Even though the garden slows down in the cooler months, we are lucky here in Australia that many of our native flora bloom in the Winter, so it makes eminent sense to include a few Australian native plants in our garden for their colour, scent and bird food to tide us all over till the garden awakening in Spring! Some of the plants, which we are growing, include iconic Australian native species like Wattles and Eucalypts, Banksias and Grevilleas, and Correas and Westringias. That splash of gold provided by the wattle certainly lifts the Winter spirits (photo above), especially in our garden against the backdrop of bare trees ! I will be featuring each plant group with a brief introduction, followed by more detail on the particular plant specimens in our garden. The Eastern Spinebill in the photo below loves our Lady O grevillea flowers, which bloom all year round!Most of them are planted in the garden on the southern side of our house, bound by some very tall old cypress on the fence line, which form a contrasting dark green backdrop to the flowers of the native species. The photo below shows the view from the street with the Banksia in the agapanthus bed in the centre and the main native area to the left on the hill above the Tea Garden.This photo is the view of the native area from the house with a hedge of grevilleas on the left and a waratah on the right.Wattles
Wattles and gum trees are two of the most iconic Australian symbols. The Golden Wattle, Acacia pycnantha, is Australia’s national floral emblem, our sporting teams are instantly recognisable in the famous green-and-gold, and Wattle Day is on the 1st September every year. I love their golden display and their distinctive scent! Wattles belong to the genus Acacia and the family Mimosaceae, with 1350 species worldwide, 1000 of which are Australian. It is in fact the largest genus of vascular plants in Australia and has a wide range of habitats, leaf forms, flowers and blooming times. Wattles are very fast-growing, but short-lived, being very effective pioneer plants in disturbed or fire-ravaged areas. The photo below shows a selection of Acacias, which grow on the Far South Coast of New South Wales.
While we have seen many different species in our local area, one species which is indigenous to Southern NSW is the Cootamundra Wattle, A. baileyana. It is a hardy evergreen with silvery-green fern-like leaves and golden-yellow fluffy spheres of stamens in Winter. It has a magnificent display and its pollen-rich golden blooms are highly attractive, not only to birds and bees, but also florists.We are growing the purple-leafed form, Acacia baileyana purpurea, which has leaves with a bright purple to burgundy tint, being another very attractive foliage filler in vases. See: http://www.thetreeplantation.com/afgan-pine.html.
It is a good screening plant, 5 to 8m tall and wide, which is very tolerant of soils, extremes in temperatures and coastal exposure. It is also frost hardy and can be grown in full sun or part shade. We are growing it beside the house, whose purplish-pink walls should contrast well with the darker foliage. It will also screen the carport and car and be able to tolerate the afternoon sun.
Eucalypts or gums are another symbol of Australia, being the main food source of koalas; the reason for the blue haze of the Blue Mountains in NSW; and the source of the antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and decongestant eucalyptus oil.Eucalypts are immortalised in popular songs like ‘Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree’ (http://alldownunder.com/australian-music-songs/kookaburra-song.htm) and ‘Home Among the Gum Trees’ (http://alldownunder.com/australian-music-songs/home-among-the-gum-trees.htm) and the paintings of Hans Heysen (1877-1968) and Namatjira (1902-1959).Old gum hollows are so important for providing homes for our native fauna and birds. The Guildford Tree (photo 1) in Victoria was already a giant when the early settlers arrived in the 1840s and hosts a variety of birds from kookaburras, magpies, wood ducks, honeyeaters, rosellas, boobook owls, lorikeets (photo 2), corellas (photo 3) and parrots, as well as insects, native bees and possums.Eucalypt trees are also an important food source for honeyeaters and lorikeets like this varied lorikeet at Riversleigh, North Queensland.The Eucalyptus genus belongs to the family Myrtaceae and has over 700 species, most of which are native to Australia and which vary in height, plant form, foliage, flowers and seedpods. Here are some photos, showing the diversity in their flowers and gumnuts.
Eucalypt identification can often be quite challenging, as their taxonomy is always changing, and often, gums share common names in different states. The Blue Gum is a classic example and can be any of a dozen species, depending on where you live (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_gum)!
Another case, shown in the photos above and below, is the eucalypt we grow, E. cinerea, which goes by the common name of Argyle Apple, Blue Peppermint or Silver Dollar Tree, the latter also the common name of E. polyanthemos. The silver dollar describes the decorative soft blue-grey round leaves, which makes it so attractive to florists! It makes a great filler, which is the reason that I am growing it. I also love the smell of eucalypts!It is a hardy fast growing evergreen tree, up to 10 m tall and 7 m wide, which retains its lower branches to near ground level, making it an excellent screen or windbreak. It bears masses of creamy-white flowers in late Winter and Spring, attracting plenty of nectar-feeding birds and bees. It is tolerant of frost, wet or dry conditions and salt-laden winds.
