A WOMAN who spent months protesting bureaucratic fees outside City of Greater Bendigo offices has one day to turn her grassy Quarry Hill nature strip into a garden filled with greenhouse gas munching foliage.
Vyonne McLelland-Howe and her husband Andrew became daily fixtures outside the council's Lyttleton Terrace offices late last year.
They spent months protesting a $90 fee and planning process they branded a disincentive to people turning the city's nature strips into "carbon sinks" full of plants sucking greenhouse gas from the atmosphere.
Mrs McLelland-Howe hopes her efforts will generate changes to planning processes and, at the very least, help people stranded at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
"I just have this vision of Bendigo being so much prettier and a nicer place to live, while at the same time helping the climate. That would be a win-win situation for everyone," she said.
"I'm happy to help anyone with the application process, because it's still a bit fiddly."
Mrs McLelland-Howe thought her fight was won when the council waived all permit fees for the public last January.
Then she learned from the two pages of conditions the council sent that she would need to comply with VicRoads directives.
"We live on a road that VicRoads is responsible for," Mrs Vyonne McLelland-Howe said.
VicRoads has now allowed her to go ahead and have specified the exact day in April she can plant everything.
"We could have asked for more than one day to do it in but we think we can knock it over in that time frame," Mrs McLelland-Howe said.
The idea of turning gardens into nature strips in Bendigo is not unheard of.
Many residents opted to replace lawns with crushed rocks during the Millennial Drought, after the council changed its nature strip policy to help the public deal with tightening water restrictions.
Yet plants did not figure in that policy and gardeners must still navigate a complicated and time-consuming process getting permission from the council and, potentially, other planning authorities, Mrs McLennan-Howe said.
She hopes the council's current review of the nature strip policy will change that. The review is expected to finish before July.
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Discussions about nature strips have been going back and forth since the late 1990s, Neangar Nursery's Ken Wellard said.
"I won't say it's all about drought, but the number one criteria for our plants tends to be survivability," he said.
"We've had too many hard lessons where people have lost their entire gardens and then lost faith. Whereas, with a little bit of careful selection and just a few specific skills we can have great gardens."
The focus has turned to native plants and those indigenous to the areas gardeners are planning gardens, Mr Wellard said.
It is a sentiment echoed by Mrs McLelland-Howe, who spent Thursday afternoon looking through the nursery for ideas.
Native plants are ideal for nature strips in Bendigo because they are used to tough conditions, Mr Wells said.
"The important thing is to find plants that will not obstruct drivers' views," he said.
"So we're talking about low ground covers and shrubs that grow less than one metre in height.
"We'd also be looking at plants that need lowish maintenance, with a thought for indigenous species, though there would be imported ones that would fill that criteria as well."
People could make the mistake of getting medium-sized shrubs with low branching, potentially impeding drivers views, Mr Wellard said.
"And you really should look at the specifics of your location, like buses, pedestrians and that sort of thing."
He pointed to a number of plants that would tick all the boxes:
A plant that is found across all Australian mainland states.
It can grow to one metre in height but generally is only half that, according to the Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research.
It likes a wide range of soils from sandy to loamy and has small flowers which can bloom from spring to early summer and in Autumn.
It has many common names including Barrier Saltbush.
Scientific name: Enchylaena tomentosa
Creeping Boobiella is widespread in Australia's south and are found in tracts of western and central Victoria.
It forms broad mats of foliage of up to three metres in diameter as it creeps along the ground, according to the Australian Native Plants Society.
Its star-shaped, 75 millimetre flowers appear from late spring to early autumn and may be white or pale pink with purple spots.
Scientific name: Myoprum parvifolium
Another prostrate plant that can grow to one metre in diameter and up to 40 centimetres high.
They have been found around Bendigo as well as across the wider state, according to Royal botanic Gardens Victoria.
It tolerates saline and dry conditions and in some parts of Australia can be used to feed livestock, the Atlas of Living Australia says.
Birds are often fond of its fruit.
It is also known as Berry Saltbush or Australian Saltbush.
Scientific name: Atriplex semibaccata
But be creative
There is nothing stopping gardeners from going for more exotic or unusual species, Mr Wellard said.
"You could also think about some grasses like low lomandras, dionellas and even what we call poas - the tussock grasses - that would be ideal for a nature strip," he said.
Then there are the wildflower bed ideas that are becoming more popular in Europe and can attract bees and birds, Mr Wellard said.
"The rules for this is the same for plant selection anywhere else, really. Is it going to suit the soil, is it going to suit the environment and is it going to impact negatively on other people," he said.
"We want people to be adventurous, take leaps of faith and be innovative."
For advice on transforming nature strips call Mrs McLelland-Howe on 0408 414 036.