The benefits of using Australian native plants in any courtyard garden are their exceptional low-maintenance and drought-resistance. When space is at a premium, courtyard gardens afford an opportunity to create a haven that attracts colorful birds and pollinating insects. Focal points or features for a courtyard garden, such as rocks, paving stones, statuary, birdbaths and trellises, can enhance the experience. In hot, arid climates, detachable shade cloths provide much-needed shade for more delicate Australian native plants.
Add native Australian ground covers to a courtyard garden to reduce the need for extensive mulching. Several "prostrate" varieties of Grevillea make excellent ground cover choices. Grevillea 'Poorinda Royal Mantle' and Grevillea preissii both perform well as ground covers and as trailing plants for low courtyard walls and dividers. The spidery, reddish blooms of Grevillea preissii will ensure frequent visits from helpful pollinators, as will the bottlebrush-like, fiery red blooms of Grevillea 'Poorinda Royal Mantle.'
Creeping Boobialla, as its name suggests, spreads along the ground and creeps up tree trunks. This Australian favorite drapes itself over walls and other courtyard garden features. In summer, small, delicate clusters of white blooms cover this-low growing plant.
Varied levels of plantings bring interest and balance to the courtyard garden. Shrubs like banksias and waratahs--popular, upright Australian native shrubs--provide long-lasting, showy flowers. The striking, cone-shaped flowers of banksias come in a variety of fiery colors, such as pink, gold, yellow, red and orange. Banksias are mid-sized shrubs with spiny leaves and dense flower clusters. As banksia flowers dry, they reveal hard seed cones beneath that burst during a fire and release the seeds inside.
Waratah blooms are usually a vivid red, but can also be white, orange, gold, cream or pink. Birds and insects visit the scentless, compact blooms for the nectar. The plant's long, round-tipped leaves form a spiral-like base around the flower head.
Create a fragrant, perfumed area in your courtyard garden with plants from the Boronia family. Boronia megastigma ("Brown Boronia") grows to a manageable height for larger pots (up to 36 inches). The plant has delicate, narrow leaves similar to those of a moss rose and attractive, extremely fragrant brown and yellow bell-like blooms.
Native Australian correas are also good choices for container plants. Correa baeuerlenii is a compact, shrub-like plant with glossy, dark green leaves and are perfect for large pots. The long, pendulous, tube-shaped flowers occur in winter and spring in Australia and are a pale chartreuse color. The plants are drought and heat-resistant when established.
The red, finger-like blooms of the kangaroo paw are common features in many Australian gardens. The distinctive flowers appear on stalks that can shoot to a height of nearly eight feet. Most flower stalks, like the "Big Red" variety of kangaroo paws, grow to about five feet from a clumping plant base.
Shrub-like and Dwarf Trees
Acacias, also known as "wattles," are shrub-like plants with brushy golden blooms. Most Australian acacias remain manageable shrubs, but a few varieties attain tree height. Wattle blooms are signs of spring--though they can bloom nearly year-round--and many varieties give off a pleasant scent that can be an asset to any courtyard garden. Acacia plants have small ferny leaves, but they also develop long, blade like leaves as the plants continue to grow.
While many eucalypts grow to towering heights, quite a few forms are dwarf or mid-sized trees, perfect for a courtyard garden focal point. The silver, oval leaves of Eucalyptus macrocarpa provide dappled shade during hot summer months. Large, showy red or pinkish red fringed flowers bloom from spring to mid-summer in climates similar to Australia's. After the bloom withers, a large silvery gray "gum nut" remains.