Category Archive: Native plants

“Wild At Heart” wins 1st prize in Boutique Garden Competition

Emmaline Bowman is one of the new generation of Landscape Designers. A woman brought up in the Gippsland countryside, Emmaline practices what she preaches. Her belief in using native plants was seen first hand in this years Melbourne International Flower & Garden  Show where she won first prize in the Boutique Garden Competition. Now her company, Stem Landscape Architecture & Design is now going to be in high demand, to create more of her wonderful gardens.

The garden Emmaline designed was all about bringing nature into your own backyard. We can all have our own little piece of nature, no matter how small our garden is. It’s not just about using native plants, although that’s a good start. It is about creating a habitat, and this might include water, little home for insects and the acceptance that insects, birds, and animals are all a part of it.

The garden was aptly named, “Wild At Heart” To enter this competition, the garden had to be 5m x 5m in size. It was a beautiful garden that expressed itself well. It was also well built (all above ground) and was judged to be the best in its category. One of the features was a vertical garden of water plants running into a pond.

Here is what Emmaline’s submission said about the garden:

‘Wild at Heart’ is a garden designed to integrate Australia’s native flora and fauna into a retreat for people to unwind and reconnect with nature. It is a conservation project bringing Australia’s unique natural environment into urban backyards; unifying rehabilitation with the opportunity for people to once again experience nature in everyday life.

Working as a system, it is a place where water naturally cools the air as it trickles down a planted wall into a pond that winds down past the recycled timber deck and where native frogs provide a wonderful symphony of melodic tunes amongst the flowering water plants. It is where misshapen stones and boulders provide homes for skinks and geckos to feast on the insects that are drawn into the garden, and where native bees and insects pollinate the numerous native flowers and edible plants.

This garden provides a space where one can step back into nature, away from the harsh sounds, smells and bustle of city and urban life, to a place where nature works effortlessly. Children can observe and discover Earths own creations as children did in years past. It is a place that allows you to unwind as you relax on a suspended day bed with a beverage and your favourite book.

Gardenworld was proud to provide plants towards this project. Lotus Watergardens also provided the murray river rainbows – a small native fish that lived in the pond.

Link: Stem Landscape Architecture & Design

Planting in the fernery – Coin Spotted Tree Fern

By James Wall

We have a little fernery. The existing australis tree ferns have got a little tall and the area below them is looking a little bare. I am going to try a Coin Spotted Tree Fern or Cyathea cooperi.

An empty gap where we will plant our fern

Although this fern can get 4 or 5 metres high in its native area of the tropical lowlands of coastal Queensland and NSW, I am hoping its grows a bit slower down here in Melbourne, but alas one day may get a bit tall. It will be much skinnier in the trunk than my other 2 ferns so will still look quite effective.

It is called a coin spotted fern because when the old fronds are gone, they leave little stumps that look like coins. Some people also refer to it as the Lacy tree fern after its fronds. I love the way this young plants fronds furl over in a large curve.

The name cooperi was named after Sir Daniel Cooper (1821-1902). He was an elected into one of Australia’s first parliaments and became the first ever Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.












Our soil is rather sandy, and I guess summer is not the best time to be planting a fern. I was worried it was going to dry out. Then I had an idea – lets get some mulch blocks and plant the fern in coir peat.

Coir peat is made from the outer husk of the coconut. It absorbs moisture and is great in sandy soils. It is also a waste product that is being put to good use. It also comes from struggling economies like Sri Lanka, that need the economic help. They soak it in water to remove excess salts and then dry it and bail it extremely compacted to efficiently freight.

You simply add water, break it up a bit once it softens, and then it is ready to use. It makes a beautiful mulch on top of the garden, or can be incorporated into the soil like I have done with this fern.

I shoveled the coir it into the hole, planted the fern and put more coir all around it. That should do the trick.

Let’s hope it works and the fern thrives. Next time we will plant some ground cover ferns to further develop our little micro-climate of a fernery.

Iconic gum tree of the Australian alps.

snow gum colours

By James Wall

After visiting Mount Hotham last week I was amazed by the resilience and beauty of this iconic Australian tree.

We know it as a snow gum or Eucalyptus paucifolia. I always remembered it as having a creamy white trunk, but then that may have been in summer. I haven’t been in the alps in winter for over 20 years.

Eucalyptus paucifoliaThe colour of the smooth trunk  includes rich streaks of greys,  lemon yellows, scoria reds and rich creamy whites. As the snow was quite heavy, I spent many hours staring out at them from the protection of a warm lodge. And I am sure in summer when it flowers there is more richness in colour and that the white flowers look like snowflakes, again cementing the aptness of its name.

snowgum two trunksNot only did these trees withstand about 20cm of fresh snow while we were there; the next night we got 120 km per hour winds belting up the valley. Factor in numerous frosts, minus degree days and you can start to imagine this is one tough tree. With a mountain so devoid of plants (as it has turned into a ski resort) this is one place where these copses probably help prevent erosion.

snow covered gumI was told on the nearby mountains that bushfires had defoliated many specimens but that re-shooting was taking place at the base of the trees. This thing just refuses to be defeated. Another survival mechanism that I noticed was that the branches with new growth were too soft to hold the snow and therefore were bare of snow the next morning while other tougher sections were still covered with it.

snow covered gumsLinks:The Snow Gum poem by Douglas Stewart

We heard that in summer there are some great walks around here with beautiful alpine wildflowers. On searching the web I found this beautifully presented website called Photodiary of a Nomad who had been trekking around Mount Hotham in summer. There are some great photos of the wildflowers.

