mild, moist areas and light soils, it is well suited to the coastal region of the Melbourne.
As it flowers for up to eight months of the year, it is great for attracting and keeping bees and birds to your garden. The plant has blue-green foliage and young stems are reddish when growth is reasonably rapid. As you can see in the picture, the elliptical leaves are about 10 mm long in even pairs pointing upwards close to the stems. Small clusters of stemless flowers appear on mature stems below the new growth. In colder climates, the flowers are bluish-purple in early winter changing to a rich pink or mauve in spring and summer. Regular watering will result in many beautiful large, soft pink flowers. A dripping irrigation system will produce great results. As it recovers well from drought and pruning is not really necessary to create a shaped plant, it provides a low maintenance option for your Melbourne garden.
Melaleuca incana Grey Honey Myrtle
The Grey Honey Myrtle is originally from the south of Western Australia. It is a weeping shrub with blue-green or grey foliage.
By 5 years old it will grow to about 2 m high and wide which is a fairly rapid growth rate. Eventual height is at least 3 m though size and shape can be controlled by pruning. The soft pale yellow brush-like flowers are up to 2.5 cm long. The good news is the flowering plentiful and will attract birds and other wildlife. For best results, keep well watered and you will be rewarded with a profusion of flowers. This species can be pruned to form a hedge as it has a dense frame of thin branches from the base. Once established it is resistant to drought and reasonable resistant to frost. If you water regularly with an irrigation dripping system, you will be rewarded with lush growth as well as flowers. As you can see in the photograph, the Leaves are narrow and around 15 mm long. The beautiful yellow brush-like flowers are up to 25 mm long.
Melaleuca leucadendra also known as Fine Leafed Paperbark, Weeping Paperbark or White Tea Tree. This is a large hardy native tree with attractive weeping bright green leaves and papery bark as its name suggest. Typically the bark is white or pale and the dead bark is layered with the appearance of paper.The maximum height of these is about 13 metres with a spread of around 9 metres. The profuse flowers are creamy cylindrical bottlebrush spikes. The tree is native to northern Australia but it will grow on most parts of the mainland.
The leaves can be used as a source of tea-tree oil. This plant is both a food source and nesting site or habitat for birds.
The good news for Melbourne Gardeners is that this tree is tolerant to the coastal conditions such as salinity and poor or sandy soils you may encounter in suburbs like Broadbeach. It favours an open to sunny position, so it is an ideal street tree .
Other Species Melaleuca linariifolia
Melaleuca linariifolia will grow to around 9 metres. It can be used both in landscaping or home gardens. It is native to southern Queensland and the east coast of New South Wales. It usually around swamps and along watercourses. Common names include Narrow-leaved Paperbark and Snow-in-Summer, due to its prolific clusters of fluffy white flowers. Some smaller varieties to consider are “Sea Foam” (2.5 metres) or “Snowstorm”, (1.5 metres).
Dog friendly landscape design often involves a play area with a nice patch of lawn. People often ask how can I have a nice garden with my dog? A small path of lawn will provide recreational space for children and pets in your backyard and is one of the best dog garden ideas. In this landscape garden design, a stepped brush fence creates a screen for the colorbond garden shed. If you have a lot of brush fence, consider breaking it up with some vertical gardens. Having a shed in the backyard means that all of the fertilizers, garden machinery and fuels can be safely locked away from the doggie. A grevillea and a feature garden as well as screening plants add to the effect that makes the small garden appear larger than it actually is.
The lawn creates a valuable space for pets to play or for entertaining guests as well as contrast and a beautiful green space for the garden.
Dog friendly garden Couch lawn. A stepped brush fence creates a screen for the colorbond garden shed.
What Ground Cover is safe for dogs?
Dog friendly garden surfaces
Hard wearing couch lawn can be an ideal surface for pets and children to play on.
