Archive for the 'Pruning Australian Native Plants' Category

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.

Grevillea in the USA

I was looking at blogs to do with gardening last night and came across a site called the Golden Gecko written in California (the name attracted me). That’s not too amazing in itself. What hit me in the face were the photos of Grevillea ‘Molongolo’ and Grevillea lavandulacea ‘Penola’.

These were being recommended as suitable plants for the impoverished soils in the area. And they would be good for that purpose. They also do well here (country South Australia).

“Molongolo” is a registered cultivar, a hybrid between a dwarf, yellow form of Grevillea juniperina from New South Wales and an upright, red-flowered form of G juniperina from near Canberra, ACT. It can grow up to 5m across in ideal conditions (I’d like to see that here!), with apricot coloured flowers. It needs to be tip pruned from an early age to encourage the denseness of a good ground covering plant. It also responds well to pruning.

As with most plants, pruning is best done after flowering but this plant has a long flowering period. In general I would say that when there are signs of new growth is a safe time to prune most evergreen plants. As a rule don’t prune back to bare wood, but look for small branches or shoots to cut back to (unless you know for sure that the plant will shoot from bare wood).

Grevillea lavandulacea ‘Penola’ has been in cultivation for many years. It has greyish foliage with a massed display of red and cream flowers which look wonderful against the grey foliage. Apparently there is a question about whether it is actually a true form of G lavandulacea as it is very close to Grevillea ‘Poorinda Illumina’. We’ll let the botanists fight about that! The town of Penola is in the south east of South Australia.

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.

Correas and Pruning

I found some more Correa cuttings which had grown roots, in the hot house. Sometimes they strike readily, other times they will actually send out flowers and the odd new shoot but when potting time comes there is not a root to be seen. Grevilleas will do this too, I have found.

If I have to trim the roots of the cuttings when potting on, I will often tip prune the plant at the same time, or take a little more of the top to balance the root system that is available to the plant.

Last year we had a trip to Ngarkat Conservation Park, near Keith in the upper South East of SA. It was winter, the first rains for the year began that weekend, and the area had had a bushfire through it in January of the same year. Despite the lack of rain we found the locally occurring Correas had sprouted abundant new growth from the base of the plants at ground level. The top of the plants were a few charcoal twigs.

This made me feel that it was worth experimenting with quite severe pruning of the Correas which I had neglected in the garden. I forgot about it last spring. I am watching for the new growth to appear this autumn and will try a few of the late flowering plants, rather than lose the flowers this year. Thought I would cut back to the last three of four buds on each stem and see what happens. I will have nothing to lose really as the plants are quite scruffy. They will have to be chopped back or pulled out.

Pruning Plants

Lost my right hand man to Writers’ Week again today. Hopefully I can get some potting on done and also finalise the plant list for the plant sale. I keep finding species that I missed when I did the list the other day.

Meanwhile I have plants presenting great cutting material and I would love to be sidetracked by that job also. Everything comes in waves in the Nursery. Zillions of jobs needing to be done now, and then periods of watching things grow until the next wave of potting on. (Until I visit someone with a native garden and plants presenting cutting material).

Sometimes I feel like Peter Cundell on the ABC TV gardening programme, Gardening Australia. Put a pair of secateurs, or loppers in his hands and the personality changes as he attacks plants with glee. He is usually pruning, while I go mad taking cuttings.

The above reminds me of a friend whose plants always looked wonderful, in flower or not. She was a self confessed mad pruner but without the tools. She made a practice of constant tip pruning of all her native shrubs. That is, removing the top growing tip containing a couple of leaves. This forces the plant to make new growth back along the branches. As a result, flowering is much improved because of the greater number of shoots on the bushes. It often looked as though she had used shears to trim the plants.

I remember seeing her after one Plant Sale with a basket of plants and before she had got back to her car every one of them had been tipped pruned. “Can’t help myself!” she said.

It is a hint I often pass on to customers at Plant Sales. People are often disappointed with the appearance of native plants as they get older. They don’t usually have time to prune at a particular time in the plant’s seasonal growth. Tip pruning often solves this. The exception to this is for a plant which has a naturally upright habit, where tip pruning could ruin the shape of the plant.