GARDENING: Growing hardy plants in tough spots
PROBABLY one of the hardest gardening tasks you will ever have to do is establishing a garden on a steep embankment.
Last week I received an email from a new gardener to this region who plans to establish a cascading garden of groundcovers on a steep block of land at Rockyview.
The following groundcovers all have specialised features to enable the plants to grow in those difficult positions in the garden and are able to be successfully grown in Central Queensland gardens.
- Callistemon Rocky Rambler is a groundcover hybrid form of the Blackdown Tablelands Bottlebrush. With striking red brush flowers and golden tips in spring, this plant will always stand out as one of the most attractive new-season colour plants in a dry garden. This is one of the hardiest of the bottlebrushes for local gardens.
- Carpobrotus glaucescens or Pigface is one of the prettiest flowering native groundcovers, bearing pink to mauve-shaded flowers that can be 4-6cm in diameter during spring and summer. It has large succulent leaves and a dense habit. This plant is perfect for positioning on dry, well-drained slopes and is also one of the easiest native groundcovers to propagate from cuttings.
- Convolulus cneorum or Silver Bush is a silver-foliaged groundcover that provides something different for the garden, with masses of large white flowers produced during the warmer months. It is excellent as a specimen plant and is ideal for borders and pots on patios. It handles sun or part shade, is salt and drought tolerant and frost hardy.
- Eremophila glabra Kalbarri Carpet has attractive silvery-grey foliage and striking yellow fuschia-like flowers that will attract birds and other nectar feeders, with the main flowering being spring and summer plus spot flowers in winter and autumn. This groundcover will grow to approximately 1.5m across and will become a feature in any water-wise garden.
- Eremophila glabra Burgundy is a commercial hybrid of the Australian native fuschia or Emu Bush that will grow to approximately 1.5m square. With its attractive silvery-grey foliage and striking burgundy fuschia-like flowers, it forms a highlight in any dryland garden.
- Goodenia ovata or Prostrate Hop is a fast-growing, hardy groundcover with bright green, fleshy leaves spreading to approximately 1.5m across. Masses of showy bright-yellow flowers occur most of the year. Goodenia is frost resistant and is a very useful understorey plant for established gardens.
- Myoporum parvifolium or Creeping Boobialla is a very vigorous groundcover that will even tolerate hot, dry banks, with prostrate stems covered by tiny dark green leaves and attractive white or pink flowers.
- Scaevola aemula or Fan Flower is a dense evergreen groundcover with almost succulent medium-green coarsely toothed leaves. Masses of purple-blue fan-shaped blooms appear from spring through summer with violet-blue petal lobes and yellow throats. It's perfect for growing as bedding in rockeries and containers.
- Scaevola albida or Fairy Fan Flower is a compact suckering groundcover for most soil types, as long as it isn't too boggy. Masses of blue-to-mauve fan-shaped flowers will appear throughout the year. I have seen a specimen in a garden in Moura that could only be described as a mauve carpet, so heavy were the blooms. The Fairy Fan Flower is one of those native plants immortalised by May Gibbs' classic book series Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.
- Vitex ovata or Prostrate Vitex is a hardy groundcover with blue-grey foliage and clusters of lavender blue flowers in spring. It will handle most sunny positions and even grows in exposed locations. This would be one of the most underutilised groundcovers available to local gardeners.
From the start, the selection of plants wasn't as easy as just going to a garden centre, looking at the label on the plant and saying this looks good.
Many of the plants recognised in gardening books and local nurseries can be complete duds in exposed conditions.
While many of these plants may not be available all year round in most local nurseries, they should be able to be ordered from specialist nurseries for this garden.