Couch Grass Santa Ana couch
The grass chosen was Santa Ana couch Cynodon dactylon x Cynodon transvaalensis which is a hybrid variety of Nullarbor couch. Its soft matt is ideal for pets and small childrenIf you are in a colder climate, your couch may go a little brown over winter. In this picture you can see where the shadier part of the lawn has just started to brown. This is a temporary condition and your couch will revive once the warmer weather returns. If your dog likes to wee on the lawn keep a bucket of water or a hose handy to wet the lawn down where your dog has been. The key to making the lawn child friendly and dog friendly, is in the layers below the lawns surface. The lawns should be laid on a sandy loam soil to maintain a soft surface in the case of falls. See our blog on Lawn Care for more information.
The lawn slopes gently down to a stained sleeper edge and raised garden bed. The blue pansies contrast beautifully with the white alyssum and white garden chairs. Herbs for the kitchen are also grown in this raised garden bed. Raised garden beds and pots help to keep young dogs and puppies away from plants. The landscape garden design features wooden decking and a rendered concrete retaining wall. Pavers sunk into the lawn help to reduce wear marks and create a contrast with the rich green couch lawn. The potted plant and pedestal along with the pavers create an illusion of depth for this landscape garden design. The lawn pavers lead to garden steps to access the lawn area.
Rear Fence Privacy Screening, couch lawn and elevated planters. The potted plant and pedestal with the lawn pavers create an illusion of depth in the Santa Ana couch lawn. In the top right hand corner sandstone lawn edging and antique slate steps. Limoniums handle Australia’s coastal garden conditions and climate well.
In this landscape garden design, Sandstone edging is used at the top of the antique slate step. The sandstone provides a wonderful contrast to the lawn and its neat edge helps with garden maintenance of the lawn edging. The steps can be used as seating for entertaining as well as providing access to the lawn area. Small dogs and older people might struggle with steps this height, so a dog ramp is provided by the edge of the lawn. This ramp also helps when the mower needs to be brought out to the front yard.
How can I protect my garden from my dog?
Gardens can be protected from your pet dog by raising them up or using concrete or terracotta pots. Vertical gardens is another way of having a nice safe gardens with your dog. Avoid the use of lightweight plastic pots.
Raised Garden Bed Constructed from rendered concrete block construction. This makes it difficult for small dogs to dig in the garden. Behind the pansies is the stained wooden garden edging.
Dog friendly garden surfaces. Paved courtyard with table and concrete plant pots. The aggregate near the Lilli Pilly provides good drainage and helps to prevent muddy paws.
Magnolia in a raised pot near the paved courtyard.
Plants to avoid for Pets and Children
For pets and small children there are many plants that should be avoided. There are plants that are toxic to pets, and some which will cause skin irritation. For example, Moses in the Cradle (Tradescantia spathacea) and Zebrina ‘Wandering Jew’ (Tradescantia zebrine) should be avoided if you have a dog, as they have been associated with allergic skin disease. Other plants to be avoided include holly, poinsettias, cycads and oleander. Another plant to avoid is the Duranta erecta which is often sold as a hedge plant but is poisonous for your pets and children. When planning your garden, talk to the horticulture expert at your local plant nursery for help with pet friendly plant selection. Even the pebble mulch we have used in this garden will be a problem if your dog likes to chew on stones. It is important to keep your dog entertained with toys and chew bones as well as keeping an eye on them in the garden.
Dog friendly Plants for Australian Gardens
For dog friendly garden plants take a look at Salvia Leucantha or Mexican Bush Sage and similar plants. Always check with your local qualified horticulturist when you are buying plants.
Plants in pots.
Pansies and Lobelia in a concrete garden pot.
For splashes of colour around the garden, viola, pansies and lobelias were added to the shrubs growing in pots. Out of the reach of puppies and small dogs. Snail pellets should also be avoided if you have a puppy or small dog.
The dog friendly backyard. Small plastic pots are easy for dogs to pick up and create a mess. Does that look like the face of a naughty dog or just a puppy exploring the world?
Another effective way to keep your pet and garden separated is to use a vertical garden or a garden wall. This will mean that your plant is safe from your new puppy and your new puppy is safe from your plants.
