Work on the verge, or the nature strip as some like to call it, began about a year ago. It began as a folly because our family normally call this area the dead zone. Growing a native garden under a gum tree can be difficult but hopefully not impossible with the right plant choices. We live in a frost hollow so that adds further challenges. It is winter now so not much is happening. Still, I am like an expectant mum, bursting with excitement and ready to bring home the baby. But as you know, these things cannot be rushed.

The design concept evolved over the course of the year from growing whatever would grow in the dead zone under our brittle gum, to instead targetting plants that were native to our local area (Canberra, Australia); there being quite a lot of overlap in these groups. Unfortunately my enthusiasm was not matched by my knowledge and so occasionally I planted some non-local native species in my haste to get plants in the ground before dry weather was upon us again. The definition of our local region is also very broad covering both sub-alpine temperate forests through to natural temperate grasslands on the plains.

The garden is finally starting to take shape, albeit mostly in my head. To narrow down my plant choices, I began to incorporate a number of species found growing in my nearby local park or plants that perhaps ought to be growing in the park if it had been left in its original natural state. I suspect I have over-planted but I anticipate some losses. By popular demand (a couple of people), below is a list of the plants I’ve jammed into this small space. This list and accompanying photos will be updated from time to time.

Grasses

  1. Cymbopogon refractus (Barbed-wire grass) – despite its name, very soft and beautiful but highly flammable when mature. I may need to reconsider.
  2. Enneapogon nigricans (Nine-Awn grass, Bottlewashers) – a small, buxom grass.
  3. Poa sieberiana (Small blue Tussock Grass) – beautiful.
  4. Poa spp (Snow Grass) – I think I have Poa helmsii. Maybe too big? Doing fantastically well.
  5. Rytidosperma spp. (Wallaby Grass)
  6. Themeda triandra (Kangaroo Grass) – growing in nearby park and elsewhere in my garden.


Climbers/Groundcovers

  1. Billardiera scandens (Hairy Apple Berry) – local bush tucker.
  2. Glycine clandestina (Twining Glycine) – growing in nearby park.
  3. Hardenbergia violacea (Native Sarsparilla) – limited success previously but wrens seem to like it so I am trying again.
  4. Ziera prostrata – non-local threatened species. Unlikely to survive.


Shrubs

  1. Atriplex nummularia (Old Man Salt Bush) – non-local (needs frost protection) bush tucker
  2. Eremophila ‘Piccaninny Dawn’ – non-local but an eremophila that survives in Canberra! I’ll take it.
  3. Eutaxia obovata (Egg and Bacon Plant) – non-local. Shade-loving. Doing well.
  4. Goodenia varia (Sticky Goodenia) – non-local. Not what I was after and not doing well. My inclination is to remove and instead replace with Goodenia pinnatifida (a forb) which I have seen growing in the park previously.
  5. Olearia phlogopappa white (Dusty Daisy Bush) – often found locally in alpine areas and/or moist to wet forests.


Herbs (Forbs)

  1. Arthropodium milleflorum (Pale Vanilla Lily)
  2. Arthropodium minus (Small Vanilla Lily)
  3. Bulbine bulbosa (Bulbine Lily) – fire resistant, bush tucker
  4. Bulbine semibarbata (Leek Lily) – fire resistant
  5. Calocephalus citreus (Lemon Beauty Heads) – grassland plant
  6. Chrysocephalum apiculatum (Common Everlasting/Yellow Buttons) – keystone grassland plant.
  7. Chrysocephalum semipapposum (Clustered Everlasting, Yellow Buttons)
  8. Craspedia variabilis (Billy Buttons)
  9. Eryngium ovinum (Blue Devil) – spiky but beautiful, dies back in autumn. Seen previously in nearby park but no longer present. Also elsewhere in my garden.
  10. Leucochrysum albicans (Hoary Sunray) – threatened species.
  11. Mentha australis (Native Mint) – uncommon, bush tucker
  12. Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides (Button Wrinklewort) – endangered, heartbreaker, ie. difficult to grow. I’ve not had much growing it elsewhere in my garden.
  13. Stylidium graminifolium (Grass Trigger Plant) – because I like them.
  14. Vittadinia muelleri (Narrow leaf New Holland Daisy) – growing in nearby park.
  15. Wahlenbergia stricta (Native Bluebell) – native bee loves them. Prolific.


It is difficult to get the big picture of the garden from the small seedlings in the garden. I will post more photos in spring.

Happy gardening, everyone.

Kind Regards.
Tracy.

*Photos from plants growing elsewhere in the garden.

In other said news, last week we found a dead cockatoo (it did not appear to be suffering from parrot beak and feather disease) down the other end of our local park and yesterday we also found one of the juvenile magpies from last spring’s clutch (perhaps the young bird in the first photo) also dead. My True Love wrapped them up and disposed of them. Something (a cat on the loose?) appears to be killing the birds. It is important for residents to keep their cats contained to give our native birds the best chance of survival.

41 thoughts on “The Verge

  1. Tracy, I’m glad you’re working in your garden and loving it. I’m not a gardener. To be honest, I hate gardening and don’t like to get my hands dirty. The one thing I will tend to is my rose garden, but they talk back1

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  2. Tracy, it’s wonderful to see photos of some of the plants. I love how methodical you are being in your choices. I tend to just want to get in there and plant. Sorry to hear about your birds. We had a terrible problem this spring with Avian Flu. We had to stop feeding and putting out bird baths for a while. The problem seems to have cleared up.

