Neil Fisher's gardening column: Grevillea Fireworks.
Neil Fisher's gardening column: Grevillea Fireworks.

GARDENING: Fantastic gardens still possible on hillsides

ONE OF the hardest but most rewarding locations to garden is on a hillside.

Here in our region most hillside properties are very rocky, lacking topsoil and in most places in need of vegetable mater.

But this does not mean that you cannot have a fantastic garden.

All you have to do is address three important needs.

Firstly when starting your hillside garden the preparation of the soil is the most important task.

The inclusion of organic matter in your garden soil will help retain soil moisture, allowing water to penetrate and the roots to go deep into the soil.

As the plant root zone begins only four centimetres beneath the soil surface, plants can be badly damaged if the soil becomes hot and dry beyond this depth.

Neil Fisher's gardening column: Melaleuca Pink Lace.
Neil Fisher's gardening column: Melaleuca Pink Lace.

Next is the need to mulch the garden as many plants will tolerate the full blast of our hot summer sun, providing their roots are kept cool and moist.

Mulch stops the top of the soil from drying out, keeps the soil moist, and can reduce watering by about 60 per cent.

Mulching also prevents weed growth and weed seed germination, which compete with your plants for moisture and nutrients.

Using organic types of mulch as many benefits to most plants in the garden as you are adding that extra organic matter to the soil to improve plant growth.

Neil Fisher's gardening column: Eremophila maculata Blackall.
Neil Fisher's gardening column: Eremophila maculata Blackall.

Then finally the selection of plants for the garden is just as important as soils and mulch. Last week I received an e-mail from Anne of Gracemere requesting some guidance in starting a hillside garden.

She would like to only have flowering natives that will not grow more than 1.5m high.

The follow are some plant species that I think will best suit Anne’s hillside garden.

Acacia amblygona is fast growing ground cover wattle was introduced into cultivation by former Rockhampton native plant enthusiast, Judge Pat Shanahan, and provides a dense ground coverage, and masses of bright golden flowers during spring, although it has been known to flower throughout the year.

The foliage can be a little prickly, but sometimes that can be beneficial in some garden areas, by keeping wayward dogs and children out of the garden!

Neil Fisher's gardening column: Cassia artemisioides.
Neil Fisher's gardening column: Cassia artemisioides.

Callistemon Rocky Rambler is a ground cover hybrid form of the Blackdown Tablelands Bottlebrush.

With striking red brush flowers and golden tips in spring, this plant will always stand out as one of the most attractive new season colour plants in a dry garden.

This is one of the hardiest of the bottlebrushes for local gardens.

Cassia artemisioides or Silver Cassia is a small rounded shrub 1.5m x 1.5m with fine silvery blue/grey foliage.

Bright yellow cup-shaped flowers covers the plant during winter and spring.

Cassia artemisioides requires a sunny, well-drained position and is a very attractive shrub.

Eremophila maculata or Spotted Emu Bush is probably one of the hardiest shrubs for well-drained gardens that you can possibly buy.

Neil Fisher's gardening column: Eremophila Summertime Blue 1.
Neil Fisher's gardening column: Eremophila Summertime Blue 1.

Whether you are gardening on Great Keppel Island or on a property west of Longreach, this is one shrub that you will grow successfully.

What has made this plant even more attractive to local gardeners is the range of colours now available in its showy fuchsia-like flowers.

Colours of cream, orange, pink at least three shades, plum, purple, red yellow and even a red spotted yellow are all available in various nurseries throughout western Queensland.

Eremophila Summertime Blue is a dense cascading shrub to 1.2m by 1.2m, its large showy blue flowers bloom most of the warmer months of the year.

It is suitable for any soil type or texture in full sun or part shade, withstands some waterlogging, is a salt tolerant and frost hardy.

An excellent plant for rockeries, borders and low screens for exposed positions.

Graptophyllum excelsum or Native Fuchsia is a small dense shrub 1 – 1.5m x 1m with small bright green shiny leaves.

Large, tubular, waxy bright red flowers form along the branches in spring. It requires a sunny or lightly shaded, moist, but well-drained position and will attract honeyeaters.

Neil Fisher's gardening column: Hibiscus diversifolius.
Neil Fisher's gardening column: Hibiscus diversifolius.

Grevillea Fireworks is one of the hardiest small Grevilleas for exposed conditions.

Masses of orange and red spider flowers cover the plant during Winter and Spring. Best suited to well-drained soils Grevillea Fireworks grows to 1m high by 1m wide.

Grevillea Robyn Gordon is a sprawling evergreen shrub growing to 1.5m with a similar spread.

The leaves are dark green fernlike with a silky underside.

Masses of crimson birds attracted to the flowers are produced at intervals throughout the year.

The name honours David’s daughter Robyn, who sadly passed away at the age of 16 in 1969.

Hibiscus diversifolius would have to be one of the toughest plants you could ever ask for, whether it is for a high vandal area, very dry position or even that western position in your garden where you can never get a plant to grow.

Neil Fisher's gardening column: Melaleuca thymifolia.
Neil Fisher's gardening column: Melaleuca thymifolia.

Hibiscus diversifolius grows to 50 cm high and is approximately 1m wide with up to 180mm greenish-yellow flowers with cardinal red eyes.

It is best-pruned in spring for Summer-Autumn flowering.

Melaleuca thymifolia is a small growing shrub 1m x 1.5m with small, oval bluish leaves. Deep Purple brushes appear along the stems throughout the year.

These hardy Melaleucas require a sunny but average position.

There is also a white and pink flowering forms called White Lace and Pink Lace.

While many of these plants may not be available all year round in most local nurseries, they should be able to be ordered from specialist nurseries for this garden.