Garden Tours

Hear some success stories from previous Habitat Gardens participants and gain inspiration to start your habitat garden journey.

Zara talks us through her habitat garden

Kate gets creative with her native nature strip

Success story - Kane - Creating slices of habitat in the city

Less than 30 minutes’ drive from metropolis of Melbourne, there’s a row of gum trees in a public park just outside Kane’s back door that makes him feel like he’s in the Australian bush.

“When I go out my back door, it feels like I’m not in the suburbs. I grew up in the country and even though I moved to Melbourne over 10 years ago, I’ve never lost my love for the Australian bush,” he said.

Something he didn’t love so much was his front yard. Full of overgrown cypress trees and white stone mulch, it was clean and low maintenance but also uninspiring.

“I had never really touched the front yard of our house, I just kind of left it how it was when we bought the house about 10 years ago,” he said.

When he heard about Hobsons Bay’s pilot Habitat Gardens program he jumped at the chance to get involved. The Habitat Gardens program supports residents to create gardens with local plants that attract native animals.

“I wanted to use this opportunity to turn a small patch of my front yard into a little haven for native birds and insects making their way across the landscape, just like I see them doing outside my back door,” Kane said.


The Habitat Gardens program is part of a wider Council strategy to value and protect the area’s unique biodiversity for current and future generations. Victoria’s volcanic plains grasslands – which used to cover all western Victoria – is now considered critically endangered, with only one per cent of this habitat remaining.

Hobsons Bay City Council biodiversity officer Hannah Camilleri has developed the program alongside Kat Lavers from My Smart Garden, following a community Pitch Your Idea submission.

“The Habitat Gardens program encourages and supports residents to use local indigenous plant species in private gardens, creates broader ecosystem connectivity with conservation reserves. Establishing greater genetic diversity, habitat for wildlife, food sources and steppingstones across the municipality will lower the risk of species loss,” said Hannah.

“Incorporating indigenous plants into suburban gardens increases local biodiversity and long-term viability. Creating these Habitat Gardens is particularly important in Hobsons Bay to provide a connected habitat and food source for local wildlife as well as national and international migratory species.”

Through a series of free workshops, Kane heard inspiring stories from established habitat gardeners and, with the support of a landscape designer, learnt how to design his own habitat garden.

“One of the things that I learnt was how important it is to make sure your garden beds are wide enough to layer different heights of plants. After learning that, I ended up changing my design quite a bit from what I had originally intended,” he said.


Another important lesson was the difference between a native garden and an indigenous garden.

“Native gardens include plants that are from anywhere in Australia. Indigenous gardens are made up of plants that come from your local area, which means they are much more suited to our local climates and wildlife,” Kane said.

One of the first steps in transforming Kane’s front yard to a habitat garden was removing the white stone mulch. It was painstaking work so, drawing on his background as an engineer, he built his own sieve to make the job easier.

“It gave me a project to keep me busy during COVID-19 lockdown … to be honest, it was a good mentally and physically productive activity that helped me keep my sanity during this crazy time,” Kane said.

Once he had settled on a garden design, the program provided him with 30 free indigenous plants to help kickstart his habitat garden.

“What I’m trying to do is grow a couple of larger shrubs – Gold Dust Wattle and Australian Indigo – directly in front of my bedroom window where I often read books in the winter sun. I always liked the idea of being able to see those bushes, just peeking over the bottom of the window," he said.

He also planted little pockets of blue flowers and lilies to attract native bees and chose an indigenous ground cover – creeping boobialla - to replace the lawn.

“Indigenous plants were traditionally located in this area, so they’re genetically suited to the local environment.” Hannah said.

Since planting his habitat garden, Kane’s noticed how much more care he feels for his front yard.

“I’ve got shade cloth up to protect the plants, because they are still so small. I’m checking to make sure the mulch isn’t falling down on them… I’m out there every day because I enjoy seeing how the plants are growing and changing. Hopefully there will be some wildlife for me to spot soon too,” Kane said.

He’s also been finding it quite gratifying to recognise indigenous plants while walking around the neighbourhood.

“I’ve been looking quite closely at everyone else’s gardens and enjoying being able to recognise the plants and see what mine will look like when they have matured a bit,” he said.

And Kane’s neighbours have kept a keen eye on his garden’s progress, which has been a great way to keep socially connected during COVID-19.

