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Australian native garden ideas: small spaces, big impact

We’re lucky to live in a country that’s brimming with unique flora and fauna. In our diverse landscapes – the red soiled deserts of the outback, the lush rainforests and our sandy, salty coasts – can be found some of the most fascinating plants in the world. 

For many Australian gardeners, outdoor living enthusiasts and proud homeowners, incorporating our unique flora and fauna into gardens and backyards is not just a nod to Australia’s natural beauty, but an intentional step in recreating sustainable and resilient outdoor spaces. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at some inspiring Australian native garden ideas to spark your imagination and creativity. But first, let’s look at the benefit of choosing Australian native plants for your garden. 

Why Choose Australian native plants for your garden

Australian native plants are hardy

Australia native plants evolved to withstand our varied climate conditions. Wherever you are in Australia your garden will likely need to survive hot summers, drought, intense storms and floods – sometimes all in the one year.  And for those of us Melbourne (where we are based at Discounted Patios), there can sometimes be four seasons in one day (or what feels like it), with conditions changing by the hour.

The plants that are most likely to survive and even thrive in our climate are, of course, Australian natives. Natives will are better equipped to handle extreme weather and tolerate the elements in a way that most exotics simply can’t survive without the ongoing devotion of a gardener.

Australian natives are more drought tolerate

Once established, many Australian native plants are drought-tolerant and require much less water than exotic plants. By sticking primarily to Australian native plants, you’ll reduce your water bill and the amount of time and effort that’s required to keep your garden looking great.  

Australian native gardens support native fauna

By planting Australian natives, you’re providing essential habitats and food sources for local fauna. Many Australian native plants are vital to the survival of native bees and birds. Banksia, Callistemon, and Grevillea are important sources of nectar honeyeaters and bees, and Eucalyptus trees provide homes for our threatened koalas. By choosing native plants, you’re helping to conserve the rich biodiversity of our country. With habitat destruction on the rise, Australian native gardens can serve as mini-refuges for native species.

Low maintenance

Once established many Australian native plants require minimal care. They are adapted to thrive in Australia’s climate and are usually pretty hardy, which means they don’t need as much of a gentle touch as other plants. They’re also adapted to Australia’s varied soils and, as long as they aren’t under stress, they don’t require chemical soil additives, fertilisers or pesticides. 

Sustainability benefits

Many native plants are naturally resistant to pests and diseases found in Australia. This reduces the need for chemical interventions, leading to a healthier garden environment for pollinators, birds and other wildlife.

There are also soil conservation benefits. Native plants, with their deep-rooting systems, play a pivotal role in preventing soil erosion. They help in maintaining soil health and structure.

Simply put, Australian native plants means your garden will be more sustainable and reduces its carbon footprint.

Australian native garden ideas to inspire you

Now that we’ve covered why Australian native gardens are so beneficial for your backyard, we can share our Australian native garden ideas to inspire you and get you started. 

Whether you have expansive space, or a small backyard, here’s how you can bring a touch of Down Under into your outdoor haven.

A haven for birds

Relaxing on your verandah or patio while observing the habits, behaviours and seasonal visits of your local bird populations is one of the sweetest rewards of tending an Australian native garden. 

Australian urban environments are filled with native bird species that have adapted to living side by side with humans. Rainbow lorikeets, eastern rosellas, white-plumed honeyeaters, bellbirds, brown thornbills, tawny frogmouths, silvereyes, superb fairywerns and, of course, magpies are all frequent visitors in Melbourne backyards. Encourage them by researching plants that are native to your area and offering birds all the resources they need to thrive.

Birds use different plants for different reasons, including nesting, nesting materials, shelter and food. Choose a combination of natives to cover their needs and increase the likelihood that native birds are frequent guests, or even residents, in your garden.

