Australian Natives II

Course CodeBHT225
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Learn to Grow and Use Australian Wildflowers and Shrubs 

This course deals with both woody (hard wooded) and herbaceous (soft wooded), low growing Australian Native plants, which bear showy flowers. The focus is on small shrubs and ground covers.

Comment from one of our Australian Natives II students:
"The plant recognition assignments were challenging and a great help for the future" D. Sydenham

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Scope and Nature
    • Review of the system of plant identification
    • Resources, sources for further information contacts (ie: nurseries, seed, clubs, etc.)
  2. Growing Conditions
    • Plant Relationships
    • Understanding Environmental Zones across Australia
    • Soils; composition, colloids, peds, texture, chemical properties, pH and nutrient availability
    • Improving Soils
    • Natives on Low Fertility Soils
    • Diagnosis of Nutritional Problems
    • Inspecting Plants and diagnosing health issues
    • Preventing Problems
    • Pests and Diseases on Natives
    • Planting, staking, mulching, watering
    • Planting; different tequniques for plant establishment
    • Pruning Australian Native Plants
    • Water Management -review
    • Propagation Technique -review
  3. The Heaths and Similar Plants
    • Scope and Nature of Heaths
    • Heath habitats
    • Epacridaceae; the Epacris Family
    • Proteaceae
    • Myrtaceae
    • Thymeleaceae
    • Dilleniaceae
    • Glossary of botanical terms used to describe plants
    • Introductory Plant Morphology
    • Review of plant genera and many of their species:
    • Grevillea
    • Hakea
    • Hibbertia
    • Hypocalymma
    • Isopogon
    • Leptospermum
    • Melaleuca
    • Micromyrtus
    • Pimelia
    • Richea
    • Telopea
    • Thryptomene
    • Verticordia
    • Acronidium
  4. The Daisy Family
    • Characteristics of Asteraceae
    • Floral Structure of Asteraceae
    • Review of culture and distinguishing characteristics of various Asteraceae genera, including:
    • Heichrysum and Bracteantha
    • Helipterum
    • Olearia
    • Orthronathus
    • Rhodanthe
  5. The Legumes
    • Common characteristics of all legumes
    • Distinguishing Fabaceae, Caesalpinacea and Mimosaceae
    • Acacia
    • Albizzia
    • Eutaxia
    • Goodia
    • Hardenbergia
    • Hovea
    • Indigofera
    • Kennedya
    • Pultenea
  6. Other common groups
    • Alogyne
    • Bauera
    • Burseria
    • Clematis
    • Correa
    • Crowea
    • Dampiera
    • Hibbertia
    • Hibiscus
    • Lobelia
    • Leschenaultia
    • Pandorea
    • Pittosporum
    • Pratia
    • Prostanthera
    • Rhagodia
    • Sollya
    • Viola
    • Westringia, etc.
    • Basic Landscape Design; Design Procedure, Drawing a plan
    • Native Plants for Specific Situations; long flowering species, climbing species, etc
  7. The Monocotyledons
    • Blandfordia
    • Bulbine
    • Caesia
    • Calectasia
    • Calostemma
    • Carex
    • Cordyline
    • Dianella
    • Lomandra
    • Danthonia
    • Patersonia
    • Stypandra
    • Anigozanthus
    • Xanthorrhea, etc.
  8. Commercial Applications: Growing Native Cut Flowers
    • Production Plan for Cut Flowers
    • Selection Criteria for Plants

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Distinguish between different types of native wildflowers.
  • Determine reliable information about the identification and culture of Australian wildflowers.
  • Specify general cultural practices, including propagation, for different families of Australian native wildflowers.
  • Explain the characteristics, including identification and culture, of heath like native wildflowers; with reference to both proteaceous and myrtaceous plants.
  • Explain the characteristics, including their identification, culture and use, of wildflowers in the Asteraceae (ie. Daisy) family.
  • Explain the characteristics, including identification, culture and use, of different legume wildflower genera.
  • Explain the characteristics, including identification, culture and use, of different Australian native monocotyledons (ie. narrow-leaved plants).
  • Prepare a planting design featuring Australian wildflowers.
  • Develop a cut flower production plan, for a selected Australian wildflower.

