A garden that faces west will be subject to extremes of temperature. On a summer afternoon, this is where the sun can bake the soil, scorching all but the toughest of plants. Many beautiful plant species revel in a western location however, and clever plant selection can turn an ‘unusable’ section of your garden into an inviting living space.
Western side flower garden
Geranium, (Pelargonium sp.), will relish an area that replicates its hot, Mediterranean origins. Bright, colourful blooms appear for most of the year and an exposed site can help reduce fungal problems such as rust on the foliage. Give geraniums full sun and excellent drainage. They prefer an alkaline soil of around pH 8, so acid soils may benefit from an occasional dose of dolomite or lime. Regular dead-heading will promote continued flowering from summer into autumn. Also try ‘scented geraniums’ whose flowers are insignificant but release a range of delicious fragrances from their foliage when it is rubbed or crushed. The heat of the sun can release their essential oils into the air, creating an intoxicating atmosphere on a summer afternoon.
Although fragrance is an often overlooked element in garden design, it can bring an extra level of interest and enjoyment to a garden. Lavender (Lavendula sp.) is a much- loved perennial or small shrub which many visitors can’t resist touching for its distinctive fragrance. Lavender and geraniums enjoy similar growing conditions and can make wonderful companions in a garden bed facing the hot western sun.
For little maintenance and high visual impact, bougainvilleas create a flamboyant, tropical look, even in cool regions. Standard bougainvilleas are best ‘trained’ along walls or fence lines under a watchful eye, but the compact ‘Bambino’ range can be more easily limited to smaller areas or grown in large pots or hanging baskets. Give bougainvilleas regular applications of Searles Liquid Potash to encourage bigger, stronger blooms with less water shoot (flowerless growth). Bougainvilleas look great companioned with cycads.
A structure like an arbour or archway makes a wonderful shade structure when covered in a blanket of greenery. Allamanda (Allamanda schottii) loves clamoring over an archway and bears waxy, vividly-coloured flowers for most of the year. There are now many allamanda cultivars which bloom in a range of colours, including subtle hues of gold, cream, ruby, caramel and peach. Growing different varieties of climbers which flower at different times of year on the same trellis can effectively extend the flowering season from one season to another.A good companion for allamanda are the wisteria- like flowers of Sandpaper vine (Petrea volubis). With numerous racemes of delightful violet flowers, the petrea will repeat flower from spring until late summer. Look for a superior cultivar known as ‘Purple Passion’ (Petrea kohautiana) which has large flowers borne on racemes as long as 40cm.
Succulents for the Western Garden
For contemporary gardens, euphorbias are hard to ignore. The African milk tree (Euphorbia trigona), in both its green and purple forms, makes a striking presence in the garden. This succulent hails from Africa and can set the scene for an eye-catching succulent or cacti garden in hot sites. Growing to 2 metres, this heat lover rarely needs pruning and can be grown in large containers with smaller succulents around its base. It also looks great with stylish forms of mother- in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria sp.) Famed for their durability, sansevieria offer elegance, hardiness and style. Use a well blended potting mix such as Searles Cacti & Succulent Mix and pot them up with other succulents. This can also save you the trouble of digging gardens in the hottest areas.
Foliage plants for side gardens
Many cycad varieties enjoy the intense sunlight of a western aspect. The fern-like fronds of these primitive plants creates
a lush, tropical look as well as a sense of structure. Under-plant cycads with reliable groundcovers such as creeping boobialla (Myoporum parvifolia), seaside daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus) or the silver foliaged kidneyweed ‘Silver falls’ (Dichondra argentea).
Growing citrus trees in the Western Garden
Hot spots in the garden can also be used for growing fruit bearing trees. Olive trees and citrus trees of all varieties will grow happily in these spaces and the availability of many of the newer dwarf cultivars such as the ‘Lots-a-Lemons’ (true Dwarf Meyer lemon) and ‘Sublime’ (true Dwarf Tahitian Lime), means a wider variety can be grown in a smaller space.
Taller species such as olive trees can also create pleasing shade once established. Many dwarf citrus cultivars and olives can be grown successfully in large containers such as half wine barrels. Underplanted with useful herbs such as oregano, thyme or rosemary, this can turn a barren area into a highly productive corner of the garden.Gardening on the South Side Creating a Western Herb Garden Noel Burdette is a highly respected Local horticulturist and plantsman in Se Qld and is well known for his love of naturalistic and softer style gardens . Apart from having his own Private garden consultancy service , Noel can be regularly heard on 1116 4bc talking gardening each Saturday morning and is a contributor to many local garden magazines such as Subtropical gardening , About the Garden and Queensland Smart Farmer (Rural Press) . He is also a regular presenter on the locally produced television programme Blooming in Brisbane” which airs each week on Digital 31. Noel holds a flag highly for healthy backyard ecologies and is often heard at many garden events, clubs and Societies throughout south East Queensland. On request, Noel also offers a private garden consultation and design service. Whenever Noel has the opportunity, he can be found eagerly tending to his own garden “Wildside” which is highly focused on healthy ecology and plant diversity. Visit Noel’s blog http://noel-burdette.com.