Rejuvenating Our Garden For Summer (and my Favourite Hardy, Affordable Plants)

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Ahh – summer. I am going to be honest, I’m not a summer person. In my past life I probably was the Wicked Witch of the West who melted to death. Her rage was an accurate representation of my snippy mood when it gets to 40 degrees in Perth. Give me cold weather and miserable skies any day (which actually make me feel cheerful) – I am a winter person through and through.

What I DO like about summer in Perth is all the entertaining; the dinner parties; the barbecues. People seem more relaxed and more willing to get out and about and make the most of the beautiful evening weather. I have been so looking forward to entertaining here this summer, because as you guys know we recently wrapped up our Scyon cladding makeover which has made our house look so much nicer – and after many years of dreaming about doing this project, we also got a new patio and deck in our back garden.

The deck has COMPLETELY changed our house and the way we live here. It is like having a huge extra room. But it also doesn’t make us feel restricted to staying inside the house, the way we used to feel when it was either very hot or when it was raining.

It has been so lovely I kind of wish we had prioritised doing it earlier, because I had underestimated how much it would change the house. We’ve been out here almost every single day since the decking was finished (thank you ).

You might have seen my Instagram or Facebook post where I deliberated whether to cut back the trumpet vine hedge around the dragon tree – as you can see, I did it and we love it! The chairs are the Saffron one-seaters from Early Settler and the side table is the Cooper.

It’s been really nice – and with the cladding and decking done, we’ve since turned our attention to rejuvenating the gardens, as we’ll be hosting Christmas lunch this year on the deck. And the gardens have been in need of some love. A necessary hazard of putting up cladding on an existing house, unfortunately, is that your garden is probably going to cop it a little! I love gardening, and honestly I could happily garden (and write) all day every day and I’d be happy as a pig in mud. But add to our ongoing renovations a pregnancy, a newborn baby and the start of summer, and our garden was starting to look a little worn around the edges.

Babies! The ultimate gardening disruptors.

When reached out to see if they could work with me on some blog content for their range, I was stoked – I have been buying their products for seven years and the garden nerd in me was excited. I am a huge believer in spending a little bit of time putting nutrients into the soil if you really want your plants to do well.

Where we live, the soil is terrible; really nutrient poor and sandy. I am by far a gardening expert but I think there is not much point spending a fortune on plants if they are not going to thrive – they need food almost as much as they need water! We’ve used a compost bin for a long time, we put all our coffee grounds into the garden beds, water with a liquid fertiliser every season and when we trim our trees back, Mr Nerd makes it into mulch and we mulch all the garden beds.

As a result the soil has improved so much since those dry, dusty days we bought the place – check out these photos of our garden when we bought the house. I remember looking at the gardens at the home open and being excited about them – they were neglected but I thought they had tons of potential. We were lucky enough to have some beautiful established trees, but the garden has come such a long way since those dustbowl days.
The soil has improved, too. Now in most places, you dig down a few inches and find handfuls of fat, happy worms.


We have been using two products to give our plants a nice dose of nutrients and to get them strong for the harsh summer ahead – for all plant types (including natives) (which you can also put on other trees and shrubs) which has extra magnesium to help keep leaves greener for longer.

The fertilisers are very easy to use – you attach the bottle to your hose and away you go (and you can also still turn the spray to water-only, if you don’t want to liquid-fertilise). I’ve been giving my old fiddle leaf fig (outdoors) a nice drink every so often and it has been looking better than ever. And so has my little ‘fence garden’ (which I’ll tell you more about in a second. I know, right. What a cliffhanger).

Recently we visited the ‘new’ (old, but new to them) home of friends of ours, Dave and Meghan, and Mr Nerd and I came back home so inspired. In such a short time, Meghan and Dave managed to transform what was once a dusty, scrubby yard into a perfect green paradise (complete with thriving vegetable garden, chickens, ducks, greenhouse, frog pond and a Flow hive for their bees) and with thriving beds of trees and plants everywhere. Sure, Dave is a horticulturalist and a natural green thumb, but I’d figured they must have spent a fortune putting in entirely new soil – not the case. Their technique? “I just throw things in and see what grows,” shrugs Dave. Some things absolutely thrive in their soil, some don’t. They just add compost and fertiliser.

