By Bethany King
One of my favourite places to spend time is my grandma’s garden – always filled with beautiful scents, vivid colours and joyful rainbow lorikeets.
While my grandma (still an avid gardener in her eighties) can spend hours planning what plants will go where, the idea of planning a garden, or deciding what potted plants to put in common areas, may be overwhelming for some committees.
It may be tempting to just adopt the lush turf lawns and exotic plants that feature in many new developments, but part of the committee’s role is to make decisions which are in the best interest of the strata community in the long term.
Properly planned and thought-out gardens can be a source of joy, but poorly planned ones may place the committee in an undesirable position: pay the high costs of excessive water use and regular maintenance, or be left with dry brown lawns and plants that struggle to survive.
But your committee doesn’t have to experience this problem.
What better way to have a beautiful garden all through the year than to use Australian native plants! Native plants are hardy, spectacular when in flower and require minimal maintenance. With a little effort and planning between the committee and your gardening contractor, you can deliver a common property garden which ticks all the boxes.
Appearance: Australian plants are unique, displaying distinctive and spectacular blooms. The mix of hardy plants with exceptional colour and flowers can provide a rugged, informal, and beautiful landscape.
Suitability: Unsurprisingly, Australian native plants are better suited to local conditions than exotic plants, being more likely to thrive through the potentially harsh Australian seasons. Native plants establish easily and generally require minimal ongoing maintenance. If you want a no fuss garden which looks great all year, native plants are the answer.
Wildlife: Native plants attract native wildlife including animals, birds and insects. A garden full of nectar-feeding birds and butterflies can increase the amount of delight and joy your common property garden brings.
Variation: Whether you are looking for shrubs for privacy, some pot plants for smaller common areas, or just an injection of colour and scent, there is an Australian native plant to meet your needs.
Why not consider some of these for a start:
Wattle – This iconic Australian plant can illuminate any garden with its trademark yellow blossoms. Variation among the species means you can find wattles ranging from ground covers, shrubs, and shade trees. A number of compact varieties are also available to enable planting in pots or hanging baskets. Wattle pollen attracts bees, while its seeds attract native birds. Most wattle leaves are in fact flattened stalks which are tough and leathery, meaning they are resistant to most moisture loss.
Banksia – Banksias are a treat for the eyes, providing attractive foliage, bold flowering spikes and interesting fruiting cones. They are available in prostrate shrubs, low branching trees, and also dwarf varieties, meaning there is a banksia to suit every garden. A sturdy plant with long leathery leaves, their blooms are full of nectar which encourages the presence of native animals and birds.
Grevillea – Grevilleas are evergreen plants ranging from small shrubs to large trees. Compact varieties are also available for pot planting. Grevilleas have needle-like or fern-like foliage, and nectar-rich, small yellow, orange or red filamentous flowers. Grevilleas are generally drought-tolerant once established.
Bottle brush – Woody shrubs ranging from 0.5m to 4m in height, bottlebrushes make excellent garden plants. The distinctive bottle brush shape is formed in spring and summer, and is spectacularly coloured in yellow or red. Most species are very hardy and will survive drought and limited maintenance.
Australian native plants can also be used for practical purposes such as screening.
Lilly-Pilly – There are many compact varieties of this rainforest plant which makes it worthwhile considering for hedging. Bush Christmas is perfect for screening hedges and can be grown as tall as three metres, while the Tiny Trev variety tops out at 75cm. Lilly-Pillies are drought resistant and also very good looking with the dark green glossy foliage and new growth in reds and pinks.
In order to achieve the best outcome for your common property garden, talk to your local nursery about the species that best suit your location and needs. Alternatively, direct your gardening contractor to consider native plants when preparing a gardening quote or proposal. These initial steps may be the seeds of success for your community’s garden, saving money in water bills and time spent in maintenance.
A Sunshine Coast building managed by SSKB took the additional step of having a gardening plan developed which gave residents scope of how best to manage their gardens – what to plant where, when to mulch and fertilise and much more. They had fairly extensive gardens but it saved them time and money and took any argument out of any owner complaining about what was being planted where as the plan was available for anyone to view.