I mentioned that I’ve got a fire lit under me when it comes to making garden plans, and it’s for good reason. Anything we want to harvest this summer/fall, we need to get on it. Anything we plant in the yard is going to look pretty dinky for the next 2-3 years, so, the sooner the better. Etc. It doesn’t help that our front yard is looking especially low-rent after yanking and transplanting nearly all of the existing plants out of it. Once again: sorry, neighbours, I am very good at putting craters in our yard.
So I’ve been thinking about plants and where they’ll go, making some garden plans. (USDA Zone 9 here; light frosts only.) Backyard, front yard, side yard. Shady areas, full sun areas. Trees, shrubs, groundcovers, edibles. Plants I want to plant now, plants I think are cool but may never even plant at all. Whooooo. I’m no gardener or landscape architect, which means I’m doing lots and lots of research on natives and everything else commercially available on our little island. Tassie has its own stringent customs regulations, so ordering plants from the mainland – or anywhere else in the world – is a non-starter. Sorry, cheap cute IKEA plants! You can’t come home with us.
And since this is our first year here, I’d really like to put in certain plants that will take several years to reach maturity, or produce fruit. Thinking ahead, here. It’ll be good to put in the plants that I don’t want to regret not planting three years ago. I’m doing this for you, future self. I got your back.
This bottlebrush tree is the cornerstone of our front yard. It’s about to bloom all over, aren’t the crimson tufts pretty? Ignore those sad trees next to it, they’ll be going.
It’s a cool-looking native, and after we take out those two cypresses and the hacked-up rhododendron (asdfgfdhdf !!!) it will one of the few original plants left out there. It makes sense to plant more natives and low-maintenance ornamentals out front. Most of our outdoor yard time is going to involve kicking back on the deck or pottering around in the backyard veggie patch, where I have enough fussy, spoiled plants as it is, like my lime tree and my chili peppers. We don’t want to have to put a ton of time and work into our front yard once it’s established.
I quite liked this post ‘Australian Native Plants and the Bush Garden Style’ on native plants and modernist homes. I don’t live in a badass mid-century modern house, but I do like reading about how people use natives in modern spaces. That Australian Modernist Lanscapes blog collects all the good’uns from the real estate listings.
I do like the ‘mass of spiky plants’ look, especially with modernist architecture, but I’m unsure about it in our space. It looks amazing in photos of modern Californian homes, but over here a wall of, say, flaxes or kangaroo paws reminds me of every generic local business or roadside landscaping project that’s occurred in the last 10 years. I’m okay with our garden not reminding passerby of the landscaping outside their nearest Kmart or KFC, just saying.
The trick might be to layer them in with lusher plants, like they’ve done here. The purple leaves and purple flowers also look gorgeous together.
Here’s a few of the plants I’m interested in. A bit native bush, a bit modern, a bit whatever. Sounds good.
(JJ Harrison / Wikimedia; Austraflora; Australian Plant Society Tasmania; South African National Biodiversity Institute; Anthony Tesselaar Plants; Plants Management Australia)
- Crimson Bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus). Already got one of those. 4m tree, Australian native.
- ‘Birthday Candles’ (Banksia spinulosa). Prostrate banksia, blooms in autumn. Also native.
- Guitar Plant (Lomatia tinctoria). Ferny-leaved shrub, 1m high, spreads by rhizomes. Endemic to Tasmania.
- Channel-leaf Featherbush (Aulax cancellata). Also sold as ‘Bronze Haze’. 2m shrub with red-green needle leaves, South African. Total impulse buy. It’s pretty!
- ‘Dark Delight’ flax (Phormium tenax). Will grow to 1.2m high and send up massive flower stalks. NZ native, one of many cultivated hybrids.
- ‘Limelight’ dwarf acacia (Acacia cognata). Fluffy fluffy fluffy fluffy fluffy.
This is the space I want to plant out with these.
And here’s a very highly polished, professional mockup of how this stuff might look. Yup. I’d like to put in timber sleepers as edging and add gravel or mulch pathways alongside the beds. (We’d also like to repaint the wall, or rebuild it altogether…)
All the plants should sit in the 1m-1.5m mark, with the ones at each end growing taller. I’m going for a variety of textures, colours and blooming times, but with just enough repetition and order that it all makes sense. Hopefully. I’ll put in a few little tufting flowers and grasses to fill it out further.
These are all low-maintenance, and half split between natives and hardy plants from similar temperate regions. The featherbush, banksia and guitar plants are in the protea family, which are widespread throughout the southern hemisphere:
“The family Proteaceae is an ancient family of plants with a Gondwanan ancestry – it was one of the earliest groups of flowering plants and was able to disperse and diversify throughout Gondwana before the supercontinent disintegrated. With about 1600 species, it is one of the plant groups which now dominate the southern hemisphere floras.”
So they’ll get to hang out with their Gondwanan brothers. That’s cool.
The lot of them have similar watering and fertilising requirements – that is, not a lot once established. Perfect for a couple of lazybones like us. I know that we’ll have to baby them a little in the first year or so, but if they can look after themselves later on, great. I found the ABC Factsheet: Proteas to be a useful read, as it mirrors the advice given for Australian protea cousins like banksias and grevilleas. I trust you, Gardening Australia.
I got these two flaxes several months ago, before we bought our house. They lived in plant creche (read: Jamie’s sister’s garden) for a few months, and then they spent a few weeks in our yard, hanging out, getting used to things. They are READY.
It’s go time on this garden!
Thanks for the shout out! Your garden project sounds great and you’ve put so much thought into what will really work for you.
You are so right about the trend of mass-planted strappy leaved plants and grasses. I am guilty of designing that way and when reading your comparisons to KFC car parks, I will definitely have to change this up a bit with my designs!
Keep up the good work and I look forward to reading more about your house and garden!
Hey thanks! I do really like your blog, it’s neat to read about modernism in Australia.
No shame in using lots of strappy leaved plants, they’re popular for good reason and I’m sure they look great. 🙂
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