Gardening Australia: wildlife garden stories

Our friends at Gardening Australia have alerted us to a ‘Gardens for Wildlife’ compilation on their youtube channel. Here you can find many of the wildlife gardening stories that have aired on the ABC over the recent years all in one place. There’s gardening tips for birds, bees, frogs, lizards, bats and more! 

>>Gardening Australia: Wildlife gardening stories

Have fun perusing! The stories will not necessarily apply to your garden; depending on where they are located the indigenous species and habitat may be different. But there is plenty to learn, celebrate, and be inspired from.

Wildlife friendly fruit protection

Here is some helpful advice from the Friends of Bats and Bushcare on how we can protect our fruits and save wildlife and even our forests. The most frequent mega-bat (flying fox) visitor to urban backyards in eastern Australia is the native Grey-headed flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus).

Photo by Ricardo Simao

The nectar, fruit and pollen they find in our gardens is now essential for their survival. As the bats move from camp-to-camp across eastern Australia they pollinate and disperse seeds from millions of hectares of forest. A flying fox can spread 60,000 seeds a night and a colony of 20,000 bats…you do the maths! They also carry pollen from male to female flowers many kilometres apart ensuring trees and plants don’t become inbred.

Unfortunately, many flying foxes, snakes, possums and birds are killed or injured in unsafe netting each year.

From Sept 1 of 2021 it will be illegal under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 to use fruit tree netting with holes larger than 5mm x 5mm (basically anything you can put a little finger through).

A good solution is using zip-on washing bags over fruit you can reach and leaving the high fruit for the bats, birds and possums. This will be safe for you (no ladder climbing!) and safe for our wild friends who are struggling in these times of megafires, heatwaves and drought.

Don’t forget that old netting, when discarded, can still become an entanglement risk. It helps to place old netting into a strong biodegradable bag before putting into landfill. Further advice on protecting fruit trees and wildlife, and helping injured wildlife, is available here.

Never try to release an entangled animal. Keep pets away. No touch = No risk. Always call your local wildlife rescue group, for example Wildlife Victoria 8400 7300.  They will send a specialist rescuer.

Photo by Ricardo Simao

Whatever you choose: small aperture whole-of-tree nets, fruit bags / washing bags, orange bags, or picking early / no nets, you’ll be helping wildlife (and the babies whose lives depend on them) every single night by reducing the risk of them getting entangled. Thank you for helping!

Raising rarity at home

By Hui-Anne Tan

With biodiversity declining at an unprecedented scale, the prospect of making any positive difference can be simply overwhelming.  But rest assured, there’s a lot we can do – right here at home. The collective efforts of our “small” actions in our home gardens will ultimately make a big difference.

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with the Raising Rarity project – which seeks to develop and raise awareness of the horticultural potential of our relatively unknown, rare and threatened Victorian wildflower species.

Volunteers measuring plant traits at the research plots in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Cranbourne. Photo: Kushmanda Jeetun

The aim of this novel approach is to give people the opportunity to grow these at-risk wildflowers in their own home gardens, and in turn, contribute to the conservation of these species.

Over two years, the project assessed 22 rare and threatened Victorian wildflower species for germination and performance in container and outdoor garden bed trials. We needed to find out how these species perform – are they easy to produce (high and quick germination), visually attractive (for example, long flowering display), suitable to containers, tough and resistant to pests and diseases?

Stand-out species from the trials included Craspedia canens (Grey Billy-buttons), Stylidium armeria subsp. pilosifolium (Hairy-leaved Trigger Plant) and Brachyscome tadgellii (Creeping Daisy). In October 2019, we sold some of the promising species at the Cranbourne Friends plant sale to gauge public interest. It was a great success!

Further research is still needed, but in the long-term, we hope one day to introduce suitable species into broader-scale horticultural production…and eventually your garden!

