Spring flowers Geraldton wax an Australian wildflower favourite

RANGE OF COLOUR: Geraldton Wax can vary from pink, through to purple or even white.
RANGE OF COLOUR: Geraldton Wax can vary from pink, through to purple or even white.

Geraldton wax is one of Australia’s most famous wildflowers and is widely used as a cut flower in Australia and overseas.

The flowers last for well over a week when cut. Chamelaucium (Geraldton Wax) is a genus of about 30 species all occurring only in south-western Australia.

They are generally medium to large shrubs, reaching 2-3 metres in height, with narrow leaves and ‘tea-tree’ like flowers. The leaves are highly aromatic when crushed.

The flowers appear in late winter and may last through until summer. They are circular in shape and are usually pale to mid pink in colour, although other varieties with colours ranging from white to purple are also available.

If a Geraldton Wax plant is desired for the garden then it should be chosen while it is in flower in order to obtain the desired flower colour.

Plants are native to the dry summer climate of south-western Australia, although they will grow quite successfully here, provided they’re planted in appropriate positions. The normal pink-flowered form is more suitable for the local area, hardier than the deeper purple or white forms.

However, if a position with good drainage in sandy soil is selected, then most varieties will succeed. Plants may be sensitive to frost until they become established. A sunny or semi-shaded position is preferred.

Plants should be pruned back each year after flowering, reducing the plant’s height by about one third. Regular cutting of the flowers for indoor decoration will assist in the pruning process.

Perennials

Perennial plants form the basis of many gardens, particularly those that have a cottage or older style structure.

Flowers are produced over the summer months. They generally live for three or more seasons, rather than needing to be replaced every year, as is the case with annual plants.

Perennials are sometimes planted individually, although clumps or drifts of multiple plants can be most effective.

They will generally produce good displays of flowers for several years, after which time it is preferable to prune back, lift and divide the plants. This enables the healthier parts of the plant to grow, eventually ensuring better flowering. Foliage and root growth are mainly produced in the first season, with the plants reaching flowering maturity in second and subsequent seasons.

Many forms of perennial plants are commonly grown.

Salvias, commonly known as sages, are one of the more widely grown perennials. Plants are available in different varieties ranging in size from those under a metre in height to some that reach almost two metres.

Long woody stems are produced, with flowers appearing on the ends of the stems. During late winter the old stems can be cut back to just above the base of the plant, virtually at ground level. Then the plant can be dug up and divided into smaller plants, if it has grown too big to flower effectively.

Pineapple sage, which produces bright red flowers over light green leaves, is a valuable addition to many gardens.

Euphorbia is a hardy winter flowering variety with grey green leaves and lime flowers, which contrast well in the garden. 

Other hardy perennials include plectranthus. Some varieties have mauve leaves, others have grey leaves, but all are tough and grow well under tree canopies.

When dividing up perennial plants a sharp knife may be used. Each section needs to have healthy roots with some basal shoots in evidence. It may be preferable to use fingers to tease the plants apart, rather than cutting through the larger clump with a knife.

Good, well-rotted compost should be added to the soil prior to replanting as this will assist in ensuring a good food supply for the new plants. Watering with Seasol will help the formation of new roots structures.

Gerbera are another group of perennials that can be divided at this time if the plant has become rather large.

Plants that have grown to a large size will not produce as many blooms.

Digging the plant out of the soil will enable the removal of old, dead or dying leaves. The plant can be cut into two or more smaller plants. Prior to replanting in a garden bed that has been enriched with a compost-type material, the crown of the plant, where the stems are joined to the main plant should be dipped into a fungicide solution. This will help reduce future incidence of disease.

Productive beans

Beans are a good choice for inclusion in the home vegetable garden as the plants are generally very productive.

Many different varieties are available to suit different growing conditions and preferences. They will grow quickly from seed, particularly if the seed had been soaked in water overnight prior to planting.

Soil that has been enriched with organic compost will be ideal as this will provide the good food source that will be required by the plant for crop production.

Adding superphosphate and sulphate of ammonia will provide the extra minerals required for optimum growth. Application should be at quantities suggested on the packaging.

In general, bean seeds should be planted about 4cm deep and 20cm apart if a dwarf variety has been selected. Taller growing varieties can be planted about 15cm apart. Regular picking will ensure a long season.

geoffh.gardening@gmail.com

Maitland and District Garden Club

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