Archive for the 'Caring for Native Plants' Category

Paper Daisies

I found Xerochrysm macranthum and a red flowered Xerochrysm bracteatum. These are paper daisies or everlasting daisies as they are sometimes called. When the flowers are picked they can be hung upside down so that the stems remain straight while the moisture in the stem dries. The flowers continue to open so it is a good idea to experiment with the stage of openness at picking, as to what you want the flower to be like when dry.

Another way of dealing with paper flowers is to cut the stem to within 1 cm of the flower and poke fine florist wire along the length of the stem and just into the back of the flower. Stand the wired flowers in a heavy vase until the stem dries. These are great in floral decorations, or other crafts. The flowers last a long time, at least 12 months, after which you can do a new batch to replace the old.

I cut the plants back to fresh growth to encourage more shoots along the stem and eventually flowering again. These plants should last a long time unless we get severe frost this year.

Perennials and Daisies

Today has been a weed, prune and discard day. In doing so I discovered some treasures that I thought I had lost over the summer. Epacris impressa is not one that I would put in the ground here, but I love it. So it gets to live in a pot which is a hazard in itself. Beautiful Correa ‘Ivory Bells’ was just coming into flower.

I thought I had lost some of the native lillies, too. I knew that they died back in summer but I also thought that the watering may have rotted them. I tossed out a pot, only to reclaim it very quickly when I saw a small tuber with the beginning of a shoot. I rescued a whole box full, thankfully. A lot of Australian natives die down during the heat of summer to reappear when the weather cools down.

All the Xerochrysm (paper daisies) needed trimming and tidying and there were some beautiful colours amongst them. These were known previously as Helichrysm and then Bracteantha until it was discovered that the name Xerochrysm had the prior claim.

Other daisies like the Brachyscomes are flowering madly at the moment, particularly a fine leaved pink Brachyscome multifida and Brachyscome multifida ‘Amethyst’. Brachyscomes look like miniature marguerite daisies, although they a small perennials, rather than shrubs. I think I have said before that I love daisies.

Grevillea lavandulacea

I was thinking about the Grevillea species in the last post. The local form of Grevillea lavandulacea, called ‘Monarto’ is an open small shrub with deep reddish pink spider clusters. I noticed in ‘The Grevillea Book’ Olde and Marriott, that this probably should be called ‘Mt Compass’. Whatever the correct name, it is a very pretty shrub.

A form that I’ve had for years is from the Barossa Valley I think. It has almost ruby flowers in large clusters. The honeyeaters love it when it is in flower.

When I told friends last night over dinner about the deer, they reminded me of the ferral deer in the South East of SA and that there are ferral deer in the Jamestown district (mid north of SA). I did not know of them. The ones in the South East are a hazard on the road. There are more deer than kangaroos to deal with, especially at night. We were always concerned when our daughter, who was teaching in the South East, had to travel one particular road to Penola, at night. She also discovered that echidnas don’t do car tyres much good, either!

The above Grevillea do very well in high pH soils like ours which has limestone rubble in it. Once established they will cope with the winter wet, summer dry climate and 350mm (about 13inches)  of rain. They need to be trimmed after flowering to maintain bushiness.

Sturt’s Desert Peas

I sowed seed of Sturt’s Desert Pea (Swainsona formosa) last week and now have them germinating. I nicked the side of the seed with nail clippers and placed the seed in small individual pots. There may be a few failures, but at least I am avoiding root disturbance.

I find nicking the seed to be more successful than the boiling water treatment. It is more labour intensive having to handle each individual seed but the results warrant it, I feel.

I still remember the first time I saw these growing in their natural habitat. We were heading for Arkaroola in northern SA and pulled off the road to have morning tea. It wasn’t until we were out of the car that we realised that we were in the middle of a huge patch of these plants and the first flowers for the season were just coming out. Fabulous photos (in those days, slides!) gave us great enjoyment later, too.

When you see the environment that they grow in it gives an appreciation of how far the roots must travel in order to survive the summer. The plants are sometimes perennial but probably best treated as annuals. They give a glorious display of their brash pea shaped flowers. Ants will carry the seed around the garden and they will pop up in the spots that you don’t want them but haven’t the heart to pull them out. The self sown ones always do better.

A lot of research has been done on breeding colours for export markets and on the growing of these plants. At one time it was always declared that you did not water these plants in the garden. After all look at where they grow in the wild in barren, parched locations. However, logically, they grow and flower when there is moisture available. So in the home garden they need water if you want growth and flowers. Apparently they do particularly well in self watering pots and also appreciate fertiliser. I haven’t tried this yet. I just want them in the ground, self sowing merrily away! To see some lovely photos of Sturt Desert Peas have a look at this web page.

Grow a Hedge of Natives

I couldn’t have timed it better! The last Gardening Australia programme on ABC TV was on maintaing Australian native plants in gardens, emphasising the importance of regular pruning.

I saw on one of the Lifestyle TV programmes some time ago the suggestion of using Westringea species as formal hedge plants. The programme showed these trimmed hedges as ‘fences’ separating  garden areas and it looked great. Again the best results were achieved by constant early trimming amd light pruning to maintain the leaf cover well down on the plant before it developed woodiness. The Westringea fruticosa (Native Rosemary- called this because the appearance is like the herb Rosemary) forms do lend themselves to this treatment very well.

The Westringea species that I know best for this purpose are

  • Westringea rosmarinifolia (Native Rosemary, white to mauve flowers)
  • Westringea fruticosa
  • Westringes fruticosa ‘Highlight’ (variegated leaves and mauve flowers)
  • Westringea fruticosa ‘Morning Light’ (variegated leaves and white flowers)
  • Westringea fruticosa ‘Smokie’ (grey variegated leaves, white flowers, smaller growth)
  • Westringea ‘Jervis Gem’ (small dense bush, mauve flowers, use as you would English Box)
  • Westringea ‘Wynyabbie Gem’ (mauve flowers)

All of these will grow well in alkaline soil, all can be planted in coastal areas and all are hardy plants once established.