What You Will Do

  • Distinguish, using illustrations and minimum but adequate comments, between twentydifferent plant families within which Australian native wildflowers are commonly found,including the following: Asteraceae, Caesalpiniaceae, Dilleniaceae, Epacridaceae, Ericaceae, Fabaceae, Poaceae, Haemodoraceae, Iridaceae, Lamiaceae, Liliaceae, Mimosaceae, Myrtaceae, Orchidaceae, Proteaceae, Rutaceae and Thymelaceae.
  • Prepare a collection of fifty pressed wildflower specimens (or illustrations), not collected elsewhere with information included on culture and use.
  • Compile a resource file of sources of information on native wildflowers.
  • Develop criteria for distinguishing the accuracy of information, relating to native wildflowers.
  • Determine four reliable sources, of accurately named Australian plant material, including both seed and plants.
  • Develop a procedure for researching cultural information on an unfamiliar species of Australian wildflower, listing specific information sources in order of importance.
  • Explain two different ways to plant each of three, different specified wildflower plants
  • Compare the use of four different types of mulch, around specified wildflowers.
  • Explain appropriate techniques for watering wildflowers, in a specified garden.
  • Compare the pruning of two specified wildflowers, from two different taxonomic families.
  • Explain why three different wildflower plants have different preferences in soils.
  • Compare the use of five different types of fertiliser on wildflower plants.
  • Propagate wildflower plants using four different techniques (eg. Seed, Cuttings).
  • Identify pests and diseases afflicting at least three different wildflowers.
  • Discuss the culture of fifteen different wildflower plants.
  • Distinguish, using illustrations and minimum but adequate comments, between genera which include heath-like native plants, including:
    • Epacris
    • Micromyrtus
    • Thryptomene
    • Verticordia
    • Grevillea
    • Isopogon
    • Melaleuca
    • Pimelia.
  • Prepare a poster size chart which compares the characteristics, including:
    • Appearance
    • Propagation
    • Lifespan
    • Soil requirements
    • Environmental requirements
    • Pests & diseases
  • Special cultural techniques of various different genera of heath-like wildflowers.
  • Describe the unique characteristics of different genera of wildflowers
  • Dissect, draw and label the parts of a daisy flower, including:
    • Ligule
    • Stigma
    • Style
    • Anther
    • Corolla tube
    • Pappus
    • Ovary
    • Receptacle
    • Disc floret
    • Ray floret.
  • Distinguish, using illustrations, between three different native daisy genera.
  • Design a garden bed using only Australian native daisy flowers which will grow in your locality, and will flower for an optimum period of months over the year.
  • Produce dried flowers from an appropriate native plant variety in the Asteraceae family.
  • Distinguish between Fabaceae, Caesalpiniaceae & Mimosaceae families characteristics.
  • List fifteen of the more commonly grown native legume genera.
  • Describe various uses for specific legume native genera, including:
    • Soil improvement
    • Flower colour
    • Weed suppression
    • Erosion control
    • Decorative foliage
    • Screening as a climber.
  • Write an essay comparing the characteristics of four different Australian Native legume genera.
  • List twenty species of low growing native monocotyledons suited to culture in your locality
  • Describe various uses for monocotyledon native species listed, including:
    • Soil improvement
    • Flower colour
    • Weed suppression
    • Erosion control
    • Decorative foliage
    • Screening.
  • Design a garden bed of 20 square metres, using only Australian native monocotyledons which will grow in your locality; to be colourful for an optimum period of months during the year.
  • Determine applications for five different species of wildflowers, in amenity horticulture.
  • Grow a combination of three different wildflower varieties in an area of four square metres, to achieve an aesthetically attractive display of colour.
  • Prepare a scale drawing for a design of a 40 square metre garden bed which features wildflowers, and creates a high impact colourful display for a period of at least two months.
  • Develop criteria for selection of a wildflower species to grow as a commercial crop.
  • Determine ten different species of wildflowers which have potential as a commercial cut flower crop, in your locality.
  • Design & conduct simple trial for testing the performance of three specimens of a selected wildflower species, and summarise the trial procedure, detailing:
    • What to grow
    • Schedule of cultural tasks
    • List of equipment and materials required
  • Evaluate the commercial potential of the different cut flowers.
  • Devise a crop production schedule for a specified cut flower crop, detailing all essential work tasks.


