By Colleen Sheehan
  • How to be Waterwise

    How to be Waterwise


It’s everyone's responsibility to conserve water, so Colleen Sheehan suggests ways we can still enjoy beautiful gardens without costing the earth.

Late last year, The West Australian published a graph of water-guzzler and water-miser suburbs in Perth, as researched by the Water Corporation. Reading further into the article, it’s possible to see various differing factors between the suburbs which help explain why.

Larger blocks have bigger gardens requiring more water and many suburbs close to the CBD are apartment dwellers, with virtually no garden. No one bemoans large blocks with big gardens – let’s face it we’ve all had one at some time – but it’s worth exploring ways to better use the city’s water by conserving it better and harvesting our own.

A water-wise garden doesn’t necessarily mean a native garden. We can still have colourful, pretty gardens other than our natives, which don’t require much water.

Plants listed below are so common in Perth that we could say they’ve been naturalised. Plants from South Africa, Mexico, USA, Greek Islands, Spain, Morocco, the Arabian Peninsula, Africa and Japan are teeming with beautiful drought-resistant plants. By drought-resistant, I mean plants which can readily adapt to very little regular watering. Some have distinctive characteristics, such as silver or grey foliage or small, glossy, waxy or hairy leaves. These characteristics typically handle, reflect and protect from heat and sun. Gazania, a very tough and colourful groundcover from South Africa, and Raphiolepis Indica (Indian Hawthorn), makes a beautiful flowering hedge of any size. Cistus (rock rose) from Crete, prefers no irrigation. Carpobrotus, commonly known as pig face or ice plant, is salt-resistant and will survive being buried in sand, however it can get out of control. Abelia is from eastern Asia and Mexico and has small glossy leaves. Others to consider are Agapanthus and olives. The succulent Agave survives because water or even moisture runs down each leaf.

Coprosma has a hardy, glossy, waxy leaf. Cordyline Australis, commonly known as cabbage tree, is a stately, architectural statement. Other varieties of cordyline are versatile with many different foliage colours. Sedum is a worthy succulent, and in fact anything with strappy, leathery leaves has the leaf structure to handle heat, and is hardy. For example, Dianella has many varieties with different coloured strappy leaves. They make a great show when mass planted. Statice, again with its tough leaves, will thrive.

Oleanda has a nasty reputation, but most of it is urban myth, All silver-leaved plants are very water-wise because they reflect light, convolvulus cneorum for one. So there you go, a huge selection of colourful, drought-resistant plants which will easily thrive in our sandy soils, and won’t suffer with the permitted two waterings per week. As a community, all sharing the same water supply, let's embrace our responsibility as part of a bigger community by planting appropriately. We’re all part of one big global community. As gardeners, let's do our bit. PL

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