Led by Dr. Meg Hirst, the Raising Rarity project is a collaboration between the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria and the University of Melbourne. Raising Rarity won the Keep Victoria Beautiful (Protection of the Environment) Award in 2019. Hui-Anne Tan is an Urban Horticulturist and volunteer for both the City of Melbourne and the City of Whitehorse Gardens for Wildlife programs.

Wildlife gardening in COVID times

While we stay home to help stop the spread of COVID-19, it is a great opportunity to begin making your home more wildlife-friendly and joining the growing community of gardeners who are creating space for nature in our city. Here is what’s happening in the City of Melbourne!

Gardens for Wildlife Melbourne volunteers are using innovative ways to deliver their Gardens for Wildlife program online and maintain social connections by meeting on Zoom and sharing virtual tours of their gardens and wildlife-friendly features.

If you are a City of Melbourne resident, you can sign up for a virtual garden visit. Volunteer garden guides will request some photos of your garden, and will schedule a video call with you to learn more about your space and your goals. They will then provide a report on how you can work towards your goals and make it even better for wildlife!

The mental and physical benefits of gardening and social connection are more important than ever. From indigenous plants in pots to bee hotels and nesting boxes, there are lots of things you can do to make your home more wildlife-friendly, even if you just have a balcony. Here are a few ideas.

You can find more information about the Melbourne program here. Happy wildlife gardening!

Gardening for Wildlife in Hepburn Shire

Things are really moving in the Shire of Hepburn. In association with Brian Bainbridge, our first Biodiversity Officer, we are in the early stages of developing a ‘Gardens for Wildlife’ program across the Shire.

As well, we have just published ‘Grow Wild: Gardening to Sustain Wildlife in the Hepburn Shire’. The first publication of its kind to be published in the Shire, it aims to empower people to create habitat by successfully growing indigenous plants in their gardens. Beautifully illustrated throughout, the book provides step by step advice on establishing local plants and creating a safe haven for our local creatures. There is a comprehensive section on the indigenous plants of this region, each with a colour photo.

Although the book is written for people in the Hepburn Shire, you may find the book informative, as many of the plants are indigenous to several regions and the principles of creating habitat are similar wherever you live.

And at a time when we are confined to barracks, what better pastime than habitat gardening?

For a copy of the book contact Jill Teschendorff at

Social isolation…unexpected opportunities

Jill Teschendorff, Hepburn Shire

What a strange time this is! A world-wide catastrophe surrounds us, with more pain to endure when the economic fallout is fully realised.

And yet, right now in our part of the world in Central Victoria, the countryside looks beautiful after the recent sunshine and plentiful rain. The bushland has responded with masses of blossom and new growth, summoning a bountiful season for the local wildlife.

Photo Gayle Osborne

The natural world is full of promise.

There is a dissonance between what we know and what we see.

In this household, ‘social isolation’ presents opportunities. Firstly, we are in close electronic contact with family and friends, so our isolation is physical, not social. In fact, we have more time to keep in close contact with people than we had before. Secondly, the space created in our day has allowed for concentrated involvement in the garden. More time to create habitat for our furry and feathered friends. What bliss…

Photo Gayle Osborne

A humble birdbath

By Helen Corney

Much of this summer was spent studying. To escape the heat of the day and the drudgery of being glued to my computer, I set up camp in my garden under the dappled shade of the melaleuca and tea trees. My table and chair were placed near the bird bath – a humble affair – an op shop fruit bowl sitting on a sawn-off log.

As I tapped away at my keyboard, I was constantly surprised by the range of visitors that utilised that water source. A family of three Grey fantails, flitting in and out of the water and then darting to catch a tasty morsel ambushed in mid-air! These wonderful birds provided a spectacular acrobatic display of clear abandon.

Eastern spinebill taking a dip

Wattlebirds, noisy and bossy came to bathe and perched on branches beside the bath whilst they chastised the world with their rough throaty calls. A Grey currawong, bold and strong immersed itself deep into the cool water defying the summer heat. The afternoon air was often filled with the chatter of thornbills, happy and bold. So much to say.

