Know your: Wildflowers09 August 2019 Nola Parry
Get to know our small native flowering plants, says native plant expert Nola Parry, and you’ll have a pretty new palette with which to paint romantic native gardens that are full of flower.
Australia is blessed with an amazing range of small flowering plants. Yet some gardeners never get beyond a familiarity with gum trees, bottlebrush, paper barks, grevilleas and a few other large plants.
Texture, flower and movement - our native gardens have it all. Photo - Andrew Lehmann
They are missing out! Australia’s wonderful small plants are often characterised by brightly coloured flowers and ornate detail, reflecting both the harshness and diversity of the climate in which they have evolved. That means there are striking and pretty plants suitable for various conditions in the garden.
In the sun
Where you have a sunny spot with very good drainage the range of small beautiful plants you can use is immense. You could add the delightful, brightly coloured Lechenaultias, for instance. These are available in a riot of colours, including cobalt blue, yellow, orange, hot pink and red. Humid weather can be a problem for this group but they add such vibrancy and colour to the garden they are well worth the risk. They are also superb as pot plants and will flower for many months. If you plant Lechanaultias with the purple, white and pink-flowering Scaevolas you will be rewarded with colour for many months.
The delicate-flowered Correas, Croweas and Boronias can really highlight a shady corner. Correas flower in autumn and winter and come in pink, red, orange, green and white. They often have lovely bell-shaped flowers, which may be two-toned. The long-flowering Croweas are a bonus in these shady areas where they will flower for many months in various shades of pink. For a striking image, plant white-flowering Croweas to contrast with the gorgeous flame pea (Chorizema cordatum) with its vivid orange and pink pea flowers.
Any small plant can become an accent if used in a particular way. Often a vibrant colour or special form will stand out. The interesting foliage of Banksia blechnifolia, for instance, is a real standout and is rusty-coloured in new growth. Add large creamy-red flowers and you have a real feature plant.
Many small natives enhance water features. The smaller Lomandra and Dianella give an informal look around ponds and streams as well as serving as bird-attracting plants and providing shelter and havens for frogs, lizards and small birds.
Plants sown on an annual basis can play a significant role for seasonal displays in the garden. Seeds are available for some of the native annuals that provide a spectacular display when mass-planted. The lovely pinks, whites and yellows of the paper daisies, for example, are lovely in a contrast with the bright purples and blues of the Swan River daisies.
It is easy to create colour all year round with a careful selection of plants. Many plants are spring-flowering, however, banksias, correas and croweas will provide colour throughout autumn and winter. When summer arrives the hibbertias, scaevolas and paper daisies come into their own.
Plants can also be grown in pots. Form a cluster of various containers and let your creativity loose. Beautiful combinations can be achieved by planting small-growing kangaroo paws together with various forms of Brachyscomes. This will create year-long colour in a rainbow of possible colour combinations. Or try the gorgeous yellow hibbertias planted amongst the vivid Dampiera ‘Glasshouse Glory’. The delicate grey foliage of some of the Darwinias and Homoranthus also offer an opportunity for creating pretty pictures.
I urge you to get to know these plants and to use them in your garden: if variety is the spice of life, then small plants are the spices of the garden!
Nola Parry is co-author, with Jocelyn Jones, of ‘Small Native Plants for Australian Gardens’ published by New Holland. The book is a wonderful source for gardeners interested in learning more about these beautiful plants and what they can offer to our gardens. Nola is also the owner of the Wildflower Place, a nursery that specialises in Australian natives. Bunches of cut flowers are available at the nursery, as well as the plants themselves, and the nursery offers garden and landscaping advice. The plants mentioned on these pages are all available at the Wildflower Place, 453 The Entrance Rd, Erina Heights. (02) 4365 5510