Melbourne is a large temperate-climate city in southern Victoria, Australia with the same latitude as Athens, Algiers, Seoul and Mulching Melbourne Auckland, 37° 48′ south. Its climate is similar to Christchurch in New Zealand and Tel Aviv in Israel.
The city has notoriously fickle weather with ‘4 seasons in one day’. These radical changes are one of the biggest influences on plant selection on Melbourne landscaping. With a Summer temperature average of 24.8°C and winter average of 14.9°C and an average yearly rainfall of only 650mm plant selection is quite different to Sydney or Brisbane.
The best way to know what plants would work and what wouldn’t is to visit a few of the many public gardens throughout Melbourne, beginning with the Royal Botanic Gardens
The temperate climate of Melbourne lends itself to a very wide range of plants. For this reason the possibilities in gardening are enormous. The Melbourne Royal Botanical Gardens has display gardens representing plant communities as diverse as the wet tropics to the arid Californian desert. In fact, the climate, geography and landscape of California and Victoria have a lot in common with temperate coast, heath, inland deserts, and mountains.
Many colourful deciduous plants of the Northern Hemisphere such as elms, oaks as well as conifers prosper in Melbourne gardens where they may be difficult to grow elsewhere in Australia.
At the same time in the right microclimate it is possible to grow large-leafed tropical plants and vines such as gingers, heliconias, bromeliads, cycads, cordylines, strelitzias and some palms such as Kentia and Livistona. Just remember though that most of these are thirst species and the almost constant water restrictions of many Australian cities make them impractical in most situations.
Alternatively, arid landscaping or Australian natives gardens can be beautiful, attract wildlife and require little maintenance. Some suggestions are:
Coast Banksia (Banksia integrifolia)
Yellow Gum (Eucalyptus leucoxylon)
Black She-Oak (Allocasurina littoralis)
Grevillea (Grevillea ‘Ivanhoe’)
Hop Bush (Dodonea viscosa)
Native Rosemary (Westringia fruticosa)
Scarlet or Lemon Bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus)
Common Emu Bush (Eremophila glabra)
Mat Rush (Lomandra longifolia)
Baeckia (Baeckia virgata)
Lemon Bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus)
Of course you can add exotics to these water frugal plants, using such things as rosemary, lavender, aloes, agave, yuccas and trees like crepe myrtle.
With increasing water shortages Melbourne landscapers and landscape architects are increasingly designing with water conservation in mind with their plant selections and techniques.
Some good ideas for Melbourne landscaping include installing a rainwater tank, recycling your grey water from your shower and washing machine and adding plenty of organic compost, manure and mulch to your gardens. You see, a beautiful, unirrigated garden in a drying climate is possible with some new approaches.