WORDS & PHOTOS VERONICA ARMSTRONG
This native garden not only looks good but is a great example of blending a private garden with the borrowed landscape. This garden joins seamlessly with the council’s native plantings alongside a stream, bordering the garden. It’s difficult to see where the ‘garden’ planting ends and the streamside planting begins! Repeat plantings along the garden bed provide rhythm, structure and interest. The area gets sun for most of the day and is fairly sheltered from the prevailing wind. The plants were chosen not only to create a beautiful native environment, but also to produce an easy-care, drought- and wind-tolerant garden.
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- Creeping taupata (Coprosma kirkii)
This coprosma is vigorous and hardy and makes an attractive ground cover. It forms a mound about half a metre high and a metre wide, and the stems produce strong horizontal runners. The small evergreen leaves are a greenish-grey colour. The small flowers are followed by translucent white berries in autumn. Coprosma kirkii likes full sun and well-drained soil and tolerates both drought and wind, making it ideal for coastal plantings and rock gardens. It’s a good plant for covering banks to prevent erosion and, of course, it’s at home in native gardens.
- Boxwood hebe (Veronica odora)
This veronica (hebe) gets its common name from the shape of its glossy evergreen leaves, which resemble those of box (buxus). It forms a compact, spherical mound about 1m tall. Conical racemes of fragrant white flowers appear in summer on the tips of the branches. Veronica odora may be clipped after flowering to keep its neat, rounded shape and to promote new growth. It likes a sunny spot with good drainage and is drought- and wind-tolerant. It is ideal in garden beds or rockeries and can be planted to form a low hedge.
- Snow tussock, haumata (Chionochloa flavicans)
This beautiful tussock grass has flowing, arching green leaves, growing to about 1m tall. The flowering plumes appear in summer. They start out green but fade to creamy brown as they age and look wonderful blowing in the wind. The grass produces numerous seeds and the seed heads may be left on the plant over winter as food for the birds. Plant in full sun or partial shade, in well-drained soil. Tussock grass is drought- and wind-tolerant, making it ideal for many tricky planting locations. It’s perfect for native and coastal gardens, and it looks striking in containers too. Planted in large groups, it can be used to create a natural tussock appearance. Tussock grass self-seeds freely and can also be divided in autumn to produce new plants.
- Shrubby tororaro (Muehlenbeckia astonii)
This shrub has divaricating (wiry, interlacing) branches, giving it an interesting, interwoven ball appearance. The leaves are tiny and heart-shaped and are deciduous in winter, when the reddish, leafless branches become more apparent. The creamy flowers appear in summer and are followed by small, sweet, edible white fruits that are food for birds and lizards. Tororaro likes a sunny position in free-draining soil. It is a hardy plant, coping with dry conditions and wind, and will grow to several metres in height – but it may be clipped to keep it in shape. This is a good plant choice for creating interesting structure and texture in native gardens, where it can also be clipped into a hedge. It is well suited to coastal gardens too.
- Flax, harakeke (Phormium tenax cultivar)
This smaller flax hybrid is ideal for home gardens, being hardy and easy to grow. The fan-shaped, upright leaves are evergreen and it produces orange-red flowers that are rich in nectar and attract native birds. The flowers are followed by glossy black seed pods that extend its period of interest in the garden. Flax will grow in full sun or part shade, in humus-rich soil. Although it is drought-tolerant, it doesn’t like to dry out completely. Remove old foliage and flowerheads to keep the plant looking neat. Looks good as a focal plant and a foliage feature in a container, and it is ideal for planting alongside streams or ponds as well as in garden beds.