Known as Australian Honeysuckle, the genus Banksia belongs to the Proteaceae Family and includes 173 species, ranging from prostrate woody shrubs to trees over 30m tall.
They were named after Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), who was the first European to collect them in 1770 on James Cook’s first voyage in the Endeavour. He collected four species on that first trip: B.serrata (Saw Banksia), B.integrifolia (Coastal Banksia), B. ericifolia (Heath-Leafed Banksia) and B. robur (Swamp banksia). All but one living Banksia species is endemic to Australia, the exception being the Tropical Banksia B. dentata, which occurs throughout Northern Australia, as well as Papua New Guinea and the Aru Islands.
South-Western Australia has the largest biodiversity, as seen in the photo above, with 60 species only occurring there from Exmouth in the north to Esperance on the Southern coast. Eastern Australia has far fewer species, but have widespread distribution of B. integrifolia (Coastal Banksia- seen in the photo below) and B. spinulosa (Hairpin Banksia). The fossil record includes pollen 65-59 Million years old; leaves 59-56 Million years old and cones 41-47 Million years old.Banksia foliage varies with the species from the tiny 1-1.5 cm needle-like leaves of Heath-Leafed banksia (B. ericifolia) to the 45 cm large leaves of the Bull Banksia B. grandis. Most species have leaves with serrated edges, though B. integrifolia does not. The next two photos show B. integrifolia (entire leaf margins)and B. serrata (serrated leaf margins).Banksias all have long flowering spikes and woody cones, which were immortalised in Australian children’s book, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs, where the Big Bad Banksia men were based on the cones of Banksia serrata (Old Man or Saw Banksia). The flowering spikes are mostly yellow, but also orange, red, pink and even violet.
All are heavy producers of nectar, so are very attractive to a wide range of birds (honeyeaters, lorikeets, wattlebirds and cockatoos), mammals (antechinus and bush rats, honey possums and pygmy possums, gliders and bats) and invertebrates (Dryandra moth larvae, stingless bees and weevils), which also act as pollinators. The Noisy Miner below certainly was enjoying its feast on the flowers of the Acorn Banksia B. prionotes. Indigenous Australians even used to soak the flowering spikes in water for a sweet drink. Rainbow Lorikeets love drinking the nectar of the flowers of the Coastal Banksia, B. integrifolia,while Baudin’s Black Cockatoos enjoy breaking open the banksia cones on the southern coast of Western Australia.Most banksias grow in sandy or gravelly soils, though B. spinulosa can often be found in heavier, more clay-like soils. Most are found in heathland and low woodlands, while B. integrifolia forms forests.Banksias are adapted to bush fire, the latter stimulating the opening of seed-bearing follicles in the cones and the release of seeds, which quickly grow and regenerate burnt areas. Some banksia species can also resprout after fire from lignotubers.While we have a number of different species growing wild here in Southern New South Wales, as seen in the photos below from our recent Winter visit to the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney,I believe our specimen is probably called ‘Giant Candles’, a naturally-occuring hybrid of B. ericifolia and B. spinulosa collina. It will grow to 5m tall and bears 40 cm large bronze-orange flowering spikes from late Autumn to Winter. It likes well-drained soil in full sun, both conditions which are fulfilled in its position and it is certainly thriving! I love banksias for their golden candles and attractive seed cones and this hybrid is a real beauty!Stenocarpus
A member of the Proteaceae family, the Stenocarpus genus has 25 species of trees and woody shrubs, 10 of which grow in Australia in the Subtropical Eastern Rainforests of New South Wales and Queensland and the northern tropical monsoonal forests of Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia.One of the most well-known species in Australia is the Wheel of Fire, Stenocarpus sinuatus, which originates from Nambucca, Northern NSW to the Atherton Tablelands, Qld. It is also known as Firewheel Tree and interestingly White Silky Oak, due to its widespread planting as an ornamental street tree in subtropical, tropical and temperate climates.Growing from 10 to 30 m tall, this evergreen tree has dark green leaves and large ornamental bright red flowers in Summer (February to March) in the form of umbels in a circular arrangement, hence the name. The flowers are followed by 5 to 10 cm long boat-shaped pods with many thin seeds.A slow grower, it can be grown in full sun or part shade, and is hardy to frost once established, so it is important to protect young trees. We have lost two specimens to frost, so this time, we have bought a more mature tree and are crossing our fingers! I just adore the decorative flowers, made so famous by printmaker, Margaret Preston (1875-1963). See: https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/204.1977/.
