Urban Lush: putting the cool back into gardening
As our cities grow, so do the pressures on our urban environments. Open, green spaces are increasingly absorbed by high-density housing developments, and the cumulative effects are significant. Research has shown that cities can be up to 5 degrees warmer than surrounding countryside in the summer. Contributing to this ‘urban heat island effect’ is the growing demand for low maintenance homes by busy homeowners. Paved courtyards have replaced the traditional backyard lawn, while dark coloured surfaces and roofing absorb the sun’s heat, increasing our reliance on air conditioning.
On a broader scale, we’ve seen a change in the character of Melbourne’s city streets and public spaces. Neighbourhoods have lost valuable green infrastructure to local development, including a reduction in open grassed spaces, while our urban forest is under threat through the loss of trees and canopy cover due to rising pressures to increase housing availability within our inner city.
As a major partner of Vision 202020 – an industry initiative which aims to make urban areas 20% greener by 2020 – the City of Melbourne has risen to the challenge of mitigating Melbourne’s threat from the heat island effect. City of Melbourne manages an urban forest of over 77,000 trees and a network of nearly 480 hectares of parks and gardens. As part of its Urban Forest Strategy the council is seeking to double canopy cover to 40%, and is working to ensure every resident is within 300 metres of a quality green space.
All Australians have the capacity to combat the urban heat island effect…simply by turning their attention to their own backyards.
Residential gardens have the potential to make the greatest impact in lowering our city’s temperatures, while also improving the general health and wellbeing of our communities. Strategic plant selections can transform the hard lines and surfaces of our urban jungle into a relaxing green oasis – a space to seek refuge and recharge from our busy lives.
A lush garden doesn’t have to mean a high maintenance garden. There are many low maintenance plant options that can be used to create your green refuge. The trick is to choose plants that perform well in your specific conditions, taking into consideration the amount of sunlight and available space. Look for shade-loving plants – some great selections include Japanese maples, Camellias, Ligularia reniformis, Trachelospermum jasminoides, Michelia alba, Gardenia, Philodendron, Hosta and Liriope.
Look for plants that are grown to perform in Victorian climates. Bay trees, for example, make an ideal hedging plant for Melbourne homes. Hailing from the Mediterranean, Bays are accustomed to our harsh summers and cool winters, and their dark glossy foliage is great for absorbing the sun’s heat in the height of summer.
So why not build a garden and enjoy the environmental – and personal – benefits of greening your neighbourhood.
Great reasons to invest in your urban garden
- Small garden, big impact
A garden doesn’t have to be big to make a difference to the environment. Any green infrastructure, no matter how small, is better than none.
- Downsizing doesn’t have to mean downgrading
Just because the kids have left home and you’ve chosen to downsize, doesn’t mean you have to lose your beloved green space. A small, garden can be just as productive and rewarding as a large one. Planning is the key. The Landscaping Victoria Boutique Garden displays at the Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show are perfect examples of beautiful gardens on a small scale.
- Increase the value of your property
A 2014 study of inner-city property prices by buyers’ advocate group Secret Agent concluded that homes with a lush, maintained garden commanded prices up to 18 per cent more than homes without a garden. In one case, a Fitzroy North home sold for a whopping $185,000 more than it’s competitors thanks to its beautiful landscaped gardens.
- Invest in your health and wellbeing
Escaping the hustle of everyday life can be challenging in inner-city environments. A lush garden is a thing of beauty, not to mention the health benefits of urban green space. Create your own private oasis and enjoy the therapeutic advantages of your own patch of green.
This article was written by Youna Angevin-Castro. Youna is the Communications Manager at Warners Nurseries, and a passionate advocate for urban greening.