Each month we receive questions from our readers, which are answered by one of our experts. Here’s one about alternatives to grass on the verge.
Q. Is there anything other than grass that I can use to keep down dry, dusty, sandy soil on my verge?
A. DERYN THORPE SAYS There are a number of good turf alternatives you could consider for this situation. Creeping boobialla (Myoporum parvifolium) is an extremely tough native plant that copes well with hot, dry, exposed conditions. A low, dense spreader that suppresses weeds, it features very fine green leaves (there is also a purple-leafed form) and white or pink flowers that are attractive to birds and butterflies.
Equally tough in dry, sandy soils is Eremophila glabra ‘Roseworthy’, with its small bright-green leaves and pretty orange-red blooms that the birds love. ‘Blue Horizon’ is another low-growing, dense form of E. glabra and features attractive blue-green foliage with yellow tubular blooms in winter. There are a few prostrate grevilleas worth considering, and Grevillea ‘Poorinda Royal Mantle’ is probably the best of these. It’s a very dense groundcover with attractive toothed leaves, coppery-red new growth and red toothbrush flowers in spring. Adenanthos cuneatus ‘Coral Carpet’ is another native to check out. Its foliage is beautifully textured, and is reminiscent of coral. The new growth starts out red and then fades to green along the many stems, creating a remarkably colourful effect.
Do keep in mind, while these spreading alternatives are drought hardy and pretty, they grow a little taller than your average strip of mown grass and only take minimal foot traffic. Good old turf is always the most reliable plant choice where people need to walk regularly, or, for a no-mowing option, you could create a permanent pathway of pavers or large stepping pads and surround them with one of more of the groundcovers suggested.
Also, while many councils are happy to have lawn substitutes on verges, most have regulations concerning the height of plants, and adequate and safe access for pedestrians, so follow this up with your local council before making any decisions.
For more problem-solving gardening questions and answers, including what causes distortions on hibiscus leaves, pick up a copy of the January issue, out now.