I came home so motivated, determined to also ‘throw things in and see what grows’ and decided to tackle this part of our backyard by the fence. This sad-looking fence was always what you would see when you sit at our dining table, and I knew it would also backdrop our future deck, so I wanted it to look nice – I decided to make a ‘fence garden’. I unpotted a whole bunch of my potted plants and put them in this empty patch of soil – palms, mother-in-law tongues, succulents and a sad-looking fiddle leaf fig. The plastic edging I picked up from Melville markets for a dollar is not the trendiest, but it keeps the soil tidy. There’s no retic along here, so I just water this part of the garden by hand. I know it’s nothing amazing – but it’s green and I love looking at this little patch of garden (rather than just old, stained fence) now.

BEFORE

 

NOW

Our garden is never going to win any landscaping awards. It’s very much a backyard, not a styled, modern outdoor space with every detail and plant carefully considered for a cohesive effect. But it’s green and it’s a nice place to relax and that’s all I want in a garden – greenery (and lots of plants and birds, and the odd native creature). We will eventually put some bamboo in this garden bed too, to screen out the evening sun from the deck and to hide the old corrugated fence.

I love gardens with beds spilling over with plants – but when you have a lot of garden like ours, filling it in with plants from large nurseries can get expensive. So I continually look for plants at markets (like Melville markets, Clontarf Farmers Markets, Kardinya markets) and on . But the best tip I ever got for finding affordable (and sometimes free!) plants was from a Modaokon reader who told me to join garden and plant groups on Facebook – try Like any sizeable Facebook group, you will find the usual number of requisite idiots but there are also a lot of gems – I’ve scored my big fiddle leaf fig and a kiwiberry plant through this page.

Sometimes I also find plants on the side of the road (no, in an honest way, I promise! Via green waste collection, or people giving away cuttings from their garden) and I’ve taken these home and planted them too. My personal theory about garden beds is that plants love being surrounded by other plants. If something gets ‘too big’ for its place, you can always trim it.

Here are some of my fave plants that can usually be found affordably if you spend a little time looking (and that won’t be fickle and die on you if it gets one degree hotter than they’d like).

SOME OF MY FAVOURITE HARDY PLANTS (FOR GORGEOUS GARDENS ON A BUDGET)

Our aloe vera

Jade / Chinese jade – these grow from pieces very easily.

Friendship plants – also grow from cuttings.

Century plants or agaves – they’re massively back in fashion too and need very little love.

Mother in laws tongues – unkillable. Enough said.

Banskias – are beautiful as cut flowers for the house and their nectar is a food source for birds.

Native hibiscus – If you give them a little bit of love, these grow quickly and they have beautiful foliage and flowers. You can also clip them into your preferred style, whether that be bushes, hedges or trees.

Blue chalk sticks – a lovely and hardy groundcover.

Kalanchoe – my aunty brought over a box of these leaves from her garden for us once. You literally can just snap off leaves and fling the leaves around like confetti (but better yet, plant them) and you’ll have baby kalanchoe plants. They are amazing.

Spider plants – they might remind you of your nonna’s house in the 80s – but these plants are hardy and spread easily.

Aeonium Sunburst – I love these striking succulents and people always comment on them. I started off with just a tiny little one and it’s grown to the size of my head now (and has babies).

Cactus – love em or hate em, there is no denying that a wall of cactus is a showstopper – and they thrive on neglect. All you have to do is cut off a piece or pad, let it dry out a little to callous up, and plant.

Aloe vera – I frequently find aloe vera cuttings dumped on the side of the road for green waste pick up, and if you do, grab them! All you have to do is stick a piece in the ground and keep watering and you’ll be rewarded with spectacular huge plants. I found some TINY pieces of aloe vera on a verge years ago and planted them in my parents yard – when I moved out of home to here, I cut some pieces of theirs and popped them in my garden too. They grow fast and they have stunning orange-red flowers.

Geraldton wax – these are usually affordable (I picked up a couple from Big W not long ago for $10 each) they grow quickly once their roots are established and bees love their beautiful flowers.

Pepino – if you can get a pepino going, you can grow 50 more plants of it in the next year! These guys love being cut and grow quickly from cuttings – and I think they look nice, with pretty dark green leaves and small purple flowers – and you can eat the fruit.