One afternoon I had a special visitor – an Eastern spinebill. It looked to be a fledgling – tiny and fragile. The distinctive caramel and white throat plumage not yet fully developed – and so it seemed as though it was wearing a patchy mottled coat. It darted in and out of the water, throwing sparkling diamond water droplets into the air – taking my breath away with its jewelled display. I sat frozen, desperate not to startle it in any way and lessen the encounter.

Shaking off the water!

The summer days of study were enriched by my humble bird bath. Its fresh water drew feathered friends of all varieties and enticed them to shed their defences and frolic. It provided me with interludes of intrigue and a small window into other worlds. Simple pleasures from humble sources.

What’s the buzz?

When my husband and I first saw a blue banded bee in our garden, we took 3000 (mostly blurry – built like a DC plane but moves like lightening) photos. Just like proud parents. It was 2018 and I’d only just found about blue banded bees. And here was one, in our garden — after eight years living on our wee property! Once you know what to look for, you suddenly see what was there all along.

Blue banded bee in Goldie’s garden

To be honest, it was in a rather unloved part of the garden that the bee appeared – an overgrown but flower-filled red geranium surrounded by rough grass and dandelions. The messy parts, where insects like to hang out.

We later discovered that ‘our bee’ was a she (4 blue bands, boys have 5) and had her burrow beneath a loose brick on soft sand. A truly neglected area and perfect for a solitary home! (the boys prefer to roost on grasses, so we’ve planted more of those now).

This past summer, she pollinated our tomatoes (also like blueberries, chillies and capsicum) with her buzz pollination, a unique method that vibrates the flowers to release pollen. We had a great crop. Native plant options are Hibbertia, Dianella, Stylidium and Plectranthus species.

Our garden is about 200sqm, so it’s not big. But when you’re an insect, small to us is a world to them. So it’s all relative and no barrier to having visitors. Because where there are insects, there are frogs, lizards and birds.

I look forward to the next spring and summer of hearing that loud buzz and spotting the blue bum!

[Goldie Wattle is the pseudonym of a Gardens for Wildlife volunteer. She shares her garden evolution on the facebook page, The Garden of Earthly Delights.]

Goldie’s garden

Creating a Garden for Wildlife – In the beginning

It was illness and a fallen tree that began it all.

Initially all I could do was rest, looking out onto a flowering creeper. I’d watch a pair of wattlebirds feed and call out noisily. Occasionally, a spinebill would make an appearance, braving its bossy companions.

Goldies garden then

Then our only significant tree came down, during a storm. Suddenly the rainbow lorikeet ‘magnet’ was no more.

By this time, I had graduated to sitting outside on a stool, following the sun, watching the patterns and how they changed over the seasons. With the big tree gone, the vista was different and our garden was very quiet.

We grew vegetables but the invasive kikuyu marched vigorously through our efforts. It had to go! We had decided on no sprays, so we solarised it — a gentle if not quick solution, involving sheets of plastic to bake what is underneath.

As we reclaimed weed free patches, we laid down our compost, to build up the sandy soil. Slowly paths emerged – cardboard covered with locally sourced bark chips and edged with the sticks, we picked up on our walks.

On my various scribbled garden design sketches, one slender area was dedicated to natives.This changed when I read about Victorian native wildflower grasslands. They were beautiful!  I joined enthusiastic native groups and my interest bloomed.

Battling our growing conditions constantly, trying to bend them to our will didn’t appeal. Being sick had taught me to let go. So discovering what would grow in our local area and attract the wildlife we wanted, but hadn’t factored into our garden plans, was a revelation.

Goldie’s garden now

Now the focus has shifted. When we plant trees, we add in layers too – grasses, groundcovers, shrubs. We think more broadly and include stones for lizard basking and water for summer relief.

Being forced to slow down and the death of a tree has resulted in a beautiful beginning.

[Goldie Wattle is the pseudonym of a Gardens for Wildlife volunteer. She shares her garden evolution on the facebook page, The Garden of Earthly Delights.]