A walk around Corymbia

By John Elton

With everyone stuck at home I thought it would be an opportune time to share some of the plants flowering in our garden at the moment. I always think that autumn is the best time in the garden. 

One of the great things about having a native garden is that we have colour 12 months of the year. With each season there is the anticipation of what might be springing into flower in the coming months. While some of the more spectacular plants are not in full flower, there is always plenty to see. The air is clear, the temperature mild, there is water in the wetland, and lush new growth abounds – particularly after the rain. Many newly planted shrubs are putting on quite exceptional growth. 

An added bonus this year, and I’m not sure if it’s a combination of the smoke and rain, has been the hundreds of seedlings, mainly grevilleas that have emerged in the garden. These have been potted up and the next 3 years or so will tell me whether I have fluked the next big thing! But not much luck of that happening! The only downside are the weeds and boy aren’t there a lot!

It’s always hard to select plants for inclusion but I hope you enjoy these ones!

Red Red Red

 One of the most dominant colours in April is red. Some of our local grevillea species are in flower including G. macleayana which occurs from Nowra to Ulladulla and west to Morton and Deua National Parks. Commonly known as the Jervis Bay Grevillea, the one in the garden is a ground cover grafted onto a 1.8 standard. 
 

I find this is great way to display both the flowers and the silvery underside of the leaves. The shrub is a much larger plant and you need plenty of space to let it grow. With a standard 1 metre is sufficient. It is a pity that the plant is now considered to be rare in the wild.

Other grevilleas are also looking stunning including the Grevillea cultivars ‘Katherines’ Sister’ (below left), ‘Trirari Blaze’ (below middle) and a Western Australian species called G. bronweneae (below right) whose flowers are an incredible deep red with black tips.

It is a slender shrub that only grows 1- 1.5 metres and which will take morning or all day sun. If you want to try this plant you need to buy grafted and keep an eye out for small white scale.

This last one is a smaller grevillea flower as are the two below, Grevillea aquifolium (below left) which is a species from around the Grampians in Victoria and Grevillea dielsiana (below right), my favourite plant. While the flower below is a vibrant red, the orange and yellow form is arguably a more spectacular flower.

Two other plants worth a mention are ones you may be familiar with. Grevillea ‘Firesprite’ and Grevillea bipinnatifida. There are several form of the latter and colours range from gold through to a deep red. The one here is sold as G. ‘Jingle Bells’ and is seen here a standard. 

I have several G. bipinnatifida in the garden which are the result of seed from a cultivar called ‘Wendy Sunshine’. When this plant seeded it threw back to the species parent. As for ‘Firesprite’, while it is a large plant it is very forgiving to anyone with a chainsaw!

Pink

While pink flowers can make bold statement, on the whole I find this colour to be quite soothing and subtle. A few years ago I picked up a grafted hakea cultivar at a nursery in Bateman’s Bay that was closing down. The plant was in poor condition but cheap, so I took the risk. The plant now looks magnificent.

It is a cross between Hakea laurina and Hakea petiolaris. The flowers are truly beautiful, and at each stage of opening provide a different perspective. As one of the photos shows, the bees find the plant irresistible. It grows to about 3 metres, and like most hakea flowers on the previous season’s wood, making pruning challenging.

Grevillea petrophiloides (below right) is always a favourite when people see it in the garden. It is often used as a second tier plant because flowers are displayed on long canes that wave above other plants in the wind. Having said this, it has attractive foliage that should be displayed not hidden.

I’m not sure what the correa below left is, but the way the cream blends into the pink throat on the left is beautifully subtle. It always pays to take a close look at the flowers. 

Purple and Blue

What can one say about purple and blue? They always make a statement and provide wonderful contrast. If you want to try your hand at growing eremophilas, there is an abundance of purple flowering species, some of which are in flower in autumn. Eremophila nivea (below left) often has a second flowering now although is at its peak in Spring. Scaevola amaeula (below middle) grows prolifically here and is so easy to spread around the garden from cuttings taken at most times of the year. It also roots from stems and can be cut back hard if it needs refreshing.

I really love lechenaultias even though at best they probably only last a season or two. However they are so easy to propagate that you can always have a few on hand to plant out in the following season. I take my cuttings around February and most strike with about 4-5 weeks. They really do need a well drained position However unless they are given full sun the flowers will be few and far between.

If unsure they look great in a pot or a hanging basket. There are a few other colour variations but they are difficult to obtain. The one below right is Lechenaulta biloba and is in flower now. Spring is their peak flowering time.

Yellow and orange

Not everyone loves these colours because for some they are incongruous with the other plants in the garden. But I reckon some of our most brilliant plants are yellow – orange.

Most of the banksias hit their peak around this time of the year. It’s a pity we can’t grow more of the Western Australian species on the east coast but there are still some great plants. Here are some in flower at present. From left B. paludosa, B. ‘Birthday Candles’, B. ‘Little Eric’ just before opening, B. plagiocarpa new growth.

Here are plants that will brighten up any spot in the garden and all in flower at present – as long as they get sun! From left G tenuiloba, G ‘Callum’s Gold’, G. ‘Coastal Sunset’ and Billy Buttons. All of these have more than one flowering peak but are looking good this autumn.

And two of the best grevilleas, Grevillea ‘Bush Lemons’ and Grevillea ‘Golden Lyre’. ‘Golden Lyre’ is at its peak now, ‘Bush Lemons’ is better in Spring. Both need to be pruned after their main flowering if you want to keep the plants looking compact and flowering well.