multiculturalism in the garden

There are indigenous plants and then there are immigrant plants – just like in any multicultural society. Some immigrant plants don’t thrive in their new habitat and some do. Some thrive too well, and become noxious weeds. An example of a terrible weed here in Australia is the blackberry. It quickly gets established, then outgrows the native vegetation and is difficult to eradicate.

Californian plants tend to do well as garden plants, here in southeast Australia. The climate must be similar. This was of particular interest to a blogger friend of mine, Pomona, based in California and creator of an excellent garden blog called Tulips in the Woods. As an exercise in trans-hemispheric collaboration, she recently published a post based on communication with me, titled Mimulus From Down Under.

People generalize about native Australian plants being preferable to grow because they are drought resistant, etc. This can’t be true since Australia covers a huge area with huge variations in climate. Lots of indigenous plants do grow well in my garden, but so do lots of the later arrivals.


  1. I think this is a fascinating topic. Here we have had many, many introductions from the Rabbit (introduced as food by the Romans) to water weed (Elodea). We have a similar climate to the Himalayas and parts of temperate America and some wonderful plants.

  2. What a interesting garden you have! Multicultural... wow! In my own garden, every now and then, I would try to grow new plants. But mostly plants of the similar climate ;-) I am not so adventurous.

  3. I started laughing while reading about some immigrant plants becoming noxious weeds, etc. You mentioned a multicultural society, so ... well, I stopped futher thoughts as politically incorrect!

  4. Blackberries have become weeds in parts of Washington and Oregon too. It is amazing to think about all those olden day people immigrating with their beloved plants. What a world!

  5. Speaking of Australian native plants, here's what I just got seeds for:
    Callistemon formosus
    Kunzea parvifolia
    Grevillea banksii
    Hakea laurina
    I think my climate in Bermuda is similar to certain parts of Australia. These are beautiful species and I would be glad to be able to grow them.

  6. Very interesting post .. about multiculturalism .., thus bringing the term "diversity" into play... Some of the plants there has close cousins here in Malaysia...

    ~ bangchik

  7. I was wondering if you were growing exotic plants. My garden here is very much into multiculturalism. As far as I can see the birds and insect are just as happy to get nourishment from introduced species. Like you said sometimes those species take over quickly. Here Lantanas take over the bush. I think the CIRO has released an insect to conquer them. I am not sure if it is working in the bush, because I have seen them still flourishing there but I have seen the cultivated ones, which are not obnoxious, badly affected. Any way the native plants are wonderful to grow and there are for every climate many to choose from. One is tempted to grow others, like from Western Australia, which do not like the wet feet they might get here in my area.

  8. Your photography is wonderful. I need to look closer to see what camera you are using. I didn't notice a title for the last flower. ARe those the Cigar plant? FABULOUS!!!

    Looking forward to following you through the season. Happy Gardening new Friend.

  9. Hi Hermes, rabbits are a terrible problem here too, as are cane toads - which are particularly yuk!

    Hi Stephanie, thank you for the compliment. Our gardens are like our blogs, we work out what feels right for us.

    Hi Tatyana, at least the plant world isn't as cruel as humans - they're immigrants, not refugees!

    Hi PITS, yes it is fascinating how people travelled across the world with seeds and plants. (I feel a post coming on ...)

    Hi Zakir, thanks for the visit and compliment.

    Hi Prospero, i love those 3 shrubs - I look forward to seeing /hearing how they grow.

    Hi B and K, let's value diversity, and also be close cousins!

    Hi Titania, thank you for an interesting comment. Cultures continually change in human society and by being pragmatic I think we are finding out which native and exotic plants associate well.

  10. Bren, new friend - thanks for the lovely warm comment. I feel I have been lazy about my photography and only yesterday did a workshop. My camera is a Nikon SLR, but I haven't learned that much about it yet. I have also been lazy about naming plants. The last picture is of an Australian native: Correa pulchella.

  11. Catmint, I was just reading Bay Area Tendrils on Australian plants that make good imports to California, so I think you must be right about the climates. Of course, we have some Aussie imports such as eucalyptus which have turned out to be problematic (huge fire hazard) though I love walking through a grove of them, inhaling; they are so beautiful. So sorry about the blackberries, I don't know if they're ours but we have them and pretty as they can be in bloom and good as the berries are, they are a pestiferous nuisance in many ways.

  12. Blackberries are weeds here in the UK too! They are an ancient species and I believe endemic throughout the northern hemisphere as they are tough and invasive. I'm constantly digging them out and trimming them back in my garden and side alley, but glad to live near a good local wild supply when late summer comes.

    Your planting is beautiful and I love your thoughtful posting. Thank you!

  13. A little more on blackberries:we do have a native kind here in California, but the pestiferous ones are called "Himalayan" (I have no idea where they actually come from). A horticulture teacher told me that in the late 1940s a book on California plants said Himalayan blackberries were rarities. Now it require crews and heavy equipment to keep fields and roads free of their thorny octopus tangles.


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