By Andrea Whitely
The Grass is always Greener…well, in your case it literally is.
There’s a very famous Australian poem called “My Country” by Dorothea MacKellar and it’s the second verse that so aptly tells the story of our landscape.
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!
You see, Australia is brown and sort of grey and I say that in the nicest possible way. We dream of lush green summer forests and red, orange and yellow fall colours like you have in the USA. Right now it’s spring and you are going into Fall. The sunshine is dazzling here in WA and reflects off pavements and hard landscaping surfaces like concrete and glistens on the blue water of our magical Swan River. The colours of our native Eucalyptus trees as some of you may have seen in California are an interesting sort of greenish blueish, grey and Pantone has even named it. This broad species of tree covers our landscape all over the country, from the mountains to the coast and everywhere in between. Our earth changes colour too from white sandy beaches in the south to the yellow sand of the limestone coast to the deep red mineral rich iron ore fine powdery soil called “pindan” to our north west with areas of clay here and there. We have many trees that flower in the most spectacular way.
I live in a suburb called Floreat which is about 4 miles from our downtown area close to the beach in Perth, Western Australia and right now it’s wildflower season here. Anigozanthus are growing much taller than me and this stunner is our floral emblem, they grow everywhere in the springtime and we garden in old limestone sandy soil, ancient gutless sand, that in order to create a good garden you have to spend years improving the soil with lots and lots of organic matter.
The water runs straight through each shiny grain of this sand so we have to add things which bind it together-the complete opposite of clay.
The sun is harsh like in Arizona and we experience long, hot dry summers, generally mild wet winters and very short spring and autumn seasons. Christmas Day is often over 105 degrees and yet we still roast a Turkey and bake a ham! It is hard to be a good gardener here. It requires lots of patience and lots of trial and error. There are many things that I used to be able to grow when I lived in Melbourne.
My own garden is punctuated by a Corymbia calophylla ‘Marri’ and Eucalyptus marginata ‘Jarrah’ trees. These were here long before we bought the home in 1999. These beautiful specimens were accommodated, protected and incorporated into our new garden following major renovations in 2012. They both sit behind our home and have pride of place, though they drop leaves and nuts and drive Dr. Garden Consultant crazy with the mess in and around the deck and the pool. We also have a Liquidambar styraciflua which we planted when we first moved and a Citharexylum spinosum ‘Fiddlewood’, which turns shades of orange at the strangest possible times and also drops various things in and around the pool all year round. We have ornamental pears, Pyrus usseriensis and Pyrus calleryana ‘Capital’. I have dug up some lawn and planted a Pistacia chinensis, Chinese Pistachio, and a Cercis canadensis ‘Covey’ Lavender Twist™in the last year. I grow lots of roses and perennials as well as native species, I’m a bit of a plant-a-holic and like to collect lots of different things. I trial them in my own garden to see what they will be like for my clients. We have Camellias and Hibiscus growing in the same garden beds! I see beauty in all things botanical and am a sucker for a good nursery. I have collected rare salvias and succulents as well as Australian native plants and they all live happily together in pots and in the ground. It’s amazing just how much you can squeeze into a small patch of land.
My garden look like this:
Many years ago, after battling with this landscape, the landscape won and I decided to embrace where I live and grow what I can and just visit gardens and enjoy the things I can’t elsewhere.
Meet the Author
Andrea Whitely is a Perth-based Garden Consultant, Writer and Garden Blogger. She designs and implements new gardens and garden renovations as well as taking care of a list of gardens that she maintains. She joined GWA in 2015 and has since then always been the one who has traveled the furthest to attend the annual conference. Learn more at .