Unfortunately there are a lot of myths out there about using native plants in your garden. Most of this comes about because of ignorance and myths. Often people assume that because a plant is native, you can just put it anywhere in your garden, not look after it, and then expect it to grow and look good. Just like any exotic plant, each individual native species has its own special requirements, such as soil type, aspect and fertiliser. If planted in the wrong spot with the wrong conditions, the plants will suffer and this only helps to further the myth that natives are inferior to exotics.
Ignorance is also a major part in perpetuating the myths about native plants. Many landscape designers and gardeners have a limited knowledge about native plants, their requirements and their uses in gardens. This results in limited or inappropriate use of natives in their designs which further supports the myth that natives are inferior to exotics, that they are short-lived and look woody.
Ignorance about the maintenance requirements of natives also adds to the myths. Many people are under the impression that using natives means that you can have a “No Maintenance Garden.” This is not the case. Maintaining a native garden requires less labour and resources compared to an exotic garden. No maintenance will result in your garden looking like a bit of bush. If you want your garden to look great and to maximise your enjoyment maintenance is essential.
The maintenance of natives is the same as that of exotics – pruning, watering, fertilising. You just have to know the requirements for each species. As a general rule, most natives will benefit from pruning – a guide is the distance between the leaves. If there is a large distance, such as on some Grevilleas and Banksias, then only tip pruning should be undertaken. If there is only a small distance between leaves, then they will generally tolerate a harder prune.
Most natives will benefit from additional water, especially over dry summers and while they are establishing. This helps to keep them looking lush. When watering, it is good to give irregular deep waterings, and allow to dry out a little between waterings to avoid waterlogging. Avoid giving regular shallow watering, as this will only encourage surface roots and the plants will quickly dry out if the water source is removed.
Many native plants also benefit from fertilising. Members of the Proteaceae and Mimosoideae family (Grevilleas, Wattles, Banksias, Waratahs) are Phosphorus sensitive, so it is best to use a fertiliser low in Phosphorus. Most other natives do not mind Phosphorus, so a normal fertiliser is fine. Stimulating the micro-biology of the soil is important too, so an occasional dose of a seaweed extract will be appreciated.
When used correctly with good species choices for the situation and with the right maintenance, natives are far superior to exotics for Australian gardens, bringing benefits to both the local ecology and you.
Below is the slideshow presentation which was given to the Bundanoon Garden Club by Warren Walker in April 2016. The slideshow begins with a bit of information about who Wariapendi is and what we do. It then goes on to give some information about the maintenance requirements and preferred growing conditions of an assortment of native plants. Following this, the focus turns to busting some common and well-perpetuated myths about native plants and then promotes the benefits of using native plants in Australian gardens.
For best display, click on the first image of the slideshow to bring it into full screen. You can then navigate to the next image by using the arrows.
We hope this presentation inspires more highland gardeners to utilise native plants in their gardens to enjoy their beauty and the many benefits they bring.