When buying plants for the garden it’s tempting to just grab what looks good at the time. This sometimes works out, but if you’re after a plant for a difficult situation – such as heavy or boggy soil, salt spray and wind, or heavy shade – it’s worth doing a bit more research before making your purchase. A chapter in the latest (44th) edition of Yates Garden Guide, with the apt title Plants for Special Conditions, provides some tried-and-true suggestions for those tricky spots. Examples are:

For seaside gardens

Coast banksia – Varies from a stunted shrub to a tall tree, depending on conditions, and has soft yellow flower cones in winter.

Tuckeroo (Cupianopsis anacardioides) is a fast-growing tree that is suitable for warmer coastal areas.

Coprosma is often called mirror bush because of its shiny leaves. Their reflective surface not only bounces light, it sheds the damaging salt that’s carried in on the sea breezes.

Scaevola, or fan flower, is an Australian native that comes in many forms. All are low growing and some make pretty, salt-tolerant ground covers with small fleshy leaves and mauve/blue/pink or white, fan-shaped flowers.

For shaded gardens

Acanthus, known as oyster plant because of its purple/white, shell-shaped flowers, has dark, strongly-lobed, dramatic-looking leaves.

Arthropodium, the New Zealand renga renga lily, forms clumps of grey-green, softly recurved leaves. Sprays of tiny white flowers stand high above the foliage through late spring and early summer.

Bird’s nest fern (Asplenium australasicum) forms a large, nest-shaped rosette of shiny, slightly leathery, pale-green radiating fronds. Its shallow root system makes it ideal for growing under trees.

For gardens in fire-risk areas

Hibbertia (guinea flower) can be grown as either a ground-covering scrambler or a climber. Its slightly fleshy leaves provide some fire (and salt) resistance. Bright yellow flowers dot the plant in spring and summer.

Cannas (pictured), with their showy, tropical-looking blooms, grow well in damp spots. Their moisture-filled leaves are reluctant to burn.

Lillipillies, which come in numerous forms and sizes, and other rainforest plants are good planting choices for fire-prone gardens.


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