We are also growing a Pittosporum undulatum, as well as an exceedingly slow cycad (Macrozamia communis), but I have discussed both plants in detail in my post on Bush Harvest. See: https://candeloblooms.com/2016/03/01/march-feature-plants-bush-harvest/.
Named after Charles Francis Greville (1749-1809), a close friend of Sir Joseph Banks, Grevilleas or Spider Flowers also belong to the Proteaceae family and are the third largest genus in Australia. It includes 365 species and 100 subspecies, with 350 species endemic to Australia, and has a huge range of habitats, sizes (from ground covers and prostrate shrubs to 35m tall trees), and flower colour and a long flowering period. The photo below features a grand old Silky Oak in our local park at Candelo and a dwarf grevillea growing in coastal heathland at Green Cape on the Far South Coast of New South Wales.Birds, especially honeyeaters, and the larvae of Lepidoptera love their nectar-filled flowers, which are basically a long calyx split into four lobes. They are such attractive flowers! Below are photos of a Rainbow Lorikeet, an Eastern Spinebill, a Helmeted Friar Bird and a Bar-breasted Honeyeater all enjoying Grevillea feasts!
Cold and frost tolerance varies between species. They do best in well-drained soil in full sun. They interbreed freely, making extensive hybridization possible and resulting in a huge number of cultivars. Many cultivars can be seen at Grevillea Park, Bulli, NSW, just north of Wollongong, but opening times are limited. See: http://www.grevilleapark.org/ and http://www.grevilleapark.org/GrevilleaCultivars.html. The Australian Botanic Garden at Mt Annan, just south of Sydney (https://www.australianbotanicgarden.com.au/) is also an excellent place to see Grevilleas, as well as a huge range of banksias and other Australian natives, and is open every day of the year. We grow three types of grevilleas in our garden. The photo below shows a hedge of Fireworks on the left and Lady O on the right.Grevillea robusta, the Silky Oak tree, is the largest Grevillea species at 35 m tall. This fast-growing ornamental evergreen tree, which grows on the East Coast of Australia, has ferny green leaves and orange-gold bottlebrush-like honey-laden blooms.Lady O, a cross between a G. victoriae hybrid and G. rhyolitica, is a hardy medium evergreen shrub, 1 to 1.5 m tall and 2 to 2.5m wide, which flowers most of the year with 5 cm long terminal clusters of spidery red blooms, rich in nectar and a magnet for honeyeaters like the Eastern Spinebill. It requires minimal care and is cold- and frost-tolerant.Fireworks is a slightly smaller, more compact shrub, 1 to 1.2 m tall and wide, with blue-green foliage and attractive red and yellow flowers from Autumn, through Winter and Spring. It was bred by introducing the pollen of G. alpina to flowers of Grevillea ‘Pink Pixie’.Other grevillea cultivars, which I would dearly to grow include:
‘Honey Gem’ (http://anpsa.org.au/g-honey1.html);
‘Peaches and Cream’ (https://www.gardenia.net/plant/Grevillea-Peaches-and-Cream);
and ‘Pink Surprise’ (https://www.grevilleas.com.au/grev31.html).
