Les Hodge | A garden where the wild things grow

POSSUM MAGIC: Native browsers and grazers like possums and kangaroos can help keep trees and lawns in check.
POSSUM MAGIC: Native browsers and grazers like possums and kangaroos can help keep trees and lawns in check.

Our country garden has evolved mostly out of elimination as the choice of plants has been dictated by the eating and nocturnal habits of the native wildlife that either inhabit or visit it.  

In other words what the animals don’t eat has survived to form our wild garden.

The kangaroos keep the larger grassed areas eaten down so no lawn mowing there, while the possums take care of natural pruning to make sure trees don’t grow too high, and the holes the echidnas dig well and truly make up for the ants they consume.

Once we accepted to live with and enjoy the antics and damage these little creatures bestow upon us instead of our plans for a neatly manicured garden, it was a satisfying compromise.

Why worry about something you have no control over?

We have planted silver birches and contorted willows as well as blackwoods and snow gums to create shade and natural mulch which forms with the accumulation of fallen leaves. 

Under the trees we planted drifts of bulbs to add spring and summer colour.

Snow gums are a wonderful choice for shade and natural mulch.

Snow gums are a wonderful choice for shade and natural mulch.

Unfortunately the grape hyacinth bulbs were dug up and devoured by the little potoroos, but this enabled the self-seeding forget-me-nots to take over.

By necessity we have developed a wild/meadow style of planting in which shrubs and brightly-coloured self-seeding flowers are combined with the trees to produce an appealing picture.

While maintenance is minimal and the result is visually pleasing, the plants were chosen with one important feature, they had to be unpalatable to native animals. 

We have also discovered that areas such as these require less preparation than more conventional gardens and lawns, and that rich soil is not needed as most of the plants like to be lean and hungry.

Weeds that grow don’t have to be removed immediately as they tend to not look out of place so much but pull them out before they seed and spread. 

Our wild garden, or controlled chaos as my wife sometimes describes it, is now established after many years of experimenting with plants so it’s a simple matter of just mowing the grassed pathways and the occasional pruning. 

So there are benefits in living with nature.   

Your local nursery can advise on what plants can be used for wild and meadow gardens. 

Cymbidium orchids are the most easily grown 'potted' orchids.

Cymbidium orchids are the most easily grown 'potted' orchids.

Cymbidium Orchids

Winter will see the arrival of in-flower cymbidium orchids in supermarkets and nurseries to catch the eye of impulse buyers.  

Cymbidiums are the most easily-grown of the ‘potted orchids’ and are specially bred to produce graceful spikes of long-lasting flowers of many colours.

To keep your ‘must have’ orchid healthy, water as required, maybe once a week in winter and probably daily in the middle of summer.

Cymbidiums respond to a general fertiliser after they finish flowering in spring and summer. Change to a fruit and flower fertiliser in late summer.

The stunning and diverse cymbidium blooms are specially bred for longevity.

The stunning and diverse cymbidium blooms are specially bred for longevity.

Diary

June 3: (not June 5 as previously advertised) The North-West Lilium Society’s annual lilium bulb sale at the Latrobe Memorial Hall from 11am to 1pm.  A great opportunity for gardeners to obtain quality bulbs not generally available.

June 19: Australian Plant Society meets at the Max Fry Hall, Gorge Rd, Trevallyn at 7.30pm. Speaker is Christine Howells on ‘The Flora of Central Australia’. Visitors most welcome. 

June 20: The Launceston Horticultural Society meets at the Windmill Hill Hall, High Street, Launceston at 8pm. Visitors welcome. 

June 21: The Launceston Orchid Society meets at the Newnham Uniting Church Hall, George Town Road, Launceston at 7pm.