Researchers aim to show that picturesque shrub gardens are an achievable goal.

Whenever someone mentions the phrase 'shrub garden', a beautiful, neatly designed landscape is not what usually springs to mind. However, researchers at the University of Melbourne are trying to produce such a garden, which passes the eye test and lasts for years to come.

One of the initial gardens set up in conjunction with the Woody Meadow venture is a plot of land in Birrarung Marr, close to Federation Square. This garden is 200 square metres in size.

Melbourne University's urban horticulture director, John Rayner, said that the intention was to examine how shrubs are used in urban landscape design plantings.

If this proved a success, Rayner added, this would not be confined to nice urban areas like Federation Square, but also used in many of the most derelict and ugly parts of Melbourne.

"We want to use Australian bush plants in various plantings that are aesthetically pleasing and easy to maintain" Rayner said.

"These plots will look like conventional garden beds - with flowers through the canopy and above the canopy".

Rayner claimed that this project is a departure from normal shrub planting, due to the emphasis on aesthetic appearance.

"The majority of low maintenance landscaping plants in Australia - and this is especially the case with public landscapes - are utilized for screening or ground cover. They are a big functional part of the area".

"In contrast, what we are attempting to achieve with this venture is to utilize shrubs more creatively, taking into account their landscape form and flowers, and that is a completely new angle".

Increasing Biodiversity While Reducing Maintenance and Costs

Typically, designing landscapes involves researching landscape designers and irrigation suppliers. However, as well as the aesthetic appeal of these gardens, Rayner said that the gardens established by the Woody Meadow researchers promoted biodiversity, and did not need much maintenance or water.

Another big advantage of these types of gardens is the ability to grow things in extremely hostile environments.

"We regard these types of plantings as suitable for a variety of urban settings, including harsh environments like roadsides or even wasteland" Rayner said.

Altering the way People Perceive Urban Landscapes

Rayner said that he thought aesthetics were important to garner support from the public for landscaping ventures. Because of this, it was necessary to change the normal approach to hardy, low maintenance style plantings.

"One issue with plantings in urban areas is that people are blinkered by their preconceptions about how things ought to be" he said.

"As far as we are concerned, people will react in a positive way, because they are aesthetically pleasing and simple to maintain and install".

The plot in Birrarung Marr is one of eighteen similar gardens spread around Melbourne. Each garden is in its' early development stage. Rayner said that he was convinced that this type of gardening would be a success.

"If we want to improve cities and preserve the environment, we definitely need more greenery in urban areas"

Undoubtedly, shrubs are a crucial part of the natural environment, however they are frequently under represented in lots of otherwise innovatively designed landscapes. If you would like birds to visit your garden, it is vital to plant shrubs because these plants have berries that appeal to birds and offer them shelter. Also, they have flowers that are rich in nectar, which attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.

Height variation is an important aspect of every landscape. Shrubs 'fill the height gap' between the shorter plants and the taller trees. In addition, shrubs are available in many sizes, from tall and narrow to wide and short.

According to The Irrigation ShopFall is an excellent time to start planting shrubs. The reduced sunshine and colder air helps to establish their roots at a time when the soil is warm. Inspect your landscape to find some areas where shrubs might be included, to produce a sanctuary for birds and add fullness.