I also found this classic poem The Snow-gum  from the 1950’s by poet Douglas Stewart from his book The Birdsville Track and other poems. It obiously had nothing to do with the birdsville track but was one of the “other” poems.

 Available at the nursery:

snowgum plants available at gardenworld

At the nursery we have the eucalyptus paucifolia in a 14cm pot (left in the picture).

We also have as pictured on the right an Edna Walling Little Snowman which claims it is a smaller form. The trees I saw looked like they would get between 5 and 10 metres, but we also saw some much bigger and older specimens. I would say this plants seeds were selected from one of the smaller trees.

Also keep in mind, with conditions not as harsh in Melbourne, the tree may grow better. You could also prune early lower branches to create a more definite trunk at the base.

However you grow it, your are sure to enjoy this iconic Australian tree.


Acacia baileyana flowering now.

First published at Gardeners Notebook by  Bonnie Marie Hibbs

I was out in the garden and something yellow caught my eye.  I discovered one of my Acacia baileyana, (common name Cootamundra Wattle), in flower.  Estimating; I believe my tree is to a height of 4 meters tall and has a width of 3 meters. (Acacia’s are amongst the FABACEAE family, which is also made up of three sub-families.)

Acacia baileyana

The foliage has what I call an ash green or even a silver blue colouring and pinnate leaves. The bark is smooth and dark brown, with a trunk diameter of 20cm.


Now, the most eye-catching, beautiful and magical thing about this tree is its inflorescent yellow flower chains. Globular flowers make up these impressive clusters of yellow. The flowers almost resemble a pom-pom with the amount of showy stamens, and only reach a length of 8mm in size.


If you are on the lookout for these trees they are usually found in the natural bushland and sometimes in nature reserves, or in your own backyard.


Acacia baileyanaAcacia baileyanaAcacia baileyana


A patch of lime green – Scleranthus biflorus.

By Bonnie-Marie Hibbs

Lime Lava, Scleranthus biflorus, is an exceptionally beautiful Australian native ground cover. Originally located in the natural alpines and coastal areas of Australia, Scleranthus b. is an fantastic grower.

Scleranthus biflorus

Lime Lava - Scleranthus biflorus

Growing to a height of 15cm and a spread of 75 – 80cm, Scleranthus b. is a great compact and drought tolerant ground cover, with the added benefit of being frost tolerant. Planting positions are optional as this Australian native can be placed in full sun to part shade.

Scleranthus b. is unfortunately, overlooked and may be considered ordinary when discussing the excitement factor of a plant. But to me this plant is a true Australian beauty and one of my favorites. I love the simplicity, foliage and the general growth habit, for it can be positioned in so many areas around the garden.

The foliage is a brilliant vibrant green all year round, which can act as a great contrast against other Australian or even exotic plants.  When placed in a courtyard, gardenbeds or in small spaces it can easily transform the feeling and look of the whole area. The green mounds can create great planter pots for decorating an entertainment area or even a fernery.

Scleranthus b. can grow happily in all soil types with good drainage. Giving it a feed a couple times a year with native Osmocote will help encourage more growth. Pruning isn’t required but I personally like to prune this plant once a year to help encourage new growth and a general good habit.

The best way to show off Scleranthus b. is in garden rockeries, creeping over logs, cascading out of pots, between pavers or stone walls.

So the next time you drop by the nursery do take the time to look at this amazing plant.

Scleranthus biflorus Lime Lava

Looking stunning in this earthy pot.



Snowy River Westringia re-discovered.

Snowy River WestringiaThey thought there was only a handful of these Westringia, but after an exciting expedition that included rafting and rock climbing, the Department of Sustainability and Environment biodiversity officers have found over 500.

The Royal Botanic Gardens have taken cuttings, so lets hope one day it is released to the nursery industry. They appear to require little water and can take extreme heat. The plants also appear to stay compact and hence would be perfect in a home garden situation.

Could this be the next Woolemi ? Stay tuned home gardeners.

More info is available here at The Age website.

The following text comes from the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Snowy River Westringia (Westringia cremnophila)

A dwarf shrub that grows to 0.5m high, with branches densely covered with fine white hairs and white flowers with yellow-brown dots in the throat.  This species grows on cliffs and in rock cavities in the gorge tract of the Snowy River east of Butchers Ridge.

