Some plant communities we see in the wild are just so striking in their simplicity but are impossible to replicate in a garden. On a family holiday in the Northern Flinders Ranges I came upon a simple mix of Swainsona adenophylla wild violet and Ptilotus obovatus silver mulla mulla. While the vivid purple of the wild violet and the creamy heads of the mulla mulla made a nice contrast, the bare rocks and mountains roundabout made the scene altogether more dramatic.
To use these plants in the garden would be fine (if and when you can find them in nurseries) but recreating the same feeling would be impossible. So why try?
To attempt this, it is important to take advantage of any given site. By this I mean it is important to know what makes any space ‘work’. It might be a particularly good view. It could be its secluded nature. Maybe it has a very steep area. Almost any feature can be seen as bonus to be exploited. Then when you come to plant material, use plant types that extenuate the feature you have. For example; weeping trees and rushes just seem to lend themselves to water features. Cacti lend themselves to bare earth and exposed rock. I put it to you that this is so because we know it ‘looks right’ or we try to emulate our idea of what those plant communities actually look like without human intervention. In other words; it is natural.
So when you are plant shopping this spring, instead of looking at individual plants or flowers, try to imagine what you what the finished scene to be. Simple is often the best and natural will always look pleasing. Sort of gardening nirvana. Impossible to achieve, but fun trying.
This article first published in the Riverland Weekly © September 6, 2012.