By Mark Thomas
Attracting native wildlife to your garden is rewarding and fun as well as educational. As I type this article, eastern spinebills and New Holland honeyeaters are battling it out for air supremacy, feeding from various nectar plants in our garden and cautiously flying from shrub to shrub. A large variety of native plants are available producing suitable nectar for wildlife without the risk of spreading diseases that can be prevalent when using feeders.
The Proteaceae family (Grevillea, Banksia, Hakea, Adenanthos etc.) have many fantastic nectar producing species and cultivars that wildlife will relish:
Grevillea “Ned Kelly” and G. “Robyn Gordon” have beautiful big, pink flowers year round. A wide range of nectar feeding birds and mammals such as ringtail and brush tail possums will delight in the flowers and new growth tips. The plant needs good drainage and direct light but may suffer from chlorosis (yellowing of the foliage) in soil exceeding pH8.5.
Banksia marginata and B. praemorsa have large yellow flowers as well as a wine red form of B. praemorsa also being available. Eastern spinebills, New Holland honeyeaters, wattlebirds and other species of honeyeaters feed directly from the flowers while clinging on to them. Possums, pygmy possums and feathertail gliders will enjoy the nectar. These particular Banksias will grow in most soil types if given good drainage and plenty of sun.
Callistemon or bottlebrush is a genus that produces great nectar from copious flowers, attracting a large range of nectar feeding birds and mammals. Callistemon citrinus “Splendens” is a large shrub with lime green foliage, bronze- red new tips and bright red flowers for most of the year. It will grow in all soil types including waterlogged areas.
Calothamnus, netbush or one sided bottlebrush is a smaller genus of plants with the most commonly grown species being Calothamnus quadrifidus. They have fine needle-like foliage and bright red or yellow flowers through spring, summer and autumn. The plant is tolerant of most soil types if given full sun and attractive to all the wildlife mentioned previously.
Correas such as Correa pulchella are South Australian endemics (grow naturally only here). They have a wide range of forms from ground-cover to shrub and are attractive to nectar feeding birds, particularly the eastern spinebills which regularly seek them out when in flower. Flowering on various forms is from late summer through spring. Plants will do best in part shade or protection from afternoon sun and tolerate most well drained soils.