Hardy & cheap local native plants for your garden
While it’s a relatively lean season in the vegetable garden, it’s the perfect time to be planting lots of indigenous plants, allowing them to develop roots and settle in before the spring and the growing season begins. Planting tube stock is the best option, as they are extremely affordable (about the price of a coffee) and suffer far less transplant shock, growing healthier and stronger right from the start. While they look small, if you plant them now they will rocket off in spring.
We are lucky to have some great indigenous plant nurseries in our region – including the one at Latrobe University.
Here are a few very hardy plants native to our local area that I have growing or have planted recently at my place. All are perennials and very easy to grow.
This local correa features lime green flowers. It easily hybridises with other correas (eg. the ‘Dusky Bells’ – a common garden favourite), so it isn’t uncommon to see the odd plant with flowers that are less green and more pink or brown.
This Correa is a shrub that grows about 1-3m tall and 1-3m wide. It’s very easy to keep smaller with pruning – they are extremely forgiving. Will tolerate full sun or full shade with very little water. Great for that dry shady spot which doesn’t suit many other plants in the garden or under a tree.
This correa flowers from late summer all the way through to spring unlike many other correas, and its nectar filled flowers attract lots of birds.
Another medium sized shrub, growing up to 2m tall and 1.5m wide. Also responds well to pruning and can be kept smaller.
Covered in attractive dark red papery seed pods in late spring/early summer. Called hop bush as early European colonists used the fruit for brewing beer. Chewing the leaves is said to alleviate toothache.
Kidney Weed/Emerald Falls
5cm tall, 1m wide
Beautiful fast growing ground cover.
Grown for its foliage although has tiny pale flowers in spring and summer. Loves part or full shade and can cope with a wet spot. Can be used as an native alternative to lawn (see image of my old place in Heidelberg – just 9 months after planting 4 tubestock plants). Creates a dense ground cover preventing weeds from taking hold. Note: Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’ is very popular and looks almost identical apart from being silver, but is actually native to Central America. Silver Falls prefers more sun and is more drought tolerant. While I only plant the native version in the ground, Silver Falls is still a lovely trailing plant for in pots or baskets.
Another gorgeous ground cover growing only 10cm tall and spreading 1.5 to 2m. The leaves are trifoliate, meaning they have 3 lobes. Covered with scarlet red pea flowers with a yellow centre, Running Postman flowers right through spring and summer. Bird and butterflies both love flowers. Will happily grow in full sun or part shade and as it is a member of the pea family, requires no fertiliser as it makes its own by taking nitrogen from the air and storing it in the soil. Looks fabulous trialing over a rock wall or out of a hanging basket.
There are many more beautiful local natives available, and staff at indigenous nurseries are usually very knowledgeable. I encourage you to head to La Trobe, Edendale Farm in Eltham or VINC in Fairfield and ask for some advice about what to plant at your place.
Words and photos by Jen Willis