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How to create the perfect garden oasis

The hard work of building your new home and moving house is over so you can relax right? Well maybe not, for many the next task of creating a luscious yet low maintenance garden starts right now.

While some of us will dive head first into this project with a plan of exactly what to plant where, others will face it with trepidation.

Fear not because we’ve sourced some sound advice from Bonny Hills Garden Centre horticulturalist Michael Wols, to equip you with the knowledge to create the most gorgeous garden, and make your little slice of paradise the envy of your new neighbours.

Thank you for sharing your expertise with us Michael. What are the 3 most popular varieties of plants you’re finding the owners of brand new homes are opting for when they’re establishing their gardens?

Screening plants would have to be our most popular request. Most people are looking for a quiet, private sanctuary when they’re at home. People seem to be looking to minimise their garden bed widths as much as possible so they can still enjoy a nice expanse of lawn. Therefore, narrow screening plants seem to be the go to. Options such as Syzygium ‘Straight and Narrow’, Viburnum ‘Dense Fence’, and the good ol’ Camellia sasanqua are some of the better options.

Feature plants are also in high demand. It seems that many home owners are realising the importance of an attractive front garden to add to the value of their property. Bold feature plants are a great way to catch peoples’ attention. Plants such as Alcantarea ‘Silver Plum’, Magnolia ‘Teddybear’, or Doryanthes excelsa, all make nice feature plants.

Foliage colour is huge at the moment. It’s an awesome way to add year-round interest. Whether it’s silver foliage such as Westringia ‘Grey Box’, ‘W. Smokie’, Curry Plant, Licorice Plant, or Teucrium ‘Silver Box’. Or burgundy/red foliage achieved through the use of Cordyline Rubra, Loropetalum ‘Plum Gorgeous’, and Alternanthera ‘Little Maroon’. You can achieve almost any colour variations through the use of Crotons or Cordylines also.

What else is trending at the moment? Are vertical gardens and drought-proof gardens still popular?

People are always looking for drought-proof gardens and low maintenance gardens. There are always great selections for this category at Bonny Hills Garden Centre. We have a new Nandina called ‘Magical Lemon Lime’ with a beautiful two-tone foliage colour. Hardy variegated grasses such as Tulbaghia ‘Silver Lace’ are great for almost any style of garden. There is a great range of natives and exotics that will continue looking great, even for those of us who are short on time.

Indoor plants have also made a strong comeback which is great to see. It would appear that we are becoming more mindful of air quality in the house, as well as the aesthetics of an elegant indoor plan. Fiddle Leaf Figs would have to be the most popular. Kentia Palms and Rhaphis Palms are also in high demand.

What plants thrive and more importantly survive in the Sovereign Hills area?

Generally, if we stock it at Bonny Hills Garden Centre it should grow well in the area. A lot of the native grasses grow very well out at Thrumster. Lomandra ‘Lime Tuff’ and ‘L.Trophic Cascade’ are two great options. Dianella ‘Little Jess’ or ‘Tas Red’ will also be solid performers. Nandina varieties including ‘Moon Bay’ and ‘Magical Lemon Lime’ would be hard to beat. There is a massive range of Westringia that are neat and compact, and very dry tolerant.

What plants do you advise people to steer clear of?

People should plant whatever they wish to grow. Plants always seem to make a liar out of us horticulturists – growing where we would never expect.

In saying that, we are always more cautious of selling cool climate plants in this area. We generally won’t push plants such as Daphne, Pittosporum varieties (with the exclusion of native species which are great in the area), Maples, Hebe, etc.

What are your personal favourite plants and why?

I love Australian Natives. Xanthostemon ‘Fairhill Gold’ is a beautiful small tree that is small enough it could be found in any garden. Nectar feeding birds will be enticed by this lovely native tree and it makes for an excellent specimen tree in the front yard or nature strip (where permitted).

I also love plants with foliage colour and texture, such as Tulbaghia ‘Silver Lace’, plants that will give year-round interest with minimal care, and plants that partner well together, such as Loropetalum ‘Plum Gorgeous’ with Teucrium ‘Silver Box’. I could go on and on. Everything has its place. 

What plants do you suggest planting now – as we’re coming into the warmer summer season?

Thankfully, we live in a climate where we can plant year-round. The summers generally don’t get too hot – they just get humid. I would be more focused on planting correctly at this time of year, rather than focusing on what I’m planting. Ensuring good soil preparation is undertaken, with the addition of soil conditioners such as compost or manure. Applying soil wetting agents such as Penetraide, to ensure water is getting deep to the roots and that this water is then distributed evenly throughout the soil; this will save time and water. Mulching is almost essential going into the warmer months too. Consistent deep watering is the key to healthy plants, rather than regular shallow watering.

When someone is building a new home and conducting their garden research on say a 500m2 block, how much would you suggest they keep aside in their budget to turf and create a basic border of plants?

This will depend a bit on patience, plant selection and turf preparation. $4,000 is probably a safe figure to achieve a neat, simple garden. Again, more money spent on the garden is only going to add more value to the overall property.

If anyone is looking for further information we are always happy to answer questions. We are only 15 minutes from Port Macquarie, or a quick phone call, away.

Bonny Hills Garden Centre

02 6585 5764

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