Australian Cottage Gardens: The English probably perfected the cottage garden. In recent times they have become popular in Australia. Conventional cottage gardens are crammed with colourful, exotic annuals and perennials. In this Centenary of Federation perhaps it is time to consider the development of Australian cottage gardens using our native plants. The ideal situation for an Aussie cottage garden would be the front garden of the average suburban block. Usually these areas have a patch of lawn surrounded by a few shrubs. With the creation of an indigenous cottage garden the lawn and shrubs would be removed and replaced with a diverse range of native shrubs, groundcovers, perennials and annuals planted close together. The maximum height of any of these plants would be about one metre.
In an Australian cottage garden we would use more shrubs and groundcovers than conventional cottage gardens. By careful selection of shrubs there would be something in flower all year and there would not be the need to indulge in annual wholesale replanting as happens in exotic cottage gardens.
There is any number of native shrubs suitable for this purpose. Correas are delightful plants and flower in autumn and winter when flowers are scarce. Honeyeaters are partial to the nectar in the flowers. Eremophilas (Emu Bushes) are other bird attractors and will flower for many months of the year. Prostantheras have aromatic foliage and white, pink or blue spring flowers. We shouldn’t forget the Grevilleas. There are a number of species and cultivars, which will only reach a height of one metre. They come in a range of colours including red and white. There are also some hardy Grevillea groundcovers suitable for the cottage garden. Grevillea Royal Mantle will form a dense carpet and has red toothbrush flowers. Myoporum parvifolium is weed-suppressing groundcover with dense foliage and white flowers.
There are also a number of native perennials suitable for the cottage garden. Brachycome daisies come in a range of colours. They are small rounded plants with long flowering periods. There are also other suitable native daisies. Bracteantha (formerly Helichrysum) bracteata comes in a number of forms all suitable for the cottage garden. “Cockatoo” is one of our favourites and has soft hairy leaves and large cream and white flower heads.
Some herbaceous bulb-bearing natives are also suitable candidates. Bulbine bulbosa is a native lily with bright yellow flowers. Dichopogon fimbriatus, the Chocolate Lily, has blue flowers. When grown en masse, these lilies fill the air with chocolate scent. Anigozanthos (Kangaroo Paws) come in a range of colours and are ideal plants for the cottage garden.
Remember to mulch your cottage garden with organic material. This will reduce evaporation and suppress weed growth.Of course native cottage gardens may be established in other areas apart from the front garden. Native cottage gardens will have flowers all year, low water requirements and require minimum maintenance. Many suitable species are described in our Plant section.
The image shows section of an Aussie cottage garden at a commercial nursery.