Having a variety of plants that provide food, shelter and habitat will improve the garden biodiversity around your home. It will also create an ecology that helps to keep your garden healthy and productive.
Simply putting plants in your garden increases biodiversity. Doing it in a way that promotes a healthy ecology is taking it that bit further.
Think of your garden not just as an island but part of a bigger ecological picture. Consider the local conditions; the climate, soil and the species of plants and animals that are natural to your area.
Wherever you are, there is some local biodiversity. It will at the very least be in the form of birds, insects and spiders. You will quite possibly have some small reptiles, frogs and lots of different invertebrates. You may also have some native mammal species around.
Control and Balance
Having a diverse garden fauna not only provides support for local biodiversity but will give the basis of a healthy garden. A healthy balance of different predator and prey species means that no one type of creature will get out of control and devour your favourite perennials.
Controlling pests becomes less of an issue if you have diversity in your garden. If your garden ecology is healthy, you will have a good mix of predatory creatures like spiders and ladybugs that will limit the populations of plant eating insects. Wholesale spraying of pesticides will knock out everything including those beneficial creatures. That will then create an opportunity for some voracious bug to quickly come in and create havoc with your plants.
Providing food and habitat for birds will also help control garden pests and maintain a healthy equilibrium of life in the garden that will be a source of enjoyment.
Growing Australian native plants is a great way of becoming more familiar with this country’s natural heritage. It also helps to connect with local wildlife.
However, it’s worth considering that Australia is a big and diverse country with a great range of climates and conditions. A tree from a Queensland rainforest will not appreciate the same conditions as a plant from a Tasmanian alpine meadow. Neither of them would be especially easy to grow in a Melbourne backyard.
People commonly believe that using Australian natives are a good way of having a low maintenance garden. This is not necessarily so and has commonly led to very scruffy and unattractive landscapes that give native gardens a bad name. Native plants appreciate some care and attention as much as any garden plant. Depending on the conditions they come from, they might require more than most. However, with some considered plant selection, a native garden can indeed be relatively low maintenance.
When talking about plants, indigenous generally means native to your local area. This might mean the Melbourne region or even more specific zones within it. The ‘Sandbelt’ of the bayside suburbs have a different flora to that of the ‘Western Plains’ in the western and northern suburbs. The indigenous vegetation in and around the Dandenongs will be different again.
Having said that, there are many indigenous plants that are common across Melbourne and Victoria.
Garden styles with native plants
Native plants are commonly used in a very natural setting. The bush garden is what people will imagine when talking about natives. A well designed and managed indigenous garden arranged in a natural way can be the most beautiful and restful of landscapes. It can be considered like a Japanese garden where it is highly contrived but designed be a perfect representation of nature.
A native or indigenous garden can also be treated very formally. Contrary to what many people think, most native plants are quite happy to be clipped and shaped. That can provide an opportunity to use native plants in very formal arrangements where hedging and topiary can be the prime features of the garden. Instead of using box hedging, Correas or Westringias can give the same effect with the bonus of relating more appropriately with the location.
Australian plants also work very well with plants from other parts of the world. Particularly if they are from regions with similar climates. A Mediterranean style garden integrates very well with many Australian native plants. South Africa, California and parts of China also match the conditions of a Melbourne garden. There is plenty of scope to be creative in your garden with local species without it having to be a bush garden.
Bringing in wildlife is part of the joy of having a garden. Most of that wildlife will be entirely unnoticed because it will be so tiny. Life in the garden includes a whole universe of soil organisms which starts at bacteria and fungus that provides a healthy balance of nutrients in the soil. There is then a range of small creatures that feed on that and on each other. This soil ecosystem generates a healthy medium for your plants.
Above ground, amongst the foliage and flowers, there will be similarly tiny creatures. Butterflies and other insects might be the more noticeable ones. In an appropriately diverse garden, you will also attract plenty of birds and potentially some lizards, frogs and mammals.
Providing habitat can also be improved by providing natural materials like logs and large rocks where small creatures can find seclusion. Water also supports and encourages wildlife in the garden. A raised birdbath can be a simple way of attracting birds, particularly in dry times. A pond with a collection of rocks and water plants can provide homes and sustenance for an even greater array of wildlife.
Healthy Home – Healthy Planet
We humans have had an enormous impact on the natural systems and biodiversity of the world. Cities and agriculture have greatly encroached on natural places with their diversity of plants and animals. Bringing in some extra habitat into our homes can provide links to other pockets of habitat across the city. Corridors of bushland along creeks and rivers in Melbourne provide opportunities for birds and butterflies to find their way to food and shelter in your own garden.
Having a garden full of life is not only great for retaining your own local biodiversity, it is a joy to experience and to have as part of your home.
Indigenous plant resources in Melbourne municipalities
If you are not too sure what the indigenous plants of your area are, there are some great resources available from your local council. You will also find that your neighbouring councils will be relevant as many plants are indigenous across the whole of this part of the state.
The following links will take you to an array of indigenous plant ideas, but it is worth exploring further what each local council can provide
There are several community nurseries that specialise in propagating indigenous plants in different parts of the Melbourne region. You can find most of them on this Greening Australia link: Indigenous Nurseries Of Greater Melbourne 2015
- Banyule – Indigenous Plants For Your Garden
- Bayside – What plants are indigenous to Bayside?
- Boroondara – Local flora
- Brimbank – Brimbank web booklet – Sustainable Gardening Australia
- Casey – Indigenous plants
- Darebin – Guide to Indigenous Plants in Darebin
- Frankston – Native Flora
- Glen Eira – Indigenous Plants of Glen Eira
- Greater Dandenong – Guide to Native Plants of Greater Dandenong
- Hobsons Bay – Sustainable Gardening
- Hume – Sustainable gardening – Hume City Council
- Kingston – Indigenous Plant List for Landscaping – City of Kingston
- Knox – Indigenous Plants in Knox
- Manningham – Native Splendour – Manningham Council
- Maribyrnong – Native indigenous plant list for the Maribyrnong Garden
- Maroondah – Indigenous Gardens – creating habitat for people and wildlife in Maroondah
- Melbourne – Sustainable gardening in the City of Melbourne
- Melton – Sustainable Gardening in the Shire of Melton
- Monash – Indigenous Plants of Monash
- Moonee Valley – Planting guide for residents – Moonee Valley City Council
- Moreland – Gardening with indigenous plants
- Mornington Peninsula – Plants of the Peninsula
- Port Phillip – Indigenous Vegetation Areas
- Nillumbik – Live Local Plant Local
- Stonnington – Sustainable Gardening in Stonnington
- Whitehorse – Indigenous Gardening in Whitehorse
- Whittlesea – Whittlesea’s native vegetation
- Wyndham – Indigenous Plant List
- Yarra – Removing Weeds in Yarra and Planting Indigenous Alternatives
- Yarra Ranges – Plant directory