“Pretty much everyone who walks past will stop and have a chat, which has been really nice. It’s been especially nice to see people who live a few houses down the street who I have never spoken with before say: 'Oh, yeah, looks like it’s coming along really well’,” Kane said.

“I also want to turn my nature strip into a habitat garden as well … I saw other program participants doing that and they inspired me,” he said.

Hobsons Bay City Council plans to run more Habitat Gardens programs in the future to meet considerable demand from residents.

Success story - Lori - Bringing native bees, birds and butterflies back to home gardens

Most summer days Lori can be found with a garden hose in her hand, watering a lovingly tended vegetable patch in her small north facing front yard. From the billowing feathery ferns of asparagus flowers to a fragrant rosemary bush covered in European bees, her garden was lush and productive.


"Over the years, I’ve developed the garden in various ways, mainly around vegetables and flowers. My neighbours have always been interested in what I do, and I have given them some of my veggies if they’re passing by,” she said.

But as the summers grew hotter, Lori’s vegetable garden started to suffer.

“It’s been really hard,” she said. “There’s not been much rain, the heat of the soil was damaging the root system, and the insect infestation was just unbelievable. It was working against me on every level.”

She decided to experiment with planting natives, starting in a small corner of her yard. She was amazed when she saw they could ‘look after themselves’.

When Lori heard about the Hobsons Bay’s Habitat Gardens program through her local Friends group she signed up with excitement to expand her knowledge about local plants and how to attract more native bees, birds and butterflies to her garden.

“I am concerned about the native bees and their diminishing numbers, so if I can help keep them going, I feel I’ll be doing my bit,” she said.

The Habitat Gardens program was developed in collaboration by Hobsons Bay City Council biodiversity officer Hannah Camilleri and My Smart Garden officer Kat Lavers. It is run through My Smart Garden – an initiative to transform yards, balconies or pots into beautiful, functional gardens that provide food and shelter for humans and wildlife, uses water wisely and recycle waste.

“A Smart Garden is one that provides habitat. We know that there are lots of animals and plants that are close to extinction in and around where people live. This is their home and we need private land as well as publicly-owned land to be creating spaces for them to thrive,” said Kat Lavers.

“We know, particularly with habitat gardens, some people find it difficult to know where to start. A lot of the names of plants feel inaccessible, because we often refer to the scientific names. And there’s just not as much knowledge out in the community about some of our native plants. Through this program, we’re giving people an easy, friendly, accessible way to start a habitat garden,” she said.

Through a series of free workshops, Lori heard inspiring stories from established habitat gardeners and, with the support of a landscape designer, learnt how to choose which local plants to put in her garden to attract native birds, bees and butterflies.

“It’s been a great learning curve for me. Having the list of plants, none of which I recognised, forced me to go online to find some information on them,” she said.

“I learnt that the native blue banded bees love blue and purple flowers so I’ve chosen plants with that in mind - from very tiny blue flowers on the native Flax to the striking Blue Devils. I’ve always wanted a blue garden and now I’ve got a very good reason to have one,” she said.

Blue Devil indigenous plant

She also decided to keep her rosemary plant as she noticed its flowers attracting bees, and is planning to install a native bee hotel that she bought from Newport Lakes Native Nursery.

According to Lavers, people often think of habitat gardens and food gardens as antagonistic to each other, but they can co-exist quite happily.

“For example, the acacia family provides a great shelter, mulch and windbreak for young fruit trees. And many of the indigenous daisies are brilliant for bringing in predatory insects that feed on aphids and caterpillars in home veggie gardens,” she said.

“We also know small insect-feeding birds are a real asset around food gardens, so providing shelter and habitat for them, as well as skinks and lizards means you will have excellent allies in keeping pests under control in home food gardens.”

Lori’s friends have been inspired by the change in her garden.


“A friend of mine said she wants to dig up her front lawn and put natives in. I now feel that I have the knowledge to help her do that.”

And, as well as gifting veggies, she’s also sharing her newfound indigenous plant knowledge with her neighbours.

“Now when people stop at my gate while I’m out watering the garden, I’m able to expand a little on the importance of having indigenous plants,” she said.

“It makes me feel very proud, I have to say, to be able to contribute in some way of getting some stability back into the landscape, in my little patch.”