Fig trees – I love fig trees. They remind me of backpacking in the Greek Island with my bestie way back when. I’m not exaggerating, I think I planted seven here in the couple of years after we moved here, scraping my freelance writer pennies together to buy little fig trees while other cooler 24-year-olds were buying festival tickets and nice shoes. Only one of those fig trees has died, prob cos I never watered that one (who knew plants need water?!) One of the things I love about fig trees is that they transplant well – we had to move one over from the front of the house to make way for the new driveway and have stuck it out the back, and now he’s happier than ever.

Frangipanis – another great one to grow from cuttings.

Sweet potato vine – it’s so hardy and it makes a pretty groundcover with dark green/purple leaves (depending on variety) and they’re great for places where other plants might not normally grow – sandy soils, dark spots, underneath large trees etc. You can grow sweet potato from cuttings or just by burying actual sweet potatoes.

Best of luck with your own gardens this summer! Let me know what plants you love. Maya x

Thanks to Scotts for working with me for this post. You can visit the to find out more about their products in the Osmocote range, or you can pick them up at your local or garden store. Boost & Feed is an exclusive to Bunnings product. Maya x

Maya-Anderson-House-Nerd

Author: Maya Anderson

When Maya Anderson was thinking of a name for her homes and design blog, nothing seemed more fitting than Modaokon. Obsessed with everything to do with houses, renovating and interior design, Maya is a features journalist by training with a background in print and a focus on homes and real estate. She has been renovating her 1970s house since forever, loves dogs and can eat her body weight in dumplings.

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  • I am still having bouts of envy when I look at your gorgeoys porch (the floor planks! the doggo! the Shibori cushions! the bench! the dragon tree!). Of course, it is rather convenient to ignore the fact that there are hours and hours of elbow grease that are required to make everything so arrestingly beatiful.
    Add a Little Goblin Girl with the funny face and I can’t peel myself off.
    I was stunned to see that you have sansvieria and fiddle leaf figs growing in the gardens – something we northern people can only dream of. Though I noticed – in the photo with Goblin – are those opuntias growing close by? Those are my mortal enemies – you may find it hard to believe but those suckers actually survive Canadian winters and come up the next year unscathed – and I removed the one in my garden very unceremoniously. The ungrateful thing fought me every step of the way and its spines, although quite soft, penetrated my leather garden gloves.

    • My darling little goblin girl. Currently having a nice nap out on the deck! A small bonus is now I can sit at my desk and watch them both out on the deck through the window. Ahh the garden is a lot of work, but we do love it! And yes – opuntias/prickly pear! They are technically a pest here, but we do think they are beautiful. They were a gift from a friend who collects desert plants, and I learned how painful those little spikes were as I planted them! I am absolutely shocked they survive Canadian winters. I wouldn’t have thought they’d like the snow at all.

  • We are going to look at a house in four hours (we already stalked it on the weekend but actually seeing it today with the agent) that has the most neglected, saddest garden – dead apples on a tree, empty concrete planters, a terrace covered in leaf slime). I haven’t been able to sleep, I want to get my hands on that garden again so badly! My favourite Australian plants are my old dark pink Geraldton wax, grevilleas for their silver grey leaves, kangaroo paws (especially red and lime-green flowered ones), that ground cover with the little purple and white flowers, banksia and the white climber – hardebergia? – is stunning. And grasses. Also love sprinkling rocket seeds everywhere as they are grow so fast. And rosemary, curry leaves and kaffir lime leaves. Sigghhhhhhh…..

    • Ahhh – how exciting!!! 🙂 That does sound like a sad garden but with so much enthusiasm I’m sure you’ll be able to turn it right around! Don’t you love it when grand plans keep you so excited you can’t sleep haha. I love all the plants you mentioned – LOVE Geraldton wax (remember snatching up a few of the dark pink ones at Big W once when they were super-cheap) – and curry leaves! My parents have a huge curry leaf tree taller than their roof line (my dad is Sri Lankan, my mum German – they cook curries ALL the time). Love the smell. Have never tried growing rocket from seed – I’m going to grab a packet next time I go to Bunnings and give that a go.

      • It was the greyest, saddest day possible here today (Berlin) and it’s a divorce sale so the house looked abandoned, but definite potential. Yes try rocket! It bolts very easily in the heat like coriander but the flowers are pretty so it doesn’t matter. Oh wow, you must have grown up with the best food in your house with German and Sri Lankan parents. Your garden looks beautiful by the way, forgot to say that amid all my 5am excitement!