Dog Friendly Paved Courtyard
This landscape garden design features a paved courtyard, a dark green magnolia grandiflora “little gem” was planted in a square garden pot. The pot was painted dark brown to create an aged ceramic look. (The pot is actually fibreglass.) As its name suggests, little gem is a compact variety of magnolia. It will help to give your garden a tropical feel.
The orange marigolds go well with the blue lobelia and dark green Magnolia. Around the pot you can see the start of a box hedge and the pebble mulch. In the background climbing roses in concrete pots, and wall mounted pot plants add to the effect.
Magnolia grandiflora “little gem” in a planter pot.
Magnolia grandifolia ‘Little Gem’ is a compact cultivar that will flower at a young age. Shiny oval-shaped leaves are dark to mid-green. Large creamy-white chalice-shaped flowers are very fragrant. You will see these flowers appear through summer and autumn. A slightly acidic, rich soil with plenty of organic matter is recommended. In this courtyard, the plant is protected from hot northerly winds. The elevated pot keeps the plants out of reach for puppies and small dogs.
Commercial Landscaping of Public Spaces
Public spaces around commercial buildings are often used by members of the public to walk their dogs. During commercial landscaping of these spaces the commercial landscaping contractor as we as the landscape architect need to be aware of any toxic plants on the plantlist.
Christmas trees have been part of the European Christmas tradition since at least the 16th century, but the tradition of bringing evergreen trees indoors during the winter solstice goes back even earlier.
Christmas Trees in Germany
Germany is credited with popularising the Christmas tree in the 16th Century and spreading the tradition to the new world. The Hanoverian Kings of England brought the practice to Great Britain from Germany, but it was Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert that cemented it as an English tradition.
Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg
Prince Albert, who was from Schloss Rosenau near Coburg in central Germany, brought with him many of the German family traditions to life at Windsor.
Children admiring a decorated Christmas tree in a Victorian Era engraving.
Prince Albert gave the gift of Christmas trees to many of the army barracks and schools around Windsor, but it was a 1848 engraving of the royal family decorating a Christmas tree that made the tree a “must have” for British families. As a result, Covent Garden in London was selling hundreds of trees by the 1860s.
1848 Etching in a London Newspaper sparked the fashion for Christmas trees.
The traditional species of tree used in Great Britain is the Norway Spruce (Picea abies), which was reintroduced to the British Isles in the 1500s.
Australian Christmas Trees
The most common Australian Christmas tree is the fast growing Pinus Radiata, which is native to a small island off the coast of California. Usually these are bought from small plantations around Melbourne. Another common practice is to use a plastic tree.
Alternatives to the traditional Christmas tree
If you have had enough of pine needles in your house or in your car, or if you find it difficult to dispose of the tree after Christmas, consider using a living Christmas tree.
Amongst the Australian Native choices for a living Christmas Trees is Banksia Nutans or nodding banksia. As it is suitable for growing in pots, tubs or containers, this banksia can be shifted outside after Christmas or kept in a pot for use over a few Christmas seasons. Banksia Nutans is a small, bushy shrub, only growing up to about 2 metres high. The narrow linear leaves grow up to 20mm long and resemble fir leaves.
The Banksia Nutans is native to the south west of Western Australia growing mostly in scrubland and woodland with sandy or gravely soil. This makes it a good plant for growing in Melbourne Coastal Gardens like Hampton and Brighton. Its showy red brown or orange flowers and bright green new fruits would make it a great pot plant in any climate.
Another important advantage of the living Christmas tree is that it is much easier to keep moist. Cut conifers risk drying out to the point where flammability can present a problem.
Any of the fine leafed Banksias can be used for this purpose and are a great trees for the Australian garden.
A fine leaf Banksia makes a great Christmas Tree.
Colorado Blue Spruce
If you are after a more traditional look for a living Christmas tree, then consider the Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens). The conical shape and dense blue green foliage make this a great plant for formal gardens, rockeries and containers. Growing up to 2 metres tall, it will eventually become too large to bring indoors for the festive season. As it is a very slow growing tree, you should be able to bring it inside for a few seasons at least.
Picea pungens Glauca Globosa is a dwarf blue conifer that can be used as a Christmas tree then replanted into the garden.
