By John Weldon

    If you’re like me, you’re overweight, worried about your career and in desperate need of a haircut, but that’s beside the point. You’re also probably concerned about the environment, you might give to GreenPeace, maybe you vote Green, I don’t know. But if you are like me, you definitely get that panicky gut churn when you read about Australia’s horrible history of habitat loss and destruction, and the effect this reduction in indigenous flora has on native animal populations.

    You want to do your bit. You want to plant local, to create a sanctuary in your yard for the insects, birds, and animals that call the inner west home, but you just don’t know what to plant, how best to grow them, or even what they’ll look like. And looks matter – there’s no denying that. You want a garden that is on the right side of the environmental equation, but it has to be pretty too. 

    Panic turns to guilt and self-loathing as you, once again, bypass the natives section in the nursery in search of plants that you know. You can almost see the pleading faces of the birds and insects, the tiny mammals and the amphibians in amongst the wattles, acacias and native grasses as you reach for flowers and shrubs they can’t eat or live in, because they’re pretty and they’re easy to grow.

    So what do you do? How do you learn to plant local?

    Well, I’m glad you asked. Check out this list of ‘plant local’ resources, they’ll put you on the right track.

    • Your local council’s web page is a great place to start. They’ll have information – often in languages other than English – on plants local to your very suburb, how to grow them, their role in the environment and so on.
    • I know they’re not strictly Westside, but the City of Melbourne urban planting guide ( is a great resource. Not only does it feature ripper info on the plants native to Melbourne, it also tells you, among other things, which animals rely on which plants for survival.
    • If you want to know what native plants look like fully grown and in bloom, or you just like top notch photography, check out the Victorian Flora site ( This site has brilliant colour photos of plants native to Southern Victoria.

    So you now know what to plant, but where do you source the plants themselves? 

    Newport Lakes Nursery ( and Bili Nursery ( both of which specialise in native plants local to the west are great places to start. 

    The key to planting local, as with any gardening, is just to have a go. Some plants will thrive, others won’t. Don’t be discouraged: if at first you don’t succeed, plant, plant and plant again. Your friendly neighbourhood critters will love you for it. And, if you get the bug and you want to go completely wild, check out the work of Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki and build a native forest in your own backyard. 

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