Acacias, or winter beauties

Floristry, winter flowers

I was not expecting to post again so soon, but I find myself flat out, literally, largely immobilised with a tantrum chucking L5 disc.  The Iron Paw is pretty happy about having company, and despite the pain and discomfort, I’m relieved not to be at work.  (note to self: find new job…)

I very gently took myself down to my local shops to stock up on pills, and decided that I would get breakfast after.  Less standing for me, and besides, you’re not supposed to take these things on an empty stomach.  Looking at the view of bare branches beyond the car park, I found myself longing for the sight of a radiant wattle to lift my gloom.

The suburb I live in was developed well before the appreciation of native plants became more widespread.  Most of Canberra’s inner north is planted with European deciduous trees.  Don’t get me wrong, I love them, especially in summer during a heat wave.  But they make for a winter landscape that is less than cheering.

The wattles are just coming on now,  bringing their bright balls of loveliness into the coldest and bleakest time of year.  It’s now when they make the most impact, but actually, there  are more than 700 species of wattle so its possible to have a wattle blooming in every month of the year.  There are so many that I’m going to focus on species which also cut well for floristry, so you can enjoy them both inside and out.

A. baileyana, Cootamundra wattle: this is the only species that I have direct experience of using for floristry.  One self seeded in my former garden before I knew it was a weed here.  I’ve found the foliage to be long lasting, around two weeks.  I picked them in bud but they’ve not opened yet so I can’t make any comment about that yet.  It’s among the most popular of wattles, but unfortunately its also become rather weedy outside its natural range.

A. dealbata, Silver wattle: this is the species to plant instead of the Cootamundra wattle.  It is grown for the floristry trade.  As this can get to 8m they must have to pollard the heck out of it.

A. cultriformis, knife leaf wattle.  Spring flowering to a much more manageable size.  some sources say up 4 metres, while others say 2.5m. It  has grey, triangular shaped leaves, which do not look like knives to me…

I have also read that a. buxifolia, and A. floribunda are also grown for the floristry trade.  One source (Greig) says A. pubescens lasts well in a vase.  I wonder also about A. Myrtifolia, described as being upright with reddish stems and  lemon flowers over a long period in spring.

At this rate I am going to need a new garden.

NB: sorry for the lack of photos.  Still can’t wrangle why I can’t upload from the iPad.

Life without roses

winter flowers

The great joy of living in Australia is that in winter, we still have amazing flowers. I admit that I can get a little carried away about roses, but winter tempers me in more way than one. Winter in Australia is like no version of winter northern readers will ever have seen before. To remind myself of this amazing botanical bounty, I visited the Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG) a few days ago. It was slightly above frigid, and very overcast. Not very promising conditions for a garden visit, but it was totally worth it.

The ANBG is one of the few botanical gardens which only grows native flora. A visit to the gardens means you can walk along the spine of eastern Australia, from the wet tropics all the way down to the southern tip of Tasmania. You can pop over to my home state of WA, via the red centre. And even in winter, you will find flowers. Here is a selection from my walk.

Many Australia native flowers are dainty, like this Baeckia crassifolia, found in the rock garden.

Baeckia crassifolia.  Photo by the author

Baeckia crassifolia. Photo by the author

What they lack in size they make up for in mass. Many other species such as thryptomene, ti-trees and that ubiquitous but still lovely bouquet filler, Geraldton Wax, employ the same strategy of floral abundance.
The standout performers today were the banksias, named for Sir Joseph Banks whose wife gave her name to the Banksia Rose. Banksias come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from extremely large shrubs to hybridized dwarf cultivars. They are usually in the warm colour range, oranges and yellows, although you can also find pale lemons and deep rusty reds.

Banksia ericifolia ‘Red Cluster’ (below) makes a rather tall sparse bush, and has very long reddy orange flowers.

Banksia ericifolia 'Red Cluster'.  Photo by the author.

Banksia ericifolia ‘Red Cluster’. Photo by the author.

Banksia integrifolia has a lovely lemony flower, and attractive greyish new leaves but can be a large shrub.

Banksia integrifoloia subsp integrifolia.  Photo by the author.

Banksia integrifoloia subsp integrifolia. Photo by the author.

If you don’t have that much space, you could try the varieties called Stumpy Gold or Birthday Candles. If you are really space limited, you could try one of the native heaths. This one is Epacris impressa.

Epacris impressa or common heath.  Photo by the author.

Epacris impressa or common heath. Photo by the author.

The last two samples of winter colour come from the ever reliable Grevillea species. I planted Lady O in my last (more spacious) garden, and can fully attest to her frost hardiness and general beauty. Finally there is Grevillea lanigera, demonstrating its fauna friendliness.

Grevillea 'Lady O'.  Photo by the author.

Grevillea ‘Lady O’. Photo by the author.

Grevilliea lanigera with insect.  Photo by the author.

Grevillea lanigera with insect. Photo by the author.

I’d like to end with something I just snapped on the way to the library, a stunning floral arrangement made with natives that was waiting to be picked up from outside my local florist.

Banksia arrangement.  Photo by the author.

Banksia arrangement. Photo by the author.

Who says winter can’t be beautiful?