When most people think of growing Australian natives, the ‘bush garden’ which features native plants in a ‘natural bushland’ setting is the landscape style that comes to mind. While this garden style remains popular, there are many other ways to grow natives in the garden. Today, native plants are grown in formal gardens, rainforest gardens, indigenous gardens, cottage gardens, contemporary gardens, eclectic gardens, courtyard gardens and Oriental gardens.

Regardless of the garden’s theme or style, good plant selection is vital – choose specific varieties that complement your preferred style of garden. 

Bush Gardens

Bush gardens first became popular in the 1960s and today there are still many bush garden enthusiasts. Bush gardens typically are modeled on natural bush habitats, such as heath-land or dry sclerophyll woodlands. The main plantings are usually woody flowering shrubs such as grevilleas, hakeas, prostantheras and callistemons, interspersed with smaller shrubs and groundcovers such as baueras, eriostomons and brachyscomes. Larger bush gardens might also feature an over-storey of eucalypts, casuarinas or angophoras. Mossy bush rocks, winding paths and leafy, bark mulches add to the bushland effect.

While this garden style aims to recreate nature, it is essential to approach the design and maintenance in the same way as any other garden style, otherwise the garden may end up as a meaningless assortment of straggly plants. Follow the principles of landscape design, so that the garden is not only pleasing to look at, but is functional as well. Consider the plants’ form, texture and colour. Also consider their longevity – some smaller bushland plants only live a season or two, so you must be prepared to replace them at regular intervals.

Good Bush Gardens are Not Low Maintenance

It is worth keeping in mind that because many native plants are fast growing and early flowering, most bush gardens look great in the first couple of years after planting – regardless of what you choose or how you look after them.

But it is only the gardens that are carefully designed and maintained that remain looking attractive for years into the future. Bush gardens do need maintenance!

Maintenance is also critical. Most native shrubs in garden settings need regular tip pruning to maintain a compact shape and to promote flowering. Native plants also respond well to regular fertilising during the main growing season.

Choosing Native Plants for Your Garden Style
How to choose the right plants for your garden style? Some native plant gardeners are happy to grow any plant as long as it is a ‘native’, that is that it originates in Australia. Purists are more likely to choose species that are indigenous to their locality. Others consider the garden style first, then select natives that do the same job as exotics for example: training lillypillies as hedges or topiaries, or edging garden beds with small-growing varieties of lomandras.

Designing a Natural Bush Garden

A natural bush garden can be anything which attempts to simulate a natural environment. For reduced maintenance it must aim to be an area where the created garden will inhibit the growth of unwanted weeds through close planting and mulching. For a wilderness or bush garden the design must be informal. Consider the whole atmosphere including scents and sounds. The garden should be alive with chattering birds, fluttering butterflies and lizards lounging on warm rocks. Underfoot should be spongy with mulch smelling of earth and eucalyptus. A bush garden is more than just trees and shrubs. Try to include all of the low-growing herbs, grasses, lilies, etc of the under-storey.

Remember, designing a garden is much harder than painting a picture or decorating a house. You can't simply put any plant anywhere because it looks nice. Tree ferns planted next to a sunny west wall will cook. You are dealing with living, three-dimensional plants which grow and change through the seasons.