Some native Australian plants that attract and support birds include:

  • Wattles (Acacia) – An iconic Australian native, wattles provide birds with shelter, incests and seeds and are wonderful pioneer plants for new gardens. Smaller varieties such as Acacia myrtifoila (wattle myrtle) or Acacia linifola (white or flax wattle) are perfect where space is limited.
  • Paperbarks or Honey Myrtles (Melaleuca) – Melaleuca’s are an excellent choice to attract wildlife into your garden. Many birds depend on Melaleucas for shelter, food and nesting sites. If you don’t have the space for a Paperbark tree, choose one of the many varieties of honey myrtles. 
  • Heath or Flax-leaf Heath Myrtle (Baeckea) – Like Melaleuca’s, Baeckea’s are a important plant for birdlife, offering shelter, nesting materials, nesting sites and incests. Reaching a height of 2 metres, these beautiful, delicate native shrubs are particularly useful in small gardens. 
  • Needle Bushes (Hakea) – There are roughly 130 species of Hakea. Choose one with prickly foliage to offer valuable shelter for a variety of small birds. Hakea sericea or Silky Hakea is a good choice for Melbourne’s climate, and may be pruned to encourage dense, bushy foliage.
  • Correas – To attract honeyeaters, look no further than a Correa. Their bell shaped, tubular flowers bloom through Winter into early Spring. Hardy and drought tolerant once established, Correa’s make an excellent understory plant in a cottage style garden. 
  • Grasses, reeds and sedges – Select a variety of native grasses such as Tussock Grass (Poa Labillardieri), Kangaroo Grass (Themeda australis) and Tall Spear Grass (Stipa pubescens) to provide seeds and nesting materials for native birds. 

Plantings that provide shelter can be supplemented with bird boxes that are fixed high up on established trees and out of direct sunlight. This will give your birds every chance to safely hatch and raise their nestlings away from neighbourhood cats and other predators. 

A bird friendly garden isn’t complete without one or two bird baths to provide fresh water. Wide, shallow dishes that allow birds to either stand on the edge or walk into the water are ideal and help birds cool off during our hot, dry Summer months.

Attract bees into your garden with Australian native plants

Bees and other pollinators play a critical role in sustaining healthy ecosystems by helping plants reproduce and they need our help! Creating a bee haven or corner in your garden to support native bees is a practical and fun way to make a positive contribution to the environment. 

There are plenty of native bee habitats that you can purchase these days, of all sizes. Many of them look stunning in a backyard, especially when they’re surrounded by the colours of the Australian native flowers that all bees love. 

Australian native plants that attract bees (of all varieties) include:

  • BanksiaBanksia integrifolia, Banksia marginata, and Banksia spinulosa are all native to the greater Melbourne area and thrive in sunny spots with good drainage.
  • Grevilleas – Available in a huge variety of colours, shapes, and sizes, Grevilleas are one of the quintessential Australian natives. Check with your nursery about which variety best suits your garden. 
  • Happy Wanderer (Hardenbergia Violacea) – A beautiful, hardy and vigorous climber well suited to Melbourne’s conditions. Purple flowers begin in late winter and last until the warmer months. 
  • Manuka Tea Tree ( Leptospermum scoparium) is a bush with small pink or white flowers that appear during the summer months. A native of Tasmania and Victoria, this is hardy and pretty native tolerates a wide range of conditions and is famed for the honey’s medicinal properties. 
  • Bottlebrush (Callistemon) – A particular favourite of native bees and birds. They need a spot in your garden with full sun and depending on the variety you choose, you’ll rewarded with a plethora of flowers from mid-winter to mid-summer.
  • Red Flowering Gum (Corymbia ficifolia or Corymbia Wild Sunset) –  Growing between 3 – 7 metres tall, these stunning feature trees thrive in Melbourne’s mediterranean climate, are drought tolerate and boast clusters of red flowers during the summer months.

A home among the gum trees (dwarf or regular)

A house with a verandah and a towering eucalyptus in the backyard is about as Australian is it gets. For many, an Australian native garden isn’t complete without at least one gum tree. If you already have an established gum tree or trees in your garden, you’ll be able to plan and plant your native garden knowing the places that get full sun, and the areas where your gums cast shade. If you are thinking about planting a feature tree, read one for our tips on finding the perfect gum tree for your garden.

