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Garden Guru At Your Service

Date: 28-Jun-11

Anthony Wyer

Anthony Wyer

Question 1:  Flip asked

“We are redesigning our school garden so that it survives both water wise and children wise. Many of the beds are dry and some are in shade. Can you suggest some suitable grasses and plants please?”

Always happy to make some suggestions for the kids. Firstly, it is going the help the plants if you are able to treat the soil before planting. Mix in some organic matter along with water crystals, this will give your new plants a better chance of doing well. In regards to the planting, I would like to break up my suggestions for you into three categories, see below:

Gound Covers / native grasses

- Viola Hederacea: native low ground cover with amazing purple flowers – enjoys a shady position but will also handle full sun.

- Lomonadra tanika: vibrant green native grass growing to approx 600mm – drought tolerant + full sun / part shade.

- Pennisetum “purple lea”: native grass with an amazing feathery flowers from Summer to Autumn growing to approx 850mm – drought tolerant + full sun


- Westringia “aussie box”: this is one of my favourites. Tight & compact this little beauty grows naturally in a ball to approx 600mm in diameter – full sun to light shade.

- Grevillea”robyn Gordon”: looking for some colour all year round for the kiddies, robyn is for you! Growing to approx 1.5m tall with beautiful red flowers all year round – full sun

- Hakea salicifolia “saris”: tough hardy & compact, growing to approx 2m tall, the saris is regarded to be a shrub but I think it could be used a decorative little tree. – full sun + part shade.


- Tristaniopsis laurina “luscious”: what an amaznig tree, with beautiful green leaves growing to approx 9m.  Tolerates full sun to part shade.

- Meleleauca quinquenervia: the paper bark is an amazingly decorative tree, the bark can be easily peeled off in sheets, good fun for the kiddies.  Growing to approx 12m the paperbark – full sun.

- Cupaniopsis anacardioides: the tuckeroo as its more commonly known.  A medium native tree with a dense, widely spreading crown.  Perfect shade tree for the kids, growing to approx 13m.

Question 2: James asked

“Hi Anthony. When can I lift and divide my kangaroo paw’s? I live in the riverina of NSW.”

Any time during the cooler months is always the preferred time to do any dividing or transplanting. To narrow it down a little further for you, divide early September, this will give them time to settle in before putting on some growth come spring.

Question 3: Carolen asked

“Hello Anthony, I planted 60 Acmena Smithii instead of installing a horrible colourbond fence between my property and neighbours last November as I will be doing a green renovation to an old north facing brick home in the Central Coast. I have planted about 200 native trees and shrubs as well. The Lily Pilly’s are growing really well and the idea is to ensure they become a hedge. When is the best time to trim them so they do turn into a tall hedge?”

Wow Carolen! 60 Acmena & 200 native trees, you're doing an amazing job.  Now whatever you do, do not trim the top of the Acmena’s until they have reached the optimum height that you are trying to achieve. This is not the case for the face, keep trimming and shaping the face all year round, it may be every 6 weeks through the winter and every four through the summer. Do keep the trimming regular, you will get a much better result.

Question 4: Lynne asked

“Hi Anthony I have a very small, east facing garden in inner west Sydney with kids cubby, shed and huge gum tree all in a line on the back fence. I want a green screen from the 2 story neighbours at the back that will not interfere with the small space the kids have to run around the tree to get to their cubby, and also that likes morning shade from the shed & afternoon summer sun and doesn’t mind being close to a large gum. The ground is pretty damp in winter. Which plant(s) would you suggest and how many is too many for a small space"

You will either love this suggestion or hate it. Clumping Bamboo is the perfect plant for the position that you have described. Bamboo is evergreen, will grow to approx 6m blocking out the two storey neighbours, requires a very narrow garden bed, approx 600mm, loves morning shade and afternoon sun, the gum will not bother it and is going to love you for the wet ground through the winter.  Bumbusa “textiles gracilis” is the variety to use.  Assuming you plant the Bamboo, it grows quickly so you will not have to buy advanced stock; it does require lots of water for the first 2 weeks, once established it is very drought tolerant.

Question 5: David and Frances asked

“We have a small backyard - heavily sloping away from our house and down to a lake.  Never a problem before, but we now have a (mighty) two year old toddler and would love to somehow level out the area (cheaply!) and create a playspace for our little one to enjoy. No idea how to do this and want to use as much recycled product, harmonise with the surrounding area and make it stimulating for 'our little Leroy'."

I have children of my own and having room outside is an absolute necessity!

What you nee to do is to cut & fill. You will need to identify a point on the slope that lends itself to such an exercise. Cut into the slope, moving the soil that has been excavated down the hill, this will level the block. More than likely two retaining walls will be required; the first to retain the soil at your excavation point and the second will retain the soil that has been pushed down the hill to level the play zone. Recycled hardwood timber sleepers could be a great product for the retaining walls. Now this is not an easy exercise, there are many elements to be considered so I would advise calling a local expert for some advice. One more thing, along with the general play equipment consider an in ground trampoline, they are so much fun for all ages!

Have fun and good luck with your gardens everyone.

Guru Swarmy!


More Information

National Tree Day is Sunday July 31st.  For more information or to find a site near you head to the Tree Day website.

For more information on National Tree Day Ambassador Anthony Wyer head to his website.

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