Snowy River Westringia was discovered by the naturalist and native plant hybridist Leo Hodge on an expedition in 1950 in the Snowy River Gorges of East Gippsland.  It is listed as Vulnerable under the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999.  The species is endemic to Victoria where it is known from only a few small populations.

Eremophila – Nivea ‘Gubburra Bells’

By Bonnie-Marie Hibbs

Eremophila Nivea ‘Gubburra Bells’ is one of Australians native beauties, originating from Western Australia. Growing to a smaller height of 1-1.5 (5’) meters and in width, makes it the perfect native plant. With a compact and moderately fast growing habit.  

It’s a great grower for Melbourne conditions but does require an open sunny position with good soil drainage. The distinctive sliver foliage is a great visual aspect along with mauve tubular flowers. Flowering begins in late winter to early spring, with spot flowering during autumn. A recommended prune after flowering in mid spring to early summer is essential to stop any woody growth and will also encourage a compact and dense habit.

Eremophila – Nivea ‘Gubburra Bells’       Photo by Bonnie-Marie Hibbs

E. Nivea will benefit from a Native fertiliser after pruning. I personally find ‘Natural Natives’ slow release fertiliser to work quite well. It’s important with any Australian natives to use a native plant fertilizer, because they all contain low phosphorus levels, which is very beneficial to all native plants.

Soil types for E. Nivea; it isn’t too selective, but it is recommended if you have heavy clay to use gypsum instead of compost. In the case of sandy soils, use compost that has had time to dilute itself for a good period of time therefore reducing the phosphorus levels.  

Your browser may not support display of this image.  E. Nivea is a great drought tolerant plant, which is also suited to coastal conditions once established. E. Nivea can be difficult to grow in humid conditions, However it is defiantly worth taking up the challenge. E. Nivea is also known to be frost sensitive, but that certainly hasn’t stopped me giving it a go in my own garden.

It’s beautiful silver foliage and mauve flowers can really give a great contribution to any garden. E. Nivea is a good contrast plant and can really bring out the beauty of other plants, but is also a great single specimen. E. Nivea is also great to attract honey eating birds and other garden friendly insects.

The year is March-ing on in the garden.

Well I can’t quite remember just how many times the lawn has been mowed in the last 6 months – but it has been a lot. It has also never been greener at this time of year, putting an extra bit of pace on the rubber cricket ball I have been zooming down to my son. People are starting to use a bit of the artificial turf, but I reckon you can’t beat a bit of frolicking about with the kids on the real stuff.  Down at Gardenworld, we have a shop called the Smart Water Shop and they are experts on not only water capture, but all types of grass or turf. They can tell you how to control weeds and what type of turf would suit your garden. You can buy premium varieties of turf or seed. 

People often ask for small evergreen trees and quite often they buy the dwarf gum trees. Included in these are the Silver Princess. (Eucalyptus caesia). This is the drooping gum that if you walk around most Melbourne suburbs, you will see many of. They will grow around 4 to 5 metres and once mature, the bark of the branches turns a silvery white. It is a very uniquely shaped tree that sometimes looks like the top half is growing upside down. 

Much more compact and upright growing gum trees are the ones that have been grafted. The grower has spent many years working out what rootstock to use and what varieties to graft on to the rootstock. They’ve ended up with a tree that only grows 3 to 4 metres. There are even some newer varieties that only grow 1 to 2 metres, and they flower there heads off, called Mini Red and Mini Orange. These are perfect for nature strips as the will never reach the wires. You will pay around $50 for the grafted gums, but you will be amazed at their compact size and beautiful flowers.


Being the start of Autumn, it’s definitely the beginning of the end for the spring flowers and tidying up and dead heading flowers with a trim will neaten up the garden. These may include climbers, lavenders and callistemons. Roses could be given a light prune and many will flush again in 4 – 6 weeks. I am going to plant some delphiniums because their tall stately blooms will look spectacular at the back of the garden bed. Did you know that from sowing delphinium seeds until flowering takes 28 weeks ! That’s over 6 months so I think I will start them from seedlings – probably the Pacific Giants mix which is full of blue, pink and white blooms. Plant now to ensure they get that winter chill that perennials need. 

Harvest time will be in full swing for apples and pears and some late peaches. Take the opportunity to remove excessive spurs and growth as you harvest.  Other deciduous fruit trees can be treated this way too to generally thin out a bit.  This will allow the remaining buds to mature and would reduce the amount of pruning required in winter. 

Bulbs to plant this month: 

Anenome. Daffodils, Dutch Iris, Freesia, Hyacinths, Jonquils, Tulips, Ranunculus 

Flowers to plant this month: Aquilegia, Calendula, Cineraria, Delphinium, Holyhock, Foxglove, Linaria, Nemesia, Pansy, Primula, Polyanthus, Poppy, Viola 

Vegies & Herbs: Beetroot, Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Carrots, Coriander, Garlic, Lettuce, Leek, Parsnip, Onions, Oregano, Radish, Turnip, Thyme

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