Above: Lemon Myrtle – a lovely garden shrub
Plants from the rainforest are the best way to turn a difficult corner into an asset.
Just about every garden has a trouble spot where the soil is poor or the sun doesn’t shine – often a combination of both. The fastest, easiest and most satisfying way of dealing with this is to fill it with a selection of flowering rainforest plants.
Why? Because these plants not only look good but are perfectly adapted to the vagaries of our climate. They tolerate poor soil, sudden temperature changes and drought. What’s more, they happily handle both sun and shade – deep shade will make them tall and straggly, full sun will make them more compact – and as a difficult corner may offer both these extremes, depending on time of day and season, rainforest plants are the ideal choice. And they only need minimal management.
It’s important to select just the right plants so here is a selection of those that suit small gardens. They are selected for suitable size, ease of growth and attractive flowers and foliage. Plant as wide a variety as space permits to create a mini-rainforest – but don’t overcrowd:
Lilly pillies – This name is given loosely to trees and shrubs in the Syzygium genus. Best choice for the home garden are Blue Cherry (S. oleosum), the hybrid ’Cascade’ and the original “lilly pilly” S. smithii. Riberry (S. luehmanni) is a good choice for larger gardens – in a small garden it must be regularly pruned. Syzygium wilsonii has lovely powder puff flowers and is also small enough for a garden corner. The most commonly available lilly pillies are the many forms of S. australe, sold under a variety of names. All are excellent plants but susceptible to infestation by an insect that distorts the leaves.
Other good garden choices are Golden Penda, Eleaocarpus reticulatus ‘Prima Donna”, Lemon Myrtle (Backhousia citriodora), Gossia ‘Blushing Beauty’, Native Fuchsia (Graptophyllum), Ivory Curl (Buckinghamia), Pink Euodia (needs pruning when young for denser growth), Tulipwood (Harpullia pendula – a popular street tree), Native Frangipani and Diamond Laurel (Auranticarpa rhombifolium). An attractive shrub for the understorey is Cat’s Whiskers (Orthosiphon aristatus) and if you want a ground cover you can’t go past the Native Violet (Viola Hederaceaea) which bears little mauve flowers for most of the year. Your best bet when you decide to deal with that difficult corner is to visit a specialist native plant nursery or a garden centre with a good native plant selection, explain your needs and get expert advice.
Once established, your rainforest corner will look good, add to your garden’s biodiversity by attracting birds and beneficial insects, and require very little watering, no feeding, and no maintenance beyond perhaps some annual pruning for size and shape.