Some basic garden design ideas

If you arrange a free visit from our trained garden guides to your garden, we provide some ideas using the ingredients below, on what you may choose to add to your garden to attract more wildlife. As volunteers we don't offer a garden design service but we do have a look at your garden with fresh eyes and make some practical suggestions to get you started.

These are the ingredients we look for when come for a garden visit. These are the features most likely to attract wildlife and provide them the resources they need. Most of these features can readily be added to any garden without changing how it is currently used.

        • A tall mature tree, native to the area

        • A patch of natural mulch for beetles and worms

        • A clump of dense shrubs where birds can shelter

        • Nectar plants for honeyeaters

        • A cat-proof birdbath

        • A frog-friendly pond or bog with unpolluted water

        • A warm, sheltered corner for lizards

        • Local daisies for butterflies

In a small garden consider adding

  • a raised birdbath in a sheltered position

  • some containers of different sizes with

  • some small shrubs, native grasses and groundcovers

  • if there is space add a native bee hotel or make your own

  • a trellis to a bare wall and grow a climber

If you are not used to gardening, start with a few plant containers/tubs and add some plants and find a sheltered place for a birdbath as in the diagram above. Choose a good quality potting mix, add a few plants and learn how to keep the plants growing well and how often to water. If you have a patch of soil start with a small section of the garden rather than making a large garden bed that you may not have time to look after until you build some skills.

In a larger garden consider

  • a raised birdbath in a sheltered position and some birdbaths at ground level

  • some containers of different sizes

  • a range of plants that will grow to different heights from small trees to small shrubs, grasses and groundcovers

  • a native bee hotel or make your own

  • a bat box or nest box

  • making use of a bare wall or fence and to grow a climber

  • a frog pond or a container with wetland plants that will attract frogs

  • planting lots of daisies in groups for the insects

Here are some ways to make a garden more wildlife friendly

The plants are listed are just a guide and the names are at the bottom of the page

Some ideas for this garden are

  • keep the roses and add more plants underneath

  • replace artificial lawn with a living groundcover

  • add a native bee hotel by drilling some holes in a post

  • planting correas provides nectar for honeyeaters

  • a climber may be added to the side fence

  • if there are cats in the area add a waterbowl that hangs above the ground that cats can't reach

  • some containers add more height and planting opportunities

  • rocks are ideal for lizard to sunbake on

In this larger garden some extra feature may include:

  • a nestbox for crimson rosellas or a bat box

  • a native bee hotel that is also a a piece of garden art

  • replacing the lawn with more groundcovers

  • planting clumps of native grasses for the butterflies to lay their eggs or for frogs and lizards to shelter

  • there is room for a frog pond where birds could also bathe

  • add a birdbath that also could be viewed from a window

  • a prickly wattle to provide shelter for small birds

  • a banksia to provide nectar and pollen and some height to the garden

A small space will provide habitat for insects and lizards and attract butterflies and small birds

  • include some correas

  • add a container with some water plants for frogs and dragonflies

  • daises are beneficial for a range of insects

  • don't forget to include some grasses such a kangaroo grass

This small garden already has many habitat features but a few extras may include

  • a sheltered bird bath on the ground

  • a selection of low growing plants

  • some tea trees to attract insect which in turn feed birds

  • a groundcover banksia as a feature plant

  • patches of mulch to improve the soil and provide hiding places for skinks

While grass may seem like an easy answer to a garden it provides little in the way of benefits to small birds and may give aggrassive birds an advantage

  • try and add a small tree or large bush to provide some height

  • add a birdbath in a sheltered position

  • add some rocks and clumps of native grassfor the lizards

  • a prickly shrub provides shelter for small birds

Some suggestions for planting different layers

When we talk about layers we mean the different heights of plants need to provide a diverse range of plants that suit a range on native birds and other wildlife. Many gardens are too small for a large tree but there are a lot of small gum trees available. Take a trip to Melton Botanic Gardens and look at their range of small gums. Some plants that grow as large shrubs may be trained to look more tree like by removing some of the lower branches.

Small Trees

Banksia marginata

Acacia implexa

Eucalyptus leucoxylon

Allocasuarina littoralis

Acacia melanoxylon

Eucalyptus calyogona

Eucalyptus gardneri

Large Shrubs

Acacia pynantha Golden Wattle

Leptospermum continentale Prickly Tea Tree

Bursaria spinosa Sweet Bursaria

Acacia verticilata Prickly Moses

Hakea decurrens ssp. physocarpa Bushy Needlewood

Dodonea viscosa Hop Bush

Medium Shrubs

Goodenia ovata Hop Goodenia

Daviesia latifolia Broad-leaf Bitter-pea

Correa glabra Rock Correa

Acacia genistifolia Spreading Wattle

Indigofera australis Austral Indigo

Grevillea sp. (choose small flowers)


Billardiera scandens Common Appleberry

Hardenbergia violacea Purple Coral-pea

Clematis microphylla Small-leaf Clematis

Small and low growing plants

Wahlenbergia sp. Native Bluebells

Pelargonium australe Austral Stork's-bill

Enchylaena tomentosa var. tomentosa Ruby

Calocephalus citreus Lemon Beautyheads

Calocephalus lacteus Milky Beautyheads

Nicotiana suaveolens Native Tobacco

Atriplex semibaccata Creeping Saltbush

Correa reflexa Common Correa


Brachyscome multifida Cut-leaf Daisy

Microseris walteri Yam Daisy

Chrysocephalum apiculatum Common Everlasting

Chrysocephalum semipapposum Clustered Everlasting

Ground Layers/ground covers

Kennedya prostrata Running Postman

Myoporum parvifolium Creeping Boobialla

Myoporum parvifolium Creeping Boobialla

Scaevola sp. Fan Flower

Pultenaea pedunculata Matted Bush-pea

Dichondra repens Kidneyweed

Disphyma crassifolium Rounded Noonflower

Banksia blechnifolia Southern Blechnum Banksia

Viola hederacea Native Violets

Mentha sp. Rivermint

Grasses and tufted plants

Poa labillardieri Common Tussock

Dianella sp. Flax-lily

Themeda triandra Kangaroo Grass

Carex fascicularis Tassel Sedge

Extra features

gravel or stones as a mulch in a fire prone area and lizard habitat

a rock for lizards to sunbake on

nesting sites for native bees

a frog pond with water plants

a mulch of leaves and bark for the lizards and small insects

a nest box

stones and gravel instead of lots of concrete

a bat box

soem containers of different sizes

a birdbath on the ground with a small stick so insects don't drown

a hanging bird bath

some posts with holes for native bees

a raised bird bath

leave some low branches for birds to perch - don't be too quick with the saw

a seat to sit and enjoy the garden

a standard plant to add height in a small garden