Last weekend we did a workshop on Gardening with Native Plants held at the Sydney Wildflower Nursery at Heathcote. The workshop presenters were nursery owner Dave Rose & Angus Stewart of the television show, Gardening Australia.
Although I took notes, I won’t post the whole content of the workshop as I highly suspect they will hold this kind of event again, as both workshops on that day were full. Not surprising given the presenters & that it was free. It was very generous of the nursery to do this.
The Sydney Wildflower Nursery has undergone a lot of vegetation changes in the last six months. Raised garden beds have been installed, & new Australian native trees, shrubs & plants & a new frog pond were put in.
It was explained that this area will showcase native plants, shrubs & trees to show what they grow into & how they appear in a garden setting, as compared to what they look like when you buy them in a pot. They are doing this with the aim to increase the use of native plants to increase biodiversity across Sydney.
It is a good idea. Many people still think of native plants as drab & messy plants, but they are anything but. Good choices, planted in the right way & pruned at the right time will set you up with a garden that looks after itself & attracts wildlife. I firmly believe that birds in the garden makes life better.
Some of the advice included –
- When designing your garden, put the big things in first (like shrubs & trees) & then work around these.
- Imported soil usually has a high pH level. The pH level can also fluctuate throughout the soil mix.
- Australian natives prefer an acid soil with a low pH of between 5.5 – 6. A high pH tends to lock down the nutrients that native plants need. You can add Iron Sulphate to the soil to bring the pH down fairly quickly.
- If you have rich soil, it is best to grow natives that come from desert areas in pots, as this allows you to create the ideal soil conditions for them – sandy & free draining.
- If you add cow manure to your soil, make sure the manure comes from free-range cows & not feed-lot cows. What the animal eats depends on the quality of manure it produces. Feed-lot manure has very little nutrient content & is not beneficial for your garden.
- Plants look better if there are an odd number – 1, 3, 5 & so on. It is more pleasing to the eye, so it is better to plant three of one species & place them together.
- The average potting mix is comprised of 60-65% composted pine bark, 10% coir & the rest is sand.
- Soak your plant while still in the pot before you plant it, as this will help retain water in the potting mix.
- Dig a hole twice the size & twice the depth than your pot. Then mix in some potting soil & some slow release fertilizer. Doing this will help the roots make a transition into the soil of your garden. Plants frequently stop sending out roots into the surrounding soil because they prefer the soil that came with the pot. When this happens, your plant will not grow to its optimum. I am sure many of you have removed a plant months later only to find that the roots come out in the shape of the pot you bought it in. This is because the roots did not make the transition into the soil of your garden.
- Wet & hot weather makes slow-release fertilizer pellets break down more quickly, so you may need to fertilize more often.
- Do not be afraid to prune native plants & shrubs. Pruning thickens them up & prevents them from becoming leggy & straggly. Prune in the time when flowers are not being produced, otherwise you will remove all the flowers & not have blooms for the following season.
Angus spoke of his 35-year love of breeding Kangaroo Paws & said the taller flowering varieties are the toughest & can be long-lived in Sydney. The smaller varieties flower well in Sydney, but are not as long-lived. We were all given a Kangaroo Paw for our garden, which was a nice treat.
Angus also spoke about his new website, which has a database of more than 1,000 plants & is continuing to grow. It’s a comprehensive site with pop-up photos of native plants allowing you to have a good look at the plant. http://www.gardeningwithangus.com.au
Sydney Wildflower Nursery specializes in Australian native plants & is a wonderful resource if you are looking for something different. They are at 9 Veno St, Heathcote NSW 2233. Ph: (02) 9548 2818. Parking is easy. http://www.sydneywildflowernursery.com.au