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Pete: What’re you planting at the moment anyway?
Ian: Just these two little plants here. One… they’re both groundcover dwarf-plants to hopefully cascade over the edge of the rocks.
Ian: And so, the idea of designing this garden is you put the bigger plants up in the middle and then the medium sized ones on the… on… in the sort of foreground, and then groundcover ones cascading over the rocks so that you get this vista look moving up looking at the plants.
Ian: This one’s only new. So, it’s got to take a year or so to grow up. One of the things we tried to do when building this garden was to put a mixture of flowering seasons in so there’s always some colour in the garden, but also some different textures and colours in the greens, the leaves, for… varying from sort of bright green through to grey colours, so that there’s always a mixture of colour and texture no matter what the season. One of the advantages we have in Australia about seasons is that we never have snow, certainly down here.
Ian: So, you don’t have to worry about cold tolerant plants, but the counter side of that is the ocean’s 400m that way. So, we get a lot of sea air and salt. So, you have to have the plants that are salt tolerant. And the other thing I try and do is find plants that are water tolerant so that they can put up with a lot of water if it rains heavily, but also (it) doesn’t matter if it doesn’t rain for a month. You don’t need to keep watering to keep them up. Sometimes you have some successes.
Ian: Sometimes you have some failures. The failures you just replace with something different. It’s always a challenge to find the best sort of plants for an area. We try and use some that are indigenous to this specific area because obviously they’re going to be used to the soil and the climate, but with artificial garden beds like this that are built up with a mixture of topsoil that’s brought in and the existing soil, you can never exactly tell with the soil chemistry what’s going to go.
Ian: So, it’s a bit hit and miss. You try to start with, but just try and get it right in the long term by replacing things that don’t work with things that do.
Ian: So, what have you got in here at the moment that you can at least remember you’ve put in here, and tell us why or…
Ian: Yeah, so there’s a variety of things from kangaroo paws. These aren’t flowering at the moment.
Pete: These ones down the bottom?
Ian: Yeah, but we can show you some out the front that are flowering. Through to these little lillies that have these long flower stalks, and they last quite a long time when they’re flowering, through to some other things like some of these daisy bushes that flower for about six months of the year, and they grow really quickly.
Ian: But also, some native grasses. Those grasses attract different sorts of birds and butterflies and things from the normal flowering plants.
Ian: (I’ve) tried to put a couple of trees, feature trees, in. This eucalypt here’ll grow to about 3 or 4m tall. Not very tall, but tall enough to provide a little bit of shade from the western side, which is over here. And also, to attract some birds in when it starts flowering. It’ll probably be 2 years or 3 years by the time it gets large enough to start flowering, but then we can put a bird bath and so on in here as long as there’s a bit of protection for the birds so that the cats, local cats, aren’t going to get them.
Ian: And, the rest of it just made up of some local and Australian natives, correas, grevilleas, some acacias, banksias, you know, classic Australian plant names just to sort of fill up the rest of the environment here.
Pete: So, do you find that the native plants make a big big difference for bringing in native animals?
Ian: Yeah, they do. There are certainly some non-native plants that will bring in birds and insects, because they flower with a lot of nectar in them, but often they’re short flowering seasons. And so, if something’s only flowering for a few days or a few weeks it’s not much use to you for a long term effect. So, for attracting animals in.
Ian: So, we try and use some of the plants that are going to have long flowering seasons, but as I said earlier also intersperse plants that have different flowering seasons.
Ian: So, hopefully when this’s a mature garden there’ll always be something flowering here to attract different birds, insects in, and we also have these rockeries, (they) are also a great place for, you know, spiders and lizards and things, which are also additional food. A lot of the birds we have around are honeyeaters. So, they’re attracted to the nectar, but most of them will also grab insects. Some of them (will grab) other small animals like small lizards and things. Not that I particularly am wanting the lizards to get eaten, because they’re really lovely to have around as well.
Ian: And if you get water, permanent water, in, and we’re looking at some ways of putting that in, then you can attract frogs in as well. So, you can get a variety of wildlife in a garden by putting in the right environment there.
Pete: So, what are you specifically trying to get in too? Are there any birds that you’re targeting or that you want to definitely come in?
