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?