As we celebrate Australia Day, it is perhaps a good time to review some of the native Australian plants that are hardy, and suitable for our gardens.
Despite the extremes of temperatures we have had recently, grevilleas are growing well, generally without a constant supply of water.
Grevillea Robyn Gordon and G. Superb, both older varieties, continue to produce many blooms, attracting a variety of honeyeaters.
* Grevillea varieties are available to suit different garden situations and preferences.
Ground cover grevilleas, such as G. Bronze rambler and G. Poorinda Royal Mantel will cover the ground with a thick at of shiny leaves that carry a carpet of flowers above them.
Taller growing varieties producing brightly coloured blooms include G. Sylvia and G. Bulli beauty, both of which have strong pink-coloured blooms.
Grafted grevilleas, such as G. Ivory Whip, maintain a height relevant to the grafted base. G. Ivory whip will be covered with large, creamy white flowers carried about shiny, green foliage.
* Australian native grasses provide stability in the garden landscape, as well as producing healthy, strappy leaves and flowers on longer stems. Native grasses include dianellas and lomandras.
Dianella, also known as flax lilies because they have very tough and fibrous strap-like leaves, form attractive clumps. They produce long flower stems of blue flowers with yellow stamens. Plants can grow up to a metre in height. Dianellas make good garden subjects for rockeries, near water features or in a bush garden. They are also suitable for growing along the edges of paths or driveways. New plants may be obtained from fresh, ripe seeds, or dividing up existing clumps.
Established plants tolerate dry conditions as well as having good heat and cold tolerance.
Dianella caerulea (Paroo Lily) and Dianella revoluta (Spreading flax lily) are two of the more common varieties. Hybridisation has produced more varieties such as D. Explorer, which is ideal for re-vegetation and stabilising banks.
* Lomandras are tough plants that have strong, strappy leaves above the clumping base. They require minimum maintenance once they are established. Lomandras are drought tolerant.
Lomandra longifolia, commonly known as Spiny-head Mat-rush, Spiky-headed Mat-rush or Basket Grass, is a perennial, rhizomatous herb found throughout eastern Australia. The leaves are 40 cm to 80 cm in long, and generally have a leaf of about 8 mm to 12 mm wide. It grows in a variety of soil types and is frost, heat and drought tolerant.
New varieties of L. longifolia have been developed, including L. Tanika. It has slender, lime green foliage with an arching to weeping habit with age.
* Lilly pillies are versatile Australian native plants. In addition to their use as specimen or general garden plants, they are most suitable for use as hedges or specimen topiary plants. Lilly pillies are evergreen rainforest plants with glossy green leaves. Their growth habits are a major attraction including; flushes of colourful new growth, fluffy white flowers, and long-lasting red, purple or white berries.
Plants can be chosen to suit a wide variety of situations, including those that grow to a height of between three and five metres, through to plants that are less than a metre in height at maturity. Psyllids can attack some varieties, so it may be useful to consider varieties that are resistant to psyllid attack. Psyllids cause numerous tiny bumps to appear on the leaves, causing then to become disfigured.
Taller growing varieties that are resistant to psyllids include Acmena smithii var. minor and Syzygium leuhmannii. Acmena smithii ‘Hot Flush’ (3 metres), Syzygium leuhmannii “Royal Flame” (2 metres), and Acmena smithii ‘Hedgemaster’ (less than 1 metres) are also resistant to psyllid infestation.
* Dwarf flowering gum trees are displaying their brilliantly coloured flowers at this time. In past years it was quite difficult to grow gum trees with these bright flowers as many of them originated from Western Australia and, subsequently, would not grow in the humid conditions of the eastern seaboard.
However, over recent years these varieties have become available in grafted form, whereby wood from the desired plant has been grafted onto a species that is tolerant of humidity.
Varieties differ in their subsequent height at maturity, with colours also differing, ranging from pinks and reds through to salmon and shades of orange. If a grafted gum tree is desired it is preferable to purchase it in flower, thereby ensuring the correct flower colour is obtained. The flower colour will be consistent because the wood has been grafted, unlike seedling-raised specimens which can vary in colour.
Corymbia ficifolia, formerly known as Eucalyptus ficifolia, produces richly coloured flowers. The producers of Dwarf Orange and Dwarf Crimson indicate the plants will grow three metres high by three metres wide, making them suitable for the average garden. Summer Red produces large heads of hot-pink flowers in summer while Summer Beauty has more delicate soft pink flowers. These varieties are also compact forms suitable for pot culture if a large pot has been selected.
* Callistemon Pink Champagne grows into a dense shrub about two metres tall, with stiff, aromatic leaves and large, deep pink brushes. The flowers fade as they age so that at any given time the plants carry brushes of various shades of pink. Honeyeaters are attracted to the flowers. Pink Champagne is a hardy and colourful plant suitable for shrubberies or native hedgerows.
Careful and deliberate breeding techniques have resulted in an increasing variety of new kangaroo paw plants that have improved forms, a wider variety of flower colour and increased disease resistance.
* Kangaroo paws (anigozanthus) grow naturally in the western areas of Australia, preferring a drier summer. However, the newer varieties are more tolerant of humidity and are available in differing heights ranging from small plants which are ideal for garden borders or pot culture, through to much taller varieties.
The taller varieties are, in general, tougher plants. To encourage good flowering displays the plants should be well pruned almost to ground level.
Geraldton Wax plants display attractive blooms in the colours of white, pink or purple. Plants generally grow to several metres in height.
Cutting the flowers for indoor decoration will provide a form of pruning for the plant, helping it to avoid the development of bare, woody growth. Stems of flowers that have been picked will last for quite a considerable time in a vase, provided the water in the vase is replenished with fresh water on a regular basis.
Geraldton Wax plants are a useful addition to the garden as they provide flowers from early winter through to late spring. Some gardeners experience difficulties in establishing a Geraldton Wax plant. However, if their main requirement of good drainage is met, they usually grow quite successfully.
The next meeting of Maitland and District Garden Club will be held on Friday, January 30, in the Masonic Hall, Grant Street, Maitland, commencing at 7.30pm. Visitors are welcome.
Maitland and District Garden Club