Don’t waste your money on plants that can’t survive the Aussie weather. Makeover your balcony with these Aussie natives instead and you’ll enjoy the views all year long.
After spending weeks at home in isolation, you’d be forgiven for never wanting to step foot in your home again, or maybe you’re panicking about returning to normal. Whichever side of the fence you’re on, it’s clear that we’re not out of the woods yet, so creating a space in your abode that feels calm and welcoming is more important than ever. And that’s where a garden comes in.
Now, just because you live in an apartment doesn’t mean you can’t jump on the mindful gardening trend. In fact, since you have a smaller space to work with, giving a balcony or patio a greenover can feel more achievable than landscaping a sprawling backyard, and with nurseries now delivering straight to your door, getting your green thumb on has never been easier.
Before you rush out and grab the shiniest fiddle leaf fig in the shop, though, get yourself acquainted with native Australian plants instead. “Native plants are better adapted to our climate, where summers are getting hotter and drier,” explains Narelle Happ, Plant Life Balance ambassador and horticulturalist from A Garden For Life.
“With water restrictions inevitable over summer, natives are more drought resistant and able to withstand periods of limited water. They also encourage insects into the garden, particularly native bee species, which rely on our native plants for food.”
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What native plants should you choose?
According to Happ, it’s important to consider what you want most out of your plants before choosing them. For example, do you want colour, or do you want foliage?
“These are great if you’re after a riot of colour,” says Happ. “They’re native daisies and give year-round colour.”
Correa, banksia, philotheca and eucalyptus
“Choose these if you prefer a seasonal garden,” notes Happ. “Correa is great for autumn, banksia is for winter, philotheca species are for spring and grafted corymbias and eucalyptus are perfect for summer.”
Cordylines, native ginger and birds nest ferns
“If foliage is more your taste, make sure to pick a diversity of foliage types,” tips Happ. “Shadier areas would use plants such as cordylines, native ginger and birds nest ferns.
Grevilleas and coastal rosemary
“These species will do well in a hotter, drier area as opposed to shady spots,” Happ says.
Lemon myrtle, finger lime and midyim berry
“There is a huge range of edible native plants available and all can be grown in pots,” notes Happ. “My favourite is lemon myrtle and it can be used for tea and in savoury and sweet dishes.”
How to take care of your native plants
When it comes to looking after your new native plants, Happ says it’s important to use the best quality native potting mix you can buy. “You should also use pots that are glazed or sealed to prevent evaporation, and add mulch to the top of the soil to prevent moisture loss.”
Feed your plants regularly to maintain their health (ask your local nursery which type of food is best) and remember that a plant that’s planted correctly will have few pest problems.
“Natives are particularly pest resistant and maintain their health a lot easier than exotic species,” adds Happ.
How to style your native plants.
Happ’s top tips for styling the balcony of your Instagram dreams
Embrace mass and void
“Grouping by colour or leaf shapes creates a striking feature on your garden balcony or patio. Growing native plants in groups also creates a microclimate and allows them to thrive, particularly when there are hot or dry conditions. While giving larger plants some breathing space to show their true form can create a statement piece in itself.”
Replicate the natural landscape
“Borrow design features from the natural landscape and use it in your design. Distant trees in the background become a canopy layer, allowing contrasting potted patio shrubs to be used in layers as the eye takes in the image as a whole.”
Look for patterns in nature
“Designers often talk in odd numbers and love plants in threes. In nature, smaller plants and grasses usually grow in a group, and groups are often repeated in the landscape. Repeated leaf structures throughout a balcony garden allow the eye to rest and take the plants in, rather than too many shapes creating a chaotic effect.”