Fact Sheet: Think Local
Presenter: Sophie Thomson, 23/08/2014
SERIES 25 Episode 23
Sophie visits a native display garden in regional South Australia
"We're in Quorn, gateway to the Flinders Ranges, three hours north of Adelaide," says Sophie. "The rainfall averages just 330 millimetres. In summer, temperatures are 40 degrees plus and in winter, it freezes - so to survive, plants have to be tough and adaptable. I'm here to find out whether any of these indigenous beauties can adapt to your garden."
Sophie's visiting the Powell Gardens - started nine years ago by local resident Brian Powell who filled a two and a half hectare site with plants from within just a 30 kilometre radius of Quorn.
The late Mr Powell and his wife Kay were fascinated with the Australian bush fruit, quandong (Santalum acuminatum). In the mid-1970s, Brian actually started the first Quandong breeding program and orchard, just outside the town.
Brian's baton has now been passed onto supporters like Geraldine Davis. Geraldine has been involved with the Powell Gardens since it opened and is a long-term gardeners and resident of the area.
"I guess (Brian) wanted to get through to people that local native plants are good to use in your garden," says Geraldine. "These plants you look at here are all ones that you would see growing in the scrub. But when they're in the scrub, they're not looking as neat and tidy because a kangaroo's hopped through them or a cow's walked through the middle of them and they don't show themselves off well."
There are 200 species in the Powell Gardens and Sophie says that everywhere she looks she sees something she wants to take home. Of course, not all will be suitable - but there's one part of the garden that's intended to show off those that are best-suited for home gardens.
"This section of garden is called Best of the Best," says Sophie, "and it shows great home garden applications for these indigenous plants," says Sophie. "I love this Rhagodia parabolica (Fragrant Saltbush, Chenopodium parabolica syn. Rhagodia parabolica ). It's a type of native saltbush. It's tough and makes a great silver hedge. And because it attracts beneficial insects, if you add it around your vegie patch you can significantly decrease pest and disease problems."
"Look at this stunning Native Fuchsia, Correa glabra," Sophie continues. "It's just smothered in flowers. The honey-eating birds love it. It has a great upright, dense habit and it makes an exquisite informal hedge."
Geraldine thinks experimentation is the key to discovering how indigenous plants react to different treatments and says she's still learning. "We don't realise it's experimenting. We're often reflecting on what we're doing or what we could do better."
She shows Sophie a group of plants. "This is just one example - we're in the process of growing this Blue Bush (Maireana sedifolia) as a hedge. In the paddocks, it's widely sought after by stock and kangaroos, so it's badly denuded or it's been certainly knocked over. You don't see it as an ideal specimen in the paddocks or in the scrub."
However, under magnification it becomes apparent how well-suited to harsh climates these plants are. "You can see the very fine hairs on them," says Geraldine. "They're designed for an arid plant so that they can capture the moisture and maintain their survival when there's no rain."
Geraldine hopes the work being done at Powell Gardens will encourage gardeners to grow their own local plants and will preserve the seedbank. "It's so nice to think that you're looking after the next generation of our local plants," she finishes. "That's one of my keen passions."
Information contained in this fact sheet is a summary of material included in the program. If further information is required, please contact your local nursery or garden centre.
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