If you are planning to eventually plant your tree outdoors, spruces prefer cool summers and will tolerate severe frosts.
Picea pungens Colorado Blue Spruce in a plant nursery ready for Christmas.
Pruning is not really required but you may wish to shape the trees to keep the conical shape.
Woolly Bush (Adenanthos Sericeus)
The Woolly Bush is a great choice for a living Christmas Tree. The fine light green leaves are soft to touch which you will appreciate when you are moving it indoors or outdoors. The Woolly bush is native to the south coast of Western Australia.
Adenanthos sericeus or the woolly bush is a great choice for a Xmas Tree.
The Woolly bush will thrive in most soils even poor sandy soils. This makes it a good plant for your coastal garden in Brighton, Sandringham and Hampton. The small red flowers will out most of the year and make a great tree for attracting honeyeaters to your garden. For regular Christmas tree use, grow it in a large tube and prune it regularly for the traditional shape.
Related Landscaping Information from Red’s Landscaping and Civil
Australian cities are rapidly expanding into greenfields areas to accommodate our way of life, however, this is threatening the habitats of Australia’s wildlife. In order to sustain healthy populations of native wildlife, we need to adapt our methods of gardening in urban environments.
While the average suburban backyard is not likely to become a sanctuary for threatened wildlife, by making a few simple planting choices, you can reduce the threat of native animals reaching the endangered species list.
Plants and animals evolve together in what is known as a symbiotic relationship. Animals help with pollination, seed distribution and germination. The plants in return provide habitat, protection and foods. Choosing locally indigenous plants for your garden is essentially creating a preferred habitat and food source for local indigenous animals. Aiding native animals over generations will in turn provide them a genetic advantage over introduced species, as they will continue to evolve with their companion plants.
Additionally, choosing locally indigenous plants prevents unwanted pests. Plants evolve to produce phytochemicals, which poison and deter insects, however, an insect species will co-evolve with usually one type of plant. For an example of this, take a look at our blog on eucalypts. Over thousands of years as the plant evolves greater amounts of phytochemicals, the insect evolves to produce greater amounts of inhibitors, these block the phytochemicals effect. A species of insect is so fixated on its co-evolved species of Plant that it will not recognize any other plant as a potential food source. Choosing indigenous plants and weeding out invasive species, will kill off an insect’s food source and irradiate an introduced foreign pest.
For example, foreign pests such as fire ants are one of the greatest threats to agriculture and horticulture industries.
The current epidemic of fire ants is set to cost Queenslanders billions and poses a bio-security risk to the natural habitat. The fire ant epidemic arose when the killer ants hitched a ride from palms being imported from Mexico.
Queensland’s tropical climate teamed with foreign palms creative an attractive environment for these invasive insects. However, indigenous palms support native and non-invasive insects. The desire for foreign palms contributes to a great financial and environmental cost.
By choosing native plants over non-native, wildlife habitats and urban environments can not only co-exist but also thrive together. As such, it is crucial that this idea widely adopted by the populace and in particular by town planners, urban and landscape designers and even the home gardener. In doing so, we can work to prevent future bio security risks and we can prevent further damage to our landscape and agriculture industries. Most importantly however, we can restore safe and healthy habitats for Australian wildlife. It is also important to be careful with any pesticides you choose. Recently the European union has banned the use of the three neonicotinoid pesticides on open ground and and Bunnings has decided to phase them out in Australia. A great way to encourage birds and other wildlife to your garden, is to set aside an area as a natural habitat that also encourages pollenating insects to visit your garden.
Photo of a juvenile Cracticus nigrogularis, more commonly known as the ‘Pied Butcher Bird’.
This bird sings complex flute like melodies, the most common of which shares some characteristics with Beethoven’s 5th symphony. His home is the beautiful Cupaniopsis anacardioides, more commonly known as a Tuckeroo Tree, both plant and animal are indigenous to most parts of north and eastern Australia.
Wildlife in the Garden article published by Callum O’Brien for more information on natives please visit my horticulture and Landscaping blog