There are over 800 species of eucalyptus and some can grow up to 80-100 m tall in ideal conditions. If you live on property or have very large backyard, you have your pick of gum trees. To recreate our iconic Australian landscape, mimic how they grow in nature and plants gum trees together rather than spread out over a large area.

If you have limited space, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this style of Australian garden is out of reach, but there are many small gum trees to choose from. Additionally, over the past decade or so, many grafted varieties of our popular Australian trees have been cultivated to suit the decreasing size of our urban backyards. Be aware, though, that even a ‘small’ gum tree can grow to 10 metres high. Decide on the height of tree that will suit your garden and make a selection that fit the bill and are suited to our Victorian climate.

While it’s almost impossible to resist a gum tree once you’ve fallen in love with how it looks in full flower, once your gum is established it’s truck will the most prominent feature year round. Take a walk in a eucalypt forest and observe the trucks and bark of gum trees in their natural habitat. You may find that the unique, ever-changing colours and patterns on the truck of a Spotted Gum (Corymbia maculata), for example, earns it a place in your garden.

Edible delights in a small setting

For those who love the idea of adding treats from your own garden to your dining menu, adding bushfood plants to your list of Australian native garden ideas can be a great addition. From the crunchy Macadamia Nut to the tangy Finger Lime, adding a local Australian edible plant to the mix can really amplify the authentic Aussie ‘flavour’ in your garden. Many edible Australian plants also work well in small backyard gardens.

Rock and sand garden features

Here’s an Australian native garden idea that you might not have thought of: a rock or sand garden feature.

Adding a rock feature or sand garden feature to your Australian themed garden can add a stunning touch that recreates the beauty of the Australian outback. Plants like the Desert Rose look absolutely stunning in setups with rock and sand features, and are a great way to make smaller gardens look extra-special.

Embrace rainforest vibes with lush leaves

On the opposite end of the spectrum from the rock and sand look is embracing Australia’s wetter landscapes and leaning into the lush tropical look.

You can create a rainforest-esque garden escape by selecting Australian ferns and other iconic rainforest plant varieties.
Planting some taller varieties of plants with overhead leaves can provide an overhead canopy, which can provide shade, cool your garden, and enhance the rainforest feel.

Choices like the Tree Fern are perfect for shaded, cool spots, bringing green tranquillity. Australian native plants for gardens embracing a rainforest vibe include:

  • Native ferns, palms & cycads
  • Native Viola (Viola hederacea)
  • Lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora) 
  • Native frangipani (Hymenosporum flavum)

Add a pond or water feature

Adding a pond will enhance your garden’s lush tropical vibe, and provide resources for wildlife. If you’re considering small Australian native garden ideas, a water feature with native aquatic plants can elevate the entire look.

If you’re looking for an Australian wetlands look, species like Water Ribbon (Triglochin procerum) offer a authentic touch.

Australian native plants for your garden pond and water features include:

  • White Water Fringe (Nymphoides Indica) 
  • Yellow Marsh Flower (Villarsia Exaltata) 
  • Water Ribbon (Triglochin) 
  • Common Nardoo (Marsilea drummondii) 

These native pond plant varieties are not only attractive but also provide habitat for fish and aquatic fauna.

Top your water feature off with a water feature that leans on natural-looking elements like rocks and stone and a cascading waterfall

Happy creating

We hope that these Australian native garden ideas and suggestions for Australian native plants have inspired you to design your own ultimate garden retreat. Many of these ideas work well for small garden design, as well as for larger gardens. Whatever it is that you land on, we hope it embraces everything that you want it to.

Want the perfect outdoor living solutions to sit back and soak it all in?

Once you’ve designed your perfect garden retreat, you’ll surely want to kick back, relax and enjoy it. At Discounted Patios, we have been providing the very best outdoor living solutions for homeowners in Melbourne for more than 25 years. 

From high-quality pergolas that can be placed anywhere in your garden, to stunning patios and verandahs that can be custom-built to your requirements, our experienced team can help you craft the perfect enjoyment space in which to relax and soak it all in. 

Get in touch with our friendly team today to learn more about how we can help you completely transform your outdoor spaces with stunning outdoor living structures that make a real statement while enhancing your enjoyment of your outdoor areas. 

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