How to transform your backyard into a wildlife-friendly habitat
If you're looking for a simple way to create a beautiful, low maintenance garden which provides precious Australian fauna with a cozy place to visit, consider introducing some native plant species to your garden!
When you're planting with the goal of attracting and providing for local native wildlife, you should aim to use a variety of native plant species, and at least three or four specimens of each. Variety is very important – for exmaple, planting a range of species with different flowering times throughout the year can provide a more consistent source of nectar for bees and birds – but it’s equally as important to have enough individual plants of a particular species so they can provide wildlife with enough food, shelter and other resources to ensure they will stay around. If you can, aim to create an ecosystem. This means setting up your garden with groundcover plants such as native grasses, as well as a mix of smaller trees and shrubs as well as larger trees to provide a canopy. This will create a complete habitat that will allow native wildlife to thrive.
What can plants offer our native wildlife?
Wildlife will generally be drawn to native plants for a few reasons. They act as a food source, shelter, and as places to nest or as a source of material to build nests. Birds flock to plants that are sources of fruit, seeds, and nectar or which can help them construct nests. Small marsupials, for example the bandicoots which you might spot around Cranbourne Gardens, like dense scrub and native grasses in which they can take shelter, and plants which attract the insects they like to feed on.
Before you make your purchase
It's a good idea to get to know your garden before you choose the species you're going to plant. This means you should try and establish the soil type of the site you're thinking of planting on, as well as how much sun it gets, whether the area will drain well, how accommodating it will be as the plants grow larger, and as many other factors as you can before you shop around. When you are in the process of choosing plants, make sure to research the species and find out as much as you can about what it will require so you can determine whether your garden is suitable - you can always pop into your local nursery for some guidance. Though native species are always going to be more appropriate for native wildlife than foreign species, step it up a notch by choosing local natives. Plants which are native to your specific region are much more likely to grow well as they are more accustomed to the environmental conditions. They are also an integral source of food and habitat for local native fauna, so will have the benefit of supporting increasingly rare urban and suburban wildlife populations.
Have a particular type of wildlife you want to attract? Here are some recommendations of plant species which cater to specific native fauna
Birds – When it comes to birds, think seeds, nectar and fruit!
- Kangaroo Paw (Haemodoraceae family) - a favourite of the birds which frequent Cranbourne Gardens, Kangaroo Paw plants love sunny spots and well-drained soil and will flower from late winter through to summer. The flowers are beautiful and are a fantastic source of nectar for birds and insects.
- Banksia (Proteaceae family) - Banksia plants provide birds with a great source of seed and nectar as well as shelter and they’re very hardy and attractive plants. There are many different species from a broad range of habitats so you will find species which suit your garden conditions.
Bees – Easily-accessible nectar sources are a bees best friend
- Eucalyptus – bees are very drawn to eucalypt blossoms as a large, easily accessible nectar source – most local honey is produced from eucalypt nectar. There are many gums to choose from, but Eucalyptus microcarpa, or Grey Box, is a hardy, easy to grow species which is guaranteed to attract bees. There are a number of small eucalypts that can be grown in very small garden areas.
- Spotted Emu Bush (Eremophila maculata) - this species is incredibly drought tolerant and easy to maintain – all it needs is plenty of sun. Its flowers are a big drawcard to birds (as well as some insects) and make this species a beautiful addition to any garden.
Small Marsupials – Small Marsupials can't get enough of native grasses which provide excellent shelter.
- Common Tussock-grass (Poa labillardieri) – this attractive native grass species provides the perfect hideout for small native marsupials such as bandicoots and has the added benefit of providing nesting material for birds. It can grow in most soil types and is very low maintenance once it’s been established.
- Large Leaf Grevillea (Grevillea barklyana) – small, dense shrubs make the perfect nesting spots and places to take shelter for small marsupials. This lovely species won’t grow taller than around two metres, and will develop a dense understory. Its flowers will also attract birds and bees, so this is a versatile choice! Large Leaf Grevillea likes partial sun, is drought tolerant and benefits from pruning to ensure it develops dense foliage.