Australian Sunshine in January

Australian Sunshine in January

Sitting here in the office today watching the snow falling outside it is quite surreal to think that only four days ago I was sweltering in the Western Australian sun in shorts and flip flops!

A month’s break to visit family for Christmas provided a fantastic opportunity to see completely different plants growing in Australia’s hottest and driest state. Excursions 8 hours drive north of Perth to a dry and dusty wilderness and another 4 hours south to the lush greenery of the Margaret River wine region provided a real contrast in conditions and landscape.

Australia’s unforgiving climate provides an enormous challenge to horticulturists and domestic garden owners alike. The challenges of wind and drought are considerable, reportedly leading some homeowners to abandon the idea of gardening altogether. But as with everywhere successful gardens will depend on owners responding to weather conditions and embracing indigenous species to counter the threat of municipal water restrictions. Although irrigating lawns and plants with mains water is not currently prohibited as it was a decade ago, it is still a poor option in terms of the high financial and environmental cost. So it seems more important than ever to select plant species to fit the conditions – the right plant right place scenario. A glance around at what grows well in the wild signposts what is most likely to work at home, albeit possibly using a cultivated variety more suited to a domestic setting.

This was demonstrated well during a visit to a friend’s place just south of the city in the suburb of Rockingham. He had achieved the neat trick of creating a garden that did not rely on rainwater but gave the impression of abundance. And what’s more it had established in just six years by using bulletproof native species. Several species of Grevillea trees (bottlebrush) had grown to a height of 6m in that time and were filled out by native Banksia, Jacaranda and colourful Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos).

However different and alien the landscape may seem on the other side of the world, we can always take away lessons to use at home. Make your life easy and go with what you have… it doesn’t mean you can’t have a particular theme or put in that special plant, but through careful matching of plants to suit your conditions you will create a garden that looks and feels right… and will thrive.

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