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    1. If you saw me dithering at the native plant nursery, I am sure methodical would not be a word used to describe me, Heather. 🙂 Thankfully, I am not alone and there are many knowledgeable people who have helped me with my plant choices.
      I worry about avian flu too. I’ve checked the national government’s websites and there is nothing to indicate that it is here in Australia, but I guess there are no guarantees. In regions where it is present, it must be terribly distressing to all concerned.

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  3. Wonderful list of species. As you know I have my pond and the shaded woodland garden as well as the bog in a barrel. It’s great fun checking day by day to see what emerged in the springtime. We all learn this native and local plant lore bit by bit; including mistakes. but its very enjoyable. You get to see an entire ecology develop in front of you, along with the animal life that come along with it. The scale and timeline of it is slow, but deliberate.

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  4. I love gardening so this was a joy to read, Tracy. My son had our backyard certified a natural wildlife habitat, so native is the only way to go, as far as I am concerned. My neighbors of the ‘no tree is too old or pretty that it cannot be taken down’ mindset would disagree, I am sure, but I pay them no mind. I cannot wait to see the photos of progress.

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      1. My house is between two neighbors whose yards are immaculate. So unnatural. So not pleasing to the eye. It is nature, for gosh sakes! I am so excited for your garden area, Tracy.

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  5. It is so awesome that you are loving the gardening thing. For us to grow one, we’d have to go the raised bed route. Our soil is not very good. On the other side of this is the fact that it gets so gosh darn hot here, that gardening has a very short season.

    So sad about the birds. Poor dears. Enjoy your winter season…I’d just be happy with a bit of Fall weather myself.

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    1. Gardening in harsh environments is certainly very difficult, Mitzi. This is why many people choose to go with plants that are local to the native area. When I was young I coveted a beautiful English cottage garden but gradually over the years have replaced the exotic plants with more locals. We have certainly got more native birds visiting our garden as a result.
      And yup, it was depressing to see that a couple of our regular visitors were killed.

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  6. Stuff it full of plants and those that grow can protect the others and those that don’t survive doesn’t matter as the space will fill up over time. Fabulous species list thanks 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Brian.
      Keep your eye out for that Ziera prostrata. It comes from up your way. I don’t know what I was thinking when I bought it but I saw where it was growing at ANBG and thought it might work here and it is always good to have other populations just in case.

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  7. What a wonderful entry! There’s a playground near my parents’ house in Canberra that has had the gardens around it regenerated with native plants and in a sustainable way. It’s so lovely now. If meadows were an Australian thing, I would say it felt meadowy but still dotted with big trees. Anyway, I imagine your verge as being something akin to that.

    I must admit, that I was also secretly hoping that you would have something to say about all the recent exposure of activities by our ex PM. I so value your balanced and careful perspective on these things. Personally, I am not balanced and came close to writing a rant about it last night. However, I managed to restrain myself.

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    1. Thanks, Wormsie. I think I know of that urban woodland restoration to which you refer. I’ve seen photos and it is beautiful. A grassy woodland is meadowy and it is an Australian thing, or it was. On the lowland hills and plains west of the Great Dividing Range, box gum grassy woodland was the predominant plant community. They were fertile and beautiful, ie. perfect for agriculture, and hence much was extensively modified and degraded. That’s why they are now listed as a critically endangered ecological community. We have a small degraded but promising grassy woodland within our nearby park.

      I recommend finding out more. Lots of stuff published by the ACT government. They even sponsored a woodland colouring book. Do your kids like colouring-in? Check this out. https://www.paperbarkwriter.com/free-grassy-woodland-colouring-book-to-download/
      Also, we should catch up and have a rant over coffee.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Sounds like a well-thought-out shade-loving garden. Hope they do well. If you over-plant, I’m sure there will be hardy survivors and the occasional loss.

    I only knew half a dozen of the plants you mentioned, but then I know few natives, being more conversant with the plants and flowers of the Royal Botanic Gardens (where I was such a frequent visitor in the past).

    I look forward to seeing the actual plot and location in the Spring.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Vicki. I didn’t know many of grassy woodland plants either but with an native orchid enthusiast and ecologist in the family, I have learnt a lot. Part of the garden will get the full brunt of the afternoon westerly sun. It will be a real test for it.

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      1. That westerly sun will be a scorcher if my own west-facing balcony is anthing to go by. Mine is worse as I have glass on three sides of my apartment balcony.
        On the other hand, the Australian sun, with its hole in the ozone layer is a sizzler in summer from every side. 🙂

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  9. How wonderful to be able to provide a habitat for your native plants in that “dead” space. I used to have an old pine tree (fell down a few years ago, sob) and over the years, a unique ecosystem developed under it on its own; there were even toads and the occasional snake, and several interesting looking fungi. Looking forward to seeing your spring pics!

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  10. Good for you for figuring out a way to get plants to grow in your “dead zone!” I think more and more people are figuring out the benefits of using plants are native to the area.

    Like

  11. I can’t wait to see your efforts rewarded, Tracy!

    Sad to hear that your local wildlife is also suffering the rampages of “domestic” cats. Locally feral cats are an immense danger to smaller wildlife from farms to the big cities, while crossbreeding with our indigenous wild cats may well lead to them becoming extinct outside protected areas (where feral cats are destroyed on sight)

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    1. Oh dear, please forgive me if I have not been paying sufficient attention to your posts, Dries, but I did not know that. How awful. Sounds like a completely intractable problem apart from putting cat proof fences around national parks and that brings its own problems. Our dingoes face a similar fate.

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  12. My mom used to put bells on our cats to help warn the birds, but you know cats, they eventually learned to take them off.

    Your garden sounds super ambitious. Good luck and looking forward to updates! xo

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