This time last year our gardens were being hammered with droughts then flooding rains. Some of us even had fires to head off. Looking back on the year and seeing what has survived in gardens is a useful way of planning the way gardens might look in the future.
The plants that took a real battering may not be the best choices for replanting as the climate changes and spiking temperatures seem like summer’s norm. So what survived and what thrived? How can I create a garden that’s more than fake turf and concrete, and actually is a living, breathing thing that will help entice wildlife and cool our cities?
Top of the list would have to be some of the Australian native grevilleas. They flower away incessantly, providing a haven for birds. Look at their foliage too and select some with dense, fine leaves that help small birds hideaway from their predators and feel safe…after all, who doesn’t like a wren visiting. Of course, many Australian natives are great at coping with the heat, and banksias, dwarf gums, ornamental grasses and wattles are great planting companions.
Succulents can also be a tremendous way of building in resilience to your garden. Their swollen stems, leaves or roots stockpile water for tough times, but they have other garden worthy attributes worth singing the praises of. Did you know that they are fire resistant, salt tolerant, cope with windy spots and also shallow rooted, which makes them the perfect for growing under trees and in narrow and tricky areas like between driveway strips or in narrow window boxes and troughs. They also use about 50-80% less water that most plants, so if you have a holiday home they are perfect. Ditto if want something for around the periphery of your property that maybe the hose doesn’t reach, or you never quite make it there to garden.
There are also some tough shrubs that are surprisingly resilient in old established gardens that are great for using as a cue. Think bird of paradise, hibiscus – even hydrangeas are surprisingly forgiving. Roses are among the hardiest plants of all once established too, though the more love you can give them the better they will look.
Lastly, create more shade now. The cooling effect of climbers growing on pergolas, tree canopies and even shade sails or structures especially on the western aspect of your property will make a huge difference to the livability of your outdoor spaces.
By: Meredith Kirton