Tag Archives: Flowers

Nectar of the Gods; Nectar Plants for Native Wildlife

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.

Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’

Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’

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.

Correa pulchella ‘Big Red’

Correa pulchella ‘Big Red’

Native Bulbs for Winter Colour

By Mark Thomas

Every autumn, bulbs begin shooting, sending up delicate foliage and bright flowers en masse before they die back down in the heat of summer. Many gardeners would be surprised to learn there are many species of native bulbs, most of them lilies and easy to grow.

In this alternative method of drought resistance plants producing bulbs avoid the desiccating heat by retreating underground where temperatures remain more stable for summer dormancy. Moisture is conserved inside the bulb and the lack of summer rainfall becomes inconsequential.

Native lilies inhabit most habitats across South Australia, from forests and woodlands to wetlands and mallee. A species that would have been very common over much of southern SA is Arthropodium strictum (chocolate lily/ vanilla lily). Basal rosettes of foliage arising in mid- autumn are followed by flower spikes reaching up to a metre tall in winter. The numerous mauve flowers are sweet scented reminiscent of chocolate or vanilla as the common name suggests, and sometimes last right up to the beginning of the hot weather if there has been good rainfall.

Calostemma purpureum (garland lily) can still be found in many of the areas with reasonable native vegetation. The mass of flowers can be a spectacular sight in years where there has been heavy, late summer rainfall such as this February and accentuated by the lack of other flowers in very early autumn. Red-purple flowers are borne on stalks up to 50cm tall, arriving naked before the foliage, just as their non-native cousin Amaryllis belladonna (Easter lily). The seed of this species is large, up to pea sized and it is not uncommon for the seed to germinate as soon as it has fallen from the flower stalks.

Calostemma Purpurea

Calostemma Purpurea

Flowering through late winter to spring is the bright yellow Bulbine bulbosa (bulbine lily). The terminal groups of flowers stand atop a fleshy green stalk up to 50 cm tall and are surrounded by an open skirt of tubular foliage.

Bulbine Bulbosa

Bulbine Bulbosa

All of these native lilies can be used to great effect in your garden, providing a seasonal display of bright colour and nectar for native insects such as butterflies and important predators like hoverflies. Mass –planted and grouped along garden borders is a great way to use these plants or scattered randomly through bush gardens to increase colour and diversity.

There are too many bulb forming lilies to mention here, and it is worth taking a closer look at local parks and roadside reserves to see what does well in your area. Surprisingly small populations of plants have survived  urbanisation and are being conserved by local volunteers and councils to increase numbers. A great place in the southern suburbs to see them growing in the wild is the Black Road side of Minkarra Park at Flagstaff Hill or Beaumont Common in Burnside.

Gardening Under Established Trees

By Mark Thomas

Gardening under trees can be difficult due to factors such as shade, root competition, reduced moisture, reduced nutrients and in the case of some trees allelopathy. Allelopathy is an ability some trees such as Eucalypts possess whereby chemicals secreted from the root system blocