Gardens of the future | Herald Sun read full article at

Climate change is linked to temperature increases, rainfall fluctuations (both flood and drought) and a surge in severe weather events, such as cyclones and hailstorms. We need to adapt our garden designs by selecting plants that will cope with these extremes.

Newly-released gardening guide Futureproof Your Garden profiles 200 native and exotic plants that are particularly tolerant of dry conditions. Many can also cope with – and often thrive in – an overabundance of moisture. There are many beautiful ornamental plants, as well as a wealth of water-efficient alternatives to traditional edible plants.

Most of them feature adaptations such as leathery or spiky leaves that maximise the plant’s efficient use of water, or resilient root systems that can survive either very dry or very wet conditions. Within the Native Plants directory, we highlight the Australian plants that boast delightful flowers and/or foliage. There is a focus on plants that create useful food sources and habitats for Australian animals and insects.

We also point out tasty Australian bush foods – such as muntries (Kunzea pomifera) and warrigal greens (Tetragonia tetragonioides) – that can be grown in the garden with minimal water. In general, however, to reach their full productive potential, plants grown for food may require extra water in dry conditions, as it is necessary for the production of abundant leaves, flowers and fruits.

In these cases, using a wicking bed or another similar system is the ideal way to ensure the best water efficiency.

In the Exotic Plants directory, you’ll find many appealing cacti, succulents and other plants that have adapted over time to withstand dry periods and regions.

They include garden favourites such as English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis), as well as herbs, fruits and vegetables.

By combining our list of water efficient plants with the various strategies for future-proofing your garden detailed throughout the book, you can create a sustainable, attractive and productive garden wherever you live.



(native sarsaparilla)

This is a tough and vigorous climber or ground cover with clusters of small violet pea flowers from the middle of winter and into spring. There are a number of different forms of this plant available, including pink and white-flowered forms. Grow the plant on a frame or trellis to encourage it to climb, or plant it as a ground cover or cascading down walls. It can be pruned hard to keep it growing as a shrub.

Climate: Cool to warm temperate, Mediterranean, subtropical.

Soil: Well-drained; clayey, loamy or sandy, poor soil.


(pink rice flower)

With attractive deep pink flowers on a low dense shrub, the pink rice flower makes a lovely addition to dry native and cottage gardens. The flowers are very small but densely clustered into flower heads that stand out from the deep green foliage. Flowering from early spring through to summer, it makes a wonderful feature plant, well suited to rockeries and container growing. It prefers full sun and a well-drained soil.

Climate: Cool to warm temperate, Mediterranean, semi-arid.

Soil: Well-drained; loamy or sandy.


(Blue Mist)

This is a beautiful double-flowered form of the native bluebell in a striking shade of royal blue. A clumping dwarf perennial with fine foliage, it is perfect for cottage and flower gardens. Adaptable to a range of soils, it looks wonderful as a border plant, in rockeries and anywhere its wonderful flowers can be appreciated. It also works well as a pot plant or in a hanging basket.

Climate: Cool, cool to warm temperate, Mediterranean, semi-arid, subtropical.

Soil: Moist to well-drained; loamy or sandy.


(foxtail agave)

A common succulent in gardens, the foxtail agave is very low maintenance and withstands drought very well. The plant forms a large rosette of fleshy pale blue-green leaves on the end of a thick stem. It can take up to 10 years for the plant to flower, with the striking flower spike growing three–to-four metres tall. The spike bears masses of small cream flowers that attract nectar-eating birds and insects.

Climate: Arid, warm temperate, Mediterranean, semi-arid, subtropical.

Soil: Well-drained; loamy or sandy, poor soil.



The pomegranate has been in cultivation for a long time, and it is grown both for its fruits and as an ornamental plant. There are varieties grown for hedging that do not produce fruits. The pomegranate is deciduous or semi-deciduous, depending on the climate. Position the shrub or small tree in full sun, in a growing mix enriched with organic matter, and ensure that it has adequate water in spring, during flowering and fruiting.

Climate: Arid, cool to warm temperate, Mediterranean, semi-arid, subtropical.

Soil: Well-drained.


(Chinese wisteria)

Chinese wisteria is a vigorous deciduous vine with a beautiful spring floral display of scented pendulous flowers on bare branches. The flowers are usually lavender, but they can range from white to pink or purple. It is a tough plant that withstands drought once established, and it appreciates a well-drained soil rich in organic matter. For best flowering, plant it in a sheltered position in full sun.

Climate: Cool, cool to warm temperate, Mediterranean, semi-arid, subtropical.

Soil: Well-drained; clayey, loamy or sandy.

This is an edited extract from Futureproof Your Garden by Angus and Emma Stewart (Murdoch Books, $45).

Originally published as Gardens of the future and how we can help combat climate change

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