There’s a rugged natural beauty associated with plants in the Australian dry country. They’re gnarly, weathered, fire scarred, insect damaged and often hold their dead limbs. Essentially they are full of character but not exactly the look most people are going for when creating a garden to frame their beautiful new home. However, these bush plants are really just diamonds in the rough.
When planted in a garden and given a tiny bit of care they can be grown as beautiful feature trees or shrubs. Remember that in a controlled garden environment, plants are less affected by the elements than in the wild. They are protected from fires so their bark is never scarred, dead or mis-formed limbs are removed, drought stress can be alleviated with regular watering and insect pests can be controlled. You can even prune and shape them as you wish. All these things combined will result in a good-looking plant that still retains its Australian heritage – in other words, they scrub up alright.
Take for example Banksia Spinulosa – in the wild it’s usually obscured by tall grass but in the garden its fine foliage and large golden to red coloured flower spikes are very eye catching. There is also the Polar Gum (Eucalyptus platyphylla), which has a spectacular white trunked gum and unusually wide light green leaves. This tree has been used as a feature tree in the center of Yuruga Nursery’s car park. It may be a little large for most suburban gardens, but if you are fortunate enough to have the space, it is definitely worth planting.
Another diamond in the rough is the Grevillea glauca. You would have driven past it on the road between Kuranda and Mareeba without giving it a second look. Yet once grown in nursery conditions their stunning silver foliage stand out. Even hakeas, paperbarks, ironbarks and sedges can become handsome feature plants. And remember, because they are native North Queensland plants they are going to be tough and require much less attention than plants from down south. So don’t be put off by the way they look in the wild, because out there they’ve got a much tougher life than they will have in the comfort of your garden.
(Published in Cairns City Life magazine, January 2008)