Ian: Honeyeaters and parrots mostly. This big eucalypt here behind us, that’s a Western Australian. It’s not an indigenous eucalypt. It’s a Western Australian eucalypt. But it has very large bright yellow flowers that attract the parrots in when… particularly lorikeets that are nectar feeders, but also rosellas that are seedeaters, once the seeds start to be created.
Ian: So, the same thing with this peppermint over here. (We’re) just trying to get a mixture of plants that will bring in particularly parrots and honeyeaters because they’re pretty, they’re noisy.
Ian: So, it’s good to have them around. But we also have some non-indigenous birds. I don’t particularly want to attract them, but again, they… they’re good for the garden as well.
Ian: If you have a look, this might be hard to tell with the shade in here, but there’s all these little dig patches around here. They’re blackbirds, European blackbirds, that are digging up in the garden looking for grubs and snails and things. So, they turn the ground over, which is a pain when you’re trying to grow small plants, but later on the more activity you get in the soil the better.
Pete: What’s the thing to your left, dad? Talk about that and why it’s Australian.
Ian: Oh, the deck out the front of the house? Yeah, (it’s a) wooden deck, with as you can see by the shiny and sort of wet look on it, (we) just oiled it yesterday. So, every year or so you’ve got to put more oil into it to keep the timber in good condition.
Ian: So, the barricade’s up here to prevent people from walking straight up onto it into the front door. One of the challenges when you’ve got one at your front door is how you leave it locked off for 48 hours before it dries.
Pete: So, why’s it such an Australian thing too, the deck?
Ian: I think a lot original colonial Australian houses were built with verandas over them and decks around the house. A lot of that before the days of air-conditioning people used to build so that you can open up windows any side of the house and have shade with cool air coming through the house when you… and particularly in the evening as it starts to cool off.
Ian: So, people’ve just had this tradition of building decks around their house. We’ve only got a very little veranda here. It’s really just an eave-overhang. We don’t really have room. And with a low roof (it) would be quite a low veranda if we had it on.
Ian: So, I did want to show you these kangaroo paws quickly, the small plants that we had around the side hadn’t started to flower yet, but this is what they look like. (You) get them in a variety of colours. The original natural native plants were yellow and red and green, but there’s not a whole lot of varieties that’ve been bred up that, Pete, if you come in close you’ll be able to see that the kangaroo paw is named for these little flower heads that… I’ll take my (glove off), that have this sort of hand going over just like a little kangaroo paw. If you’ve seen kangaroos they sit with their paws like this, and people thought that’s what the flower heads look like on these.
Pete: Awesome. So, can you tell us anything else about the other plants that you’ve got here in the front yard, dad?
Ian: Look. (This is a) banksia here. This one’s called Banksia robur. Obviously, it’s a small plant. It grows to about 2 or 3m tall and quite wide. The idea with this one was to put a plant in here to block off a little bit of the street view. We didn’t want to have a fence coming all the way down the side here and blocking this off completely. But that grows up and has very large flowers about 20cm high and they start off a dark deep greeny blue colour and then go brown and yellow when they open up. So, (they’re) quite beautiful plants.
Ian: The rest of them, again, are just a mixture of plants with flowers all through the season. There’s some small everlasting daisies that are really varietals. They’ve originally been bred from some native plants, but they’re called everlastings because the flowers can last for months, and if you also, if you cut them and dry them out they’ll last for years in, you know, flower decorations and so on, ‘cause they’re almost like a paper rather than the soft petals that you get (on other plants).
Ian: Other things that we’ve tried to do, again, are different textures, different colours. You can see the greys, the lime greens, the dark greens and so on in here, and some more different sort of grasses, particularly these wallaby grasses in here that while they look dead over summer…
Pete: So, they’re these little ones.
Ian: They’re this little one here, yeah. It looks sort of dead over summer, but those seed heads will sit there for a few months. They’ll eventually fall off, and then as soon as the rain starts again in Autumn the plant, the grass will start to green up again and then reflower the next Spring. So, they’re a perennial plant that looks like an annual (plant), but they keep coming back.
Ian: So, these grasses are stipa. The… they grow on dunes and the sort of secondary dune at the back of the dunes at the beach, but they’re also good garden plants. But of course, being dune plants they’re very salt tolerant, they grow really quickly, and they provide this beautiful feathery, you know, seeding… (head).