Another very well-known Australian symbol used in decorative art and architecture, with T. speciosissum being the State flower of NSW, and not to be confused with the name of a prominent New South Wales rugby team, Waratahs belong to the genus Telopea and the Proteaceae family. Telopea comes from the Greek word meaning ‘seen from afar’, referring to the bright red dramatic flower heads, which can be seen from a distance. They are so spectacular and always exciting to see in the wild!Telopea are large shrubs and small trees, endemic to South-East Australia, with 5 species:
T. aspera, the Gibraltar Range or New England Waratah, which we saw in the wild on a Spring camping trip. See photos above;
T. speciosissima, the New South Wales Waratah, the species name deriving from the superlative form of the Greek ‘speciosus’, meaning ‘beautiful’ or ‘handsome’. See next three photos below;
T. oreades, Gippsland or Victorian Waratah;
T. truncata, Tasmanian Waratah; and
T. mongaensis, Braidwood or Mongo Waratah.All are long-lived woody perennials up to 4 metres in height, with dark green alternate leathery coarsely-toothed leaves and small red nectar-rich flowers, densely packed into rounded compact heads, surrounded by crimson bracts, though there are white and yellow cultivars. They bloom from September to October, are pollinated by nectar-loving birds and butterflies and produce woody seedpods, packed with winged seeds in Autumn.Good drainage and aeration is essential. All five species readily hybridize in cultivation.We have recently planted Shady Lady, a crimson hybrid of T. speciosissima and T. oreades. A hardy vigorous dense shrub 3m tall and 1.5 m wide, it has grey-green foliage and spectacular large red flat flowerheads from late Winter to Spring. It likes well-drained acidic soil in sun or part shade, with protection from the afternoon sun, so should do well in front of the large pine trees, as well as dramatically contrasting with their dark green foliage. It has moderate frost tolerance once established, though we may have to protect it from the frost while still young. It makes a great bird attracting screen plant and is an excellent cut flower. I am very excited to see the opening of its first flower!Correas
Named after Portuguese botanist, Jose Correia de Serra (1751-1823), Correas belong to the family Rutaceae (along with citrus fruit), with 11 species and 26 subspecies, all endemic to Australia, and hundreds of cultivars. There is huge variability in size (from ground covers to large shrubs) and colour (from white to deep burgundy), the nectar-rich flowers falling into two types:
Bell eg White Correa, C. alba, and cultivar Dusky Bells; andFuchsia eg Chefs Hat Correa C. baeuerlenii and Native Fuchsia C. reflexa (red and green).Perfect for the temperate garden, they provide lots of nectar in the cooler months for nectar-loving pollinating birds and are frost hardy, pest free, low maintenance and tough, their wide shallow root system allowing them to survive under trees, including gums, as well as drought. The hybrids are more compact and heavy flowering than the wild species.
Maria Hitchcock holds the National Living Collection of Correas. See: https://www.gardenclinic.com.au/how-to-grow-article/star-of-the-season-correa and https://correacollection.weebly.com/.
I love their dainty bells and am growing a cultivar called Dusky Bells, which is thought to be a cross between C. reflexa and C. pulchella. This attractive evergreen shrub is 1m high and 2 to 4m wide and has pale carmine pink 2.5 cm long bell-shaped flowers from March to September (Autumn to Winter), though it still flowers sporadically at other times of the year. It likes moist well-drained soil and prefers shade to full sun and is drought and frost tolerant, so should thrive in our garden. We have planted our correa to the left of the grevillea hedge in the photo below.Westringia
Named after Swedish lichen authority and royal physician, Johan Peter Westring(1753-1833), Westringias belong to the Lamiaceae (Mint) family, has 31 species and is endemic to Australia, growing in all states except for the Northern Territory.An identification key to the different species can be found online at: http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=gn&name=Westringia.
Tough and hardy, this dense fast-growing shrub has grey-green foliage and mauve, blue-lilac or white flowers throughout the year. Like other members of the Mint Family (eg Salvias), the upper petal of the flower is divided into two lobes. The upper two stamens are fertile, while the lower two stamens have been reduced to staminoides. Bees and butterflies love them!They are low maintenance, have very low water requirements and tolerant of drought, cold, frost and coastal conditions (salt-laden winds, sun and dry sandy soils). They are also used for a wide variety of purposes in the garden from ground covers to formal hedges and screens, box garden edgings and ornamental shrubs.Coastal or Native Rosemary, W. fruticosa is one of the most common forms, grows wild on the New South Wales coast and is used in many cultivars, including Westringea fruticosa ‘Wynyabbie Gem’, which we grow in our garden.Hailing from Wynyabbie Nursery, Jindalee, Queensland, it is a hybrid between W. fruticosa and the mauve form of W. eremicola, the Slender Western Rosemary.A very hardy compact shrub, 1.5 to 2 m high and wide, it bears lilac flowers for most of the year, though it is most prolific in Spring. It can be grown in full sun or part shade and is tolerant of most soils and conditions, though it grows best in well-drained soil in a sunny open position. I love using the dainty blooms in floral arrangements.I would dearly love to grow more natives over time- boronias, eriostemons and croweas for their beautiful flowers, hakeas for their interesting woody pods and tree ferns for their beautiful fronds! I still yearn to grow New South Wales Christmas Bush (Ceratopetalum gummiferum), which bloomed briefly for one season, as seen in the photo above, and Native Frangipanis (Hymenosporum flavum), but having already lost two specimens of each, I will wait and see whether I have any success with my third Wheel of Fire!! The photo above shows the position of my second Native Frangipani in the corner of the Tea Garden, where it was growing so well until killed by frost last Winter. It bears beautiful golden scented blooms (photo above) and attractive seedpods (photo below) from our tree at Dorrigo, New South Wales. I have seen tall specimens down on the river at Geelong, Victoria, so am very tempted to try a mature specimen in the future!Next week, it’s back to the fireside with the next three posts featuring some of my favourite knitting and crochet books!