One on One With Danielle Heath


Landscaping with Australian Natives

By Gina Dostler


Heath Landscape Design brings a flowing grace to homes where she creates thoughtful gardens that provide an extension from the interior to the exterior of homes. She brings the architecture and the environment together outside into a wonderful place that accents the beauty of living outdoors. Her knowledge of plant material combined with an aesthetic eye allows her to design environmentally appropriate landscapes, natural and beautiful. From residential to commercial properties in the Palm Springs area, her knowledge of drought tolerant plants is extensive. Having a big concern for water conservation, Heath is interested in utilizing flora native to desert conditions, where drought tolerant and poor soil conditions make for hardy, sturdy plants that are easy to grow. She finds many Australian native plants a wonderful addition to the landscapes she designs here in Newport Beach and discusses a few of them to consider.

Q: Why consider Australian plants for landscaping?

A: The majority of our plants are brought in from elsewhere, cuttings from England or Italy to name a couple. Not too many are plants that are suited for this climate, hence we have to provide plenty of water, lots of fertilizer and sometimes shade. Yet there are places like Australia that provide plants that fit well with our sunny dry climate and lack of water. These plants are drought tolerant and are showy with color and because they are used to poor soil, require little to no fertilizing. Easy maintenance, low water needs, perfect for landscaping in coastal deserts.

Q: Name some popular varieties.

A: You’ll probably recognize many of them, yet hadn’t realized they are really indigenous to Australia. A very popular one, kangaroo paw has long red orange flowering stalks that are a favorite to hummingbirds. New Zealand flax with their long pointed leaves that arch out to form a bush is attractive and brings in birds as well. Heath is another great plant, sometimes called flax lilies. It’s a very pretty clumpy grass, easy to maintain. The leaf color is on the blue green side and it blooms purple flowers once a year. These look wonderful on a border along a walkway.

P1270361Q: So just plant and leave alone?

A: They are very forgiving plants and are used to harsh conditions in the desert where extreme heat, poor soil conditions, and little water persist. But whenever redoing your landscape think water conservation and plan your design and understand what will do best in your area. Always group plants with similar water needs together. Improving the soil also keeps plants healthy, maintenance low. This allows the soil to better absorb water and to encourage deeper roots. I like to go beyond and create artistic landscapes where the eye soaks up the beauty of all the textures and colors and enhances your home living experience.

Q: Colors?

A: There is every color imaginable with these native plants. From deep reds, bright yellows, oranges, purples, pinks the colors brighten any garden without having to water constantly. Many Australian plants make wonderful drought tolerant bushes with their colorful flowers. The violet paperback is a wonderful shrub with their oval green leaves and pretty violet flowers and a very hardy plant that withstands lots of sun and little water. Textures are a wonderful surprise with Australian natives making a very lively landscape.

Q: I understand the tea tree plant is a nice decorative and textured tree.

A: Yes, the tea tree, Melaleuca, or paperbarks, grow a gorgeous white trunk that sheds its bark in flat, flexible sheets that makes for a beautifully textured trunk along with a lacy canopy of leaves with pink or white flowers. A very pretty and dramatic piece for sure. Another plant you might recognize is the wax flower, or chamelaucium. It’s found in many floral arrangements but is now more readily available for landscaping. It’s a strong and hardy plant with tiny little needle-like leaves and flowers. The leaves when crushed are quite aromatic.

P1270373Q: Using drought tolerant plants are just one way to save water. What else can we do?

A: Cut summer watering to two or three days per week for grass; and one to two days per week for other plants. Check soil moisture with your finger or shovel and wait until soil is dry two to three inches deep before watering. Be sure to set timers to water before dawn and after dusk to reduce water loss from evaporation. And fix leaking sprinklers, valves and pipes. A broken spray sprinkler can waste 100 gallons in a typical 10 minute watering cycle.


Danielle Heath

Heath Landscape Design