Frost hardy & drought tolerant plants for your garden
For some people, the title of this article may sound like the most boring subject to ever read - however if you are a new home-owner with a barren garden, then the words "cheap plants" will have caught your attention. Also, if you are renting, then potting up some cheap plants that you can take with you when you move, is a popular way to brighten up any new home. Firstly, as our family found out when trying to fill up our empty garden with Canberra-friendly plants (ie. frost hardy and drought tolerant) - plants aren't cheap. If you have to buy them in bulk to cover the length of a fence, or if you are looking for some that are already half grown, then it really starts to add up. For cheap, cheap plants, you can buy them small as tubestock and then wait for years for them to grow. If you would prefer to see results in the next couple of years however, then plants can cost between $7 - $20/$30 per plant for something that is a fair size - and will survive its first winter.
Our tip? Buy in bulk at the markets and the stallholders may offer a discount, or even throw in one more plant for free. Strike up a conversation with these local growers, as they are a wealth of information and give the best advice for our unusual climate. We were given some hints and tips from Canberra locals and came up with the following list, however please leave a comment on the bottom of this article if you have a favourite grower not mentioned. You can never have too many options!
Flaxs, Lomandra', Succulents and Hebes all grow well in Canberra's climate
River Road Nursery in Oaks Estate in Queanbeyan has been our "go-to" nursery for most of our garden. They are reasonably priced for the size and the plants are healthy. If you have a lot to buy then it is easier to visit the nursery itself and if you sign up to their newsletter and Garden Club, you receive 5% off each time you go. Their extensive plant nursery is found in a unique location at Oaks Estate, at the end of a dead-end suburban road without much signage. They have a great range of flaxes and grasses in particular, with a good variety of colours and sizes. Call them to find out their weekend times (usually both afternoons) or find out their next Open Day. They can also be found each week at the Capital Region Farmers Market (below). See here for details.
The Capital Region Farmers Market at the EPIC, north of the city, is a busy market held every Saturday between 7:30am-11:30am. Get there early for the best selection. If you only have a few plants to buy, then it is a great market to walk around with a few plant growers selling their selections, all looking for your business. See here for the current list of plant stall holders. For a full article on the Capital Region Farmers Market, see here.
River Road Nursery truck at the Capital Region Farmers Market
The Australian Native Plant Society Sale is held twice a year in the carpark of the Australian National Botanical Gardens in Acton. Sales are held on the third Saturday of March and October from 8:30am. The first time we went to the markets we were surprised by the volume of cars lining the streets and the amount of people walking in with boxes, expecting to walk out laden with plants. We arrived too late for the plants we were after on that occasion - so the next time it was advertised we arrived there early (with our box!) and had a better selection. These sales are popular for a reason with affordable prices, healthy plants, over 600 species suited to Canberra's climate and experts on hand to ask advice. If you are interested in the species for sale at the next market, you can email them for the list. See here for details.
Get there early! Source: Australian Native Plant Society website
The Trash and Treasure Market is held in the carpark of Jamison Plaza, north of the city, every Sunday between 7am to 12:30pm. River Road Nursery and other growers are often seen at these markets, however most of the other stallholders are people selling plants they have cultivated at home and are selling for reasonable prices. This is a great market if you are looking for cheap succulents or other hardy plants, which are sure to survive when you get them home. The market costs a gold coin entry for Rotary. See here for details. For a full article on the Trash and Treasure Market, see here.
Bunnings can be a little hit and miss, as many of the plants that are delivered to Canberra's stores aren't suited to our climate in particular. We have found that the staff are happy to point out which ones are perfect for your garden and some stores have areas set aside for "Canberra Plants". The beauty of Bunnings is that it is handy - it is usually not far from home and there is a good range for decent prices. We have purchased all our Hebes (below) from Bunnings as they had the widest range available, for good prices for their size. Bunnings are located at Gungahlin, Belconnen, Fyshwick and Tuggeranong in Canberra. See here for details.
Heritage Nursery Yarralumla is a beautiful plant nursery located at Weston Park, just a short drive from the city. It is not particularly cheap, however for a few extra dollars than anywhere else you will find a large range and particularly healthy plants. The Heritage Nursery Yarralumla sells an extensive range of everything that will suit the Canberra climate. This is where we have bought several of the the Yarralumla Nursery Centenary Carpet (below), which has tripled in size around our garden in a short time. Each plant we have bought has thrived - sometimes it is worth paying the extra for quality. They also run the government-run Yarralumla Nursery behind the property for wholesale customers, which also has a natives market day open to the public every month. See here for details.
If you are new to gardening, like I am - be warned. Once you start buying your own plants and lovingly water them, pick insects off them and remove weeds from around them - you can easily turn into a person who happily "potters" around their garden each weekend. You thought it would never happen to you? Think again!
Before you know it, you will be wandering the Yarralumla Heritage Nursery - and loving it!