Try growing: Native meadows

A while back, I did a post on native meadows. That was a 'garden inspiration' post though, and didn't provide that many practical ideas and hints. So I'm following up now with a guest post by Mithra Cox, with some tips and tricks on establishing a native meadow in your garden. Mithra says....

An alternative to lawn is the use of native meadows. They are hardy, low maintenance, create habitat, increase biodiversity, and best of all they look beautiful. They can be sprinkled with native flowers such as Native Bluebell (Wahlenbergia communis), Grass Daisy (Brachyscombe graminea), Flannel Flower (Actinotus helianthi) in sandy soils, or Everlasting Daisies (Xerochrysum bracteatum).

Different species will work better depending if you want longer or shorter grass, whether the area is in full sun or part shade, and your soil type. As a general rule, in a larger space, a taller meadow will look better, and in a smaller space or courtyard choose smaller species to match the dimensions.

For a taller meadow that only requires mowing once a year or so, try Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra) and Tussock Grass (Poa labillardieri). These tall grasses can grow knee high or thigh high, and will work best in full sun and can be grown with taller wildflowers such as Everlasting Daisies, Grass Daisy and Flannel Flowers.
A natural meadow of Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra). This look
can easily be adapted to a garden setting.
Image by Mithra Cox, reproduced under CC BY-NC 2.0
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For a shorter, softer meadow try Weeping Grass (Microlaena stipoides).  As its name suggests, this grass has a graceful weeping seed head, and is soft under foot.  It will do best in dappled or part shade, and when protected from the full sun does a good job of out-competing introduced grasses like Buffalo Grass, Couch and Kikuyu.
A Weeping Grass lawn does well in dappled shade. Image by Mithra Cox, reproduced under CC BY-NC 2.0.
Weeping Grass can be paired with gorgeous Native Bluebells (Wahlenbergia communis).  In a shadier spot, Weeping Grass can also be mixed with Native Violets (Viola hederacea or Viola betonicifolia), Basket Grass (Oplismenus aemulus) and Pennyworts (Hydrocotyle geraniifolia, Hydrocotyle peduncularis or Hydrocotyle tripartita).


This native lawn is biodiverse and very low maintenance (requires mowing twice in summer and never in winter).  Image by Mithra Cox, reproduced under CC BY-NC 2.0.
Species visible in the above photo include Weeping Grass (Microlaena stipoides), Pennywort (Hydrocotyle tripartita), Kidney Weed (Dichondra repens), White Clover (Trifolium repens, a non-native), and Basket Grass (Oplismenus aemulus). These species would be a good choice for a courtyard garden or to the south side of a building as they are low to the ground and prefer a shady spot.

All meadows require very little mowing – in fact it is important not to mow them until your flowers have finished and have set seed.  Most native grasses have deep roots that make them resilient to drought. Many species respond well to burning instead of mowing, but that may raise a few eyebrows in the neighbourhood and we do not recommend it!

For coastal gardens, the Illawarra even hosts a salt-tolerant grass, Saltwater Couch (Sporobolus virginicus). It can be mown or left to grow naturally, as shown in this shot taken at Bass Point. Image by Emma Rooksby. 

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