Many of the best bush gardens recreate a specific natural habitat, such as the following:

  • An open woodland with ground-covers, climbers, grasses, shrubs and trees. This is the quintessential bush garden, and is suited to many areas of Australia. The plants typically withstand dry conditions and poor soils, although they will respond well to water and native plant fertilisers. One drawback is the plants are naturally adapted to bushfires – some contain volatile oils; others contain flammable bark or have other strategies that promote the spread of fire – so this must be considered if you live in an area that experiences bushfires.
  • An indigenous habitat featuring the full complement of available plants growing naturally in the local area.
  • A heathland, comprising mainly shrubs and ground-covers with showy flowers. Many of these plants are from south-western Australia and require well-drained, infertile soils and low humidity. A heathland garden might include dryandras, isopogons, lambertias, epacris and grevilleas.
  • A rainforest, with ferns, palms, orchids, trees and climbers. A rainforest garden requires a protected position, effective irrigation and improved soils.
  • An alpine habitat. The higher peaks in Tasmania, Victoria and southern New South Wales contain many small-growing alpine gems. They need low humidity and cool to temperate conditions. Many need excellent drainage; others are adapted to wet, boggy soils. In gardens, they are best grown in rockeries, where they can be appreciated up close, and where their required conditions can be easily maintained.

When designing a native garden consider:

  • How things fit together in the bush – trees, shrubs, grasses, rocks, leaf litter and natural water courses
  • What makes up a bush garden – not just the plants, but also the native birds and animals, and soil, rocks etc.
  • How you will put it all together and maintain it over time.
Formal Gardens

Some people may be surprised that native plants can be grown in formal gardens. Formal gardens are characterised by a symmetrical design, straight lines, artificial landscaping materials, and controlled, neat plantings – qualities that we normally think of as being the opposite of natural bush gardens. But there are natives that are ideally suited to this classical and enduring garden style. The key is to use natives that look more like exotic species; for example, natives from the subtropics and tropics with dark green glossy leaves and a naturally compact shape. Plants that have a strong architectural shape, such as Doryanthes and tree ferns, also work well in formal gardens.

Some examples of native plants to use in formal gardens:

Hedges – Lillypillies (Acmena, Syzgium spp.), Austomyrtus, Grevillea rosmarinifolia

Edges – Lomandras, dwarf lillypillies

Groundcovers – Mazus pumilo, native violets (Viola hederaceae)

Climbers – Pandorea,

Container plants – ‘Bush Gem’ kangaroo paws, topiarised lillypillies, Ficus

Feature plants – Doryanthes, tree ferns (Dicksonia antarctica and Cyathea spp.), cycads, palms

Contemporary Gardens

Contemporary gardens are characterised by clean lines, modern landscaping materials, and bold colours and textures. This garden style is well suited to urban landscapes, with its use of hard materials and strong geometric lines. It is most often used in small outdoor areas, especially courtyards where the paving and walls create a hard-edged look, although the concept can be adapted to more open suburban gardens whose owners are looking for a simpler, less maintenance-intensive design.

Contemporary gardens typically feature lots of hard surfaces and not much greenery. Plants are used as ‘soft architecture’, usually in repeat plantings or in containers. Foliage, colour and form are more important than flowers.

Examples of natives suited to this garden style include the following:

  • Containers – sedges and grasses, kangaroo paws
  • Edge plantings - lomandras, dianella,
  • Architectural feature plants such as Doryanthes and Xanthorrea (grass trees), Eucalyptus caesia
Courtyard Gardens

Essentially a courtyard is an enclosed outdoor space. Not only does a courtyard provide an invaluable extension of the indoor living area, it is a retreat from the outside world; a private, intimate space which is ideal for relaxing and entertaining.

Like other parts of the garden, the courtyard can be informal or formal in style, although in most cases, they tend towards the formal. This is largely due to the predominance of hard surfaces, such as paving, walls, furniture and planter boxes at the expense of greenery, and the fact that most courtyards are built in a square or rectangular shape.

Because courtyard gardens are sheltered by walls and fences, they are ideal for growing plants that need protected conditions; for example, subtropical rainforest plants. Another advantage of courtyard gardening is that every plant can be seen up close, either growing in containers or in narrow beds.

A disadvantage of courtyards is that they are often hot and glary in summer as the heat is reflected off walls and paving. Coastal and inland plants that withstand dry, hot conditions will thrive in these conditions. Alternatively, a small shade tree and climbers covering the walls will help to cool and shade the courtyard.

