Plant Life Balance

Plant Life Balance Predicts: a home among the gum trees

In December 2019, Plant Life Balance released Australia’s first-ever plant trend report after months of research and chats with the experts to find out why people buy plants and from where; Australia’s favourite plant species; where we get our plant-spiration from; and what we find the biggest challenges in plant care to be.

Each month we dive into a new trend to spill the dirt on what’s hot in the world of plants in 2020.

The return of the ‘burb backyard

From flared pants and bell sleeves, to botanical wallpapers and the houseplant revolution, Australian 70s suburbia is back – and in a big way. It’s on the runway, can be seen in the cane furniture on your patio and is marching on the streets in a new age wave of environmental activism.

There’s also a deeper craving for connectedness and a drive to create a biome of our own – where neighbours are known, there’s a community spirit, and a strong sense of place is cultivated. In summary, it’s a nostalgia for a simpler time and a lifestyle with less impact on the land we love, to contrast our frenetic always-on work lives.

THE PREDICTION The resurgence of the 70’s ‘burb backyard and balcony

With 3 in 4 Australians tending to backyard plants, we expect to see wild native gardens a-buzz with pollinators and wildlife, while neighbours trade edible produce and stories over the fence.

The renewed enthusiasm for more climate-appropriate or drought-tolerant varieties of native plants can be partly attributed to our sensitivity for sensible water usage. This is particularly front of mind for many Australians in light of the ongoing drought, thought to possibly be the worst in 800 years.

Horticulturalist Narelle Happ from A Garden For Life is a specialist in native garden and permaculture design. She explains, “There are native plants to suit every garden style from edible, formal, cottage and natural bushscape. Nurseries and plant breeders have been selecting native plants that are lower maintenance, better suited to gardens and better performing, so there really is something for every garden.”

This resurgence has also been due to a growing interest in sustainability. Natives are incredibly important for encouraging biodiversity, serving as wildlife corridors for birds, reptiles and mammals, and providing flora for insects and bees, which pollinate the plants. Native plants are also much better at coping in our challenging climate, in comparison to exotic species that often require a lot of water.

Hardly any Australian native plants need to be sprayed for pests and disease, whereas a lot of exotic plants do – so just by simply choosing Australian plants, you’re contributing positively to the environment,”

— Narelle Happ

Decorating a native backyard or balcony

According to Narelle, when people think of native plant varieties, they often think of muted browns; but there are many stunning varieties with sculptural foliage and bright colourful flora to choose from. “The kangaroo paw, Australian daisy and grevillea are increasingly popular due to their range in colours and hardy nature once established. Edible natives such as the delicious finger lime, native ginger and Warrigal greens taste unlike anything you’ll typically see growing in an urban garden, and don’t take up too much space!”

Narelle’s top five native plants:

  1. Calothamnus quadrifidus — One sided bottlebrush
  2. Correa alba — White correa
  3. Grevillea — Orange marmalade
  4. Anigozanthos — Kangaroo paw
  5. Banksia — Dwarf banksia

Narelle’s top five edible native plants:

  1. Backhousia citriodora — Lemon myrtle
  2. Austromyrtus culcis — Midyim berry
  3. Tasmannia canceolata — Mountain pepper
  4. Tetragonia tetragonioides — Warrigal greens
  5. Atriplex nummularia — Old man saltbush

And now, to bring it all together

  1. Embrace mass and void — mass planting in clumps, grouped by colour or leaf shapes, creates a striking feature in the garden. Leaving a void in the design can lead the eye to another area of the garden, while giving larger plants some breathing space to show their true form.
  2. Replicate the natural landscape — borrow design features from the natural landscape and use it in your garden design. Trees in the background become a canopy layer, allowing for more contrasting shrubs to be used in layers as the eye moves forward in the garden.
  3. Patterns in nature — designers often talk in odd numbers and love plants in threes. In nature, smaller plants and grasses usually grow in a group, and groups are often repeated in the landscape. Repeated leaf structures such as grasses clumped throughout the garden allow the eye to rest as it views the garden, rather than too many shapes creating a chaotic effect.

Feeling inspired? Head to your nearest Plant Life Balance accredited nursery to find out which native or water-sensitive backyard varieties grow best in your local area.

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