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Ross Doig

Climbing plants are a feature of Australian flora particularly in rainforest and forested gullies in temperate areas. A lesser number of species occur in woodland and scrub.

Among them are free flowering species, others have interesting foliage or form dense cover and yet others are long lived. These features commend them to the native plant gardener but the immediate problem arises when one looks for a place to put them.

By their very nature they tend to be rampant and will spread over and through shrubs across fences up trees and even up walls. Obviously not helpful in the average garden.

There is however a solution, we need to go UP. Consider covered walkways, gazebos, lattice screens, and archways, over gates and entrances, open carports and pergolas.

Thinking along this line the opportunity to customise is presented and the creation of windbreaks, sheltered areas for ferns and other plants requiring shaded environments, screens to hide unsightly features or that prying neighbour, a spot to confine that propagation and nursery area. At the same time an attractive visual element can become part of the garden providing flowers and foliage, an island of nature rather than the straight line, man-made feature.

Looking through nurseries and perusing plant literature reveals a fairly narrow range of suitable species, except of course in tropical areas, but there is enough choice from which to select the few needed to grace our garden.

One book stands out as a source of information having a section on native climbers with descriptions of species, cultivation requirements and floral characteristics. I refer to the Wrigley and Fagg 'Australian Native Plants - Propagation, Cultivation and use in Landscaping.' Expensive but available in most Group libraries and certainly in Public Libraries.

Some Australian Climbing Plants
Clematis aristata
Clematis aristata
Old man's beard
Eustrephus latifolius
Eustrephus latifolius
Wombat berry
Hardenbergia violacea
Hardenbergia violacea
Native sarsaparilla
Kennedia rubicunda
Kennedia rubicunda
Dusky coral pea
Photos: Brian Walters

I offer a few suggestions from species I know about which may form a starting point.

  • Kennedias: both Eastern and Western species
  • Hardenbergias: H.comptoniana and H. 'Happy Wanderer'
  • Clematis aristata, C.glycinoides
  • Morinda jasminoides
  • Pandorea species
  • Aphanopetalum resinosum
  • Smilax australis
  • Wombat berry, Eustrephus latifolius

Lighter foliaged species could be teamed to get a good cover and provide variety of flower and foliage.

From 'Calgaroo', the newsletter of the Parramatta and Hills Group of the Australian Plants Society, June 2006.

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Australian Plants online - 2006
Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants