Matt Leacy’s top picks for a native Aussie Landscape.
With Australia Day just around the corner, native flora should be top of mind for green-thumbs. The abundance of native flowers and plants in Australia can help bring an outdoor space to life – attracting birds and using a minimum of water, all while creating a landscape aesthetic like nowhere else in the world.
And where else would you find native flora labelled so uniquely? Some favourite Aussie natives include the Woolly Bush, Pigface, Snake Vine and Cousin It.
Below, Matt Leacy, co-founder and creative director of Landart Landscapes, and president of the LNA Master Landscapes Association, shares his top tips for creating a native Aussie landscape in your yard.
For Coastal/Natural vibes
Scale and Screening:
· Banksia integrifolia – Matt says: “Often termed the ‘coast banksia’, Banksia Integrifolias are one of four Banksia species originally collected by Joseph Banks in the 1700s. They’re fast-growing along the east coast of Australia, offering beautiful greens, silvers and flowers of pale yellow, and coping with salt and wind – making them a great coastal choice!”
· Melaleuca quinquenervia (‘paper bark’) – “Melaleuca quinquenervia is one of the most diverse plant genus in Australia, with around 250 different species” notes Matt. “Growing in silty or swampy soil along the east coast of New South Wales and Queensland makes them suited to the section of the garden with wet soil or drainage problems. In terms of aesthetics, it’s covered by a white to grey papery bark, producing flowers with short cream and white bottlebrush spikes.”
Shaping and filling
· Westringia fruiticosa – “Westringia fruiticosa is an excellent native choice if you want a shrub that is fast-growing, durable and capable of year-round flowering,” says Matt. “It is great for seaside gardens due to its strong resistance to salt spray – and offers dense, fine leaves and small white flowers that not only look beautiful, but also attract a variety of birds and wildlife. It can be shaped into the perfect sphere if that look is desired.”
· Leucophyta brownii – “Endemic to southern Aussie shores, Leucophyta brownii or ‘cushion bush’ gives off a beautiful silver appearance, with white-yellow flowers in the summer months,” says Matt. “You’ll often find them along dunes, cliff-faces and seaside gardens and they don’t require a lot of watering once they’re established. In terms of where to plant them, they’re great for giving shady areas some light. Mix them with some deep green foliage plants and they will come to life!”
· Adenanthos sericeus (‘Woolly Bush’) – “A native shrub from the south coast of Western Australia, ‘Woolly Bush’ are much-loved for their silver foliage that is so soft you will want to rub your face in it,” says Matt. “They’re a great feature plant, providing contrast in many gardens – and they’re relatively drought-tolerant and low-maintenance in terms of pruning.”
· Poa ‘Eskdale’ – “Poa ‘Eskdale’ is a native grass which is perfect for colour contrasting and softening hard surfaces,” explains Matt. “It sprouts beautiful, fine upright blue-green foliage, making it an ideal choice for mass-planting and larger regeneration projects. In terms of climate, you’re looking at milder coastal conditions for the best results.”
· Carpobrotus glaucescens (‘Pigface’) – “There are multiple species of Carpobrotus glaucescens native to Australia, with the majority growing along the east and south coasts.” Says Matt. “Also known as ‘pigface’, this species of succulents produce a striking bright pink flower, similar in aesthetic to daisies – as well as an edible berry-like fruit, which was used by native Aborigines as a food source. They can withstand salt-spray, slat soils and dry-periods – and they’re perfect for groundcover.”
· Hibbertia scandens (‘snake vine’) – “Hibbertia scandens are a vigorous and adaptable climbing plant that can be used for groundcovers, rock walls, fences or trellises,” says Matt. “They flourish in a variety of conditions, but they flower best in full sun – producing large yellow flowers throughout most of the year. The vines are waterwise and require occasional pruning, but they can bring a really lush and tropical feel to an outdoor space – and they are a great option for smaller gardens, growing horizontally with ease.”
· Casuarina glauca (‘Cousin It’) – “Native to eastern Australia, the Casuarina is a popular coastal plant. The Cassuarina glauca is known for its unique appearance and suitability for groundcover, rockeries and hanging baskets,” explains Matt. “If you’re looking to bring something a little different to your garden, this is a definite winner!”
For structured/organised vibes
Scale and Screening:
· Bottlebrushes – “Bottlebrushes are one of Australia’s most loved and recognised native plant species, and there are plenty of good reasons for this,” notes Matt. “They are brilliantly adaptable garden plants, with long lifespans and minimal maintenance requirements. They work well as both a hedge or feature tree, and flourish primarily in the east and south-east of Australia. Aesthetically, they produce spectacular flower spikes in a broad range of colours – from mauve, pink and orange, to cream and green. Their flowers act as a great attraction for native birds and bees!”
· Tristaniopsis laurina (‘Water Gum’) – “Tristaniopsis laurina grow mostly on eastern coastlines – often along creek banks and rainforest openings,” explains Matt. “They are a great street tree and larger garden tree, producing a dense foliage canopy of green leaves and offering lots of shade. They also produce bright yellow flowers in spring and summer, which help to bring colour and vibrance to any outdoor space.”
· Acmena smithii – “Best known my most Aussies as Lilly Pillies, Acmena smithii are a native species that make for a great feature tree, screen or hedge in outdoor landscapes,” says Matt. They’re a particularly hardy plant when growing and can adapt to plenty of different climates, whether it’s tropical or temperate. They’re also great for creating a musical garden, with their fruits attracting a variety of local birds and wildlife.”
Shaping and filling
· Correa alba – “Correa alba makes for a fantastic hedge if clipped properly,” says Matt. “It is one of Australia’s hardiest native plants, with high resistance to salt spray and adaptability to both sunny and semi-shaded environments. These shrubs are also beautiful to look at, producing subtle bell-shaped white and light pink flowers in the mid-autumn and early winter months. It also has really interesting tan tones to its stem and a beautiful grey-green leaf”
· Doryanthes excels (‘Gymea Lily’) – “We all know Doryanthes excels or ‘Gymea Lilies’ for their spectacular red flower stems and striking foliage, providing great structure in the garden” notes Matt. “Native to south Sydney, they are a staple of the Australian bush and a valuable addition to local landscapes. They not only look great, but are also durable and adaptable to a variety of harsh conditions – so well worth the investment!”
· Ajuga Australis – “If you’re looking for a dense-growing groundcover that looks great and has high durability, it’s difficult to go past Ajuga Australis,” says Matt. “An Aussie native found in most Australian states, it’s a herbaceous flowering plant, growing with a loose rosette of leaves, and producing deep blue or purple flowers in spring and summer.”
· Rhagodia spinescens – “Rhagodia spinescens are a hardy native shrub found across all Australian states, suitable for both coastal and inland environments – and perfect for groundcover, hedging and bordering,” says Matt. “They suit most soil types and can be positioned in full sun or light shade. In terms of their look, they boast a lovely grey to blue foliage – understated and elegant!”
A selection of Matt’s work can be found at www.landart.com.au