Courtyard Design
In a small, confined space every feature counts, so it’s important to select and place plants and other items to their best effect:
  • Keep the plantings simple. Clipped hedges and repeat plantings of the same species will give the courtyard a clean, uncluttered appearance.
  • Create one focal point, such as an eye-catching sculpture or water feature, rather than cluttering the space with small pots.
  • Keep the secondary features in scale, including plants, furniture and garden ornaments.
  • Make sure there is ample room for comfortable garden furniture.
  • Choose hard surfaces that link the house, courtyard and other garden areas.

Cottage Gardens
Cottage gardens originated in 17th and 18th century England as practical and productive gardens around countryside cottages. Today’s cottage gardens are more diverse, with an emphasis on colour and abundance. Spaces are generally small in scale, with a focus on curving lines. Hard surfaces are kept to a minimum and are generally made from natural materials.

Small-growing flowering natives are ideally suited to the colourful cottage garden style. Like the exotic annuals and herbaceous perennials traditionally used in cottage garden plantings, some of the smaller natives flower early and abundantly and, within the first season of growth, will grow rapidly enough to cover any bare patches in the garden bed.

Cottage-style natives can be mixed with traditional exotic plantings or grown purely in native beds. Suitable plants include: Tetratheca, tea tree hybrids, Indigofera australis, eriostemons, philothecas, hypocalymmas, baueras, kangaroo paws, grasses and sedges, daisies, lechenaultia, and small grevilleas, callistemons and melaleucas.

Oriental Gardens
Oriental gardens attempt to reflect nature, but in a more orderly and artistic way. The images created are intended to be like a painting or other work of art, with a focus on beauty and meaning that is perhaps in some ways beyond nature.

They usually reflect a philosophy, and are designed as a place for contemplation - as such, they are largely free of distractions caused by excessive contrasts in texture or colour.

Balance is asymmetrical rather than symmetrical. Ponds, streams and other water features are common - these fit very well with the natural theme. Rocks (seen as pieces of natural sculpture) and stepping stones are also commonly used. Plants are not a significant component, although those used are carefully selected to harmonise with the landscape.

Natives with a sculptural appearance are best suited to this garden style. A contemplative retreat in the garden might feature a small group of tree ferns or a single grass tree. Plants with a pendulous or weeping habit might be used as waterside features; for example Callistemon viminalis, Allocasuarina torulosa or Agonis flexuosa.

Rainforest Gardens
Rainforest gardens are a relatively new style which is gaining popularity in both cooler climates and in the more humid subtropics and tropical regions of the world. The main characteristic of this garden style is abundant ‘tropical’ or ‘jungle’ plantings with a focus on foliage textures and colours, rather than flowers. The interplay between light and shade is also important.

There is a huge choice of native plants suited to this garden style, many of which are relatively new to horticulture. Most plants are from the coastal rainforests of northern NSW and Queensland, but there are many interesting species from the cool temperate rainforests and wet sclerophyll forests in Tasmania and southern Victoria. These cool climate species can be grown in many parts of the world, including the UK, New Zealand and the US.

The typical rainforest garden has the following characteristics:

  • Lush, dense growth
  • Areas of shade as well as smaller, open glades
  • Layers of vegetation – a tall canopy of trees, a middle layer of small trees or large shrubs, and a low-growing layer of ground covers
  • Moist, organic soil
  • Humidity
  • Mulch as a ground cover
  • Rainforest plants including trees with distinctive trunks, palms, tree ferns, orchids, vines, epiphytes (ferns, bromeliads, etc that grow on rocks and trees)
  • Informal design with winding paths used to link areas of the garden
  • Natural materials such as rocks and timber used for construction of garden features
  • Ornamental features often include things associated with rainforests such as structures and sculptures from rainforest regions (Africa, Bali, India, South America, etc). Also use natural features such as large mossy rocks and old tree trunks.



  • Combined with Australian Natives 1 this course will make you an expert!
  • Great for those looking to work in natural environments such as Nature Parks or environmental rehabilitation
  • For Australian native garden designers - extend your design possibilities
  • For Australian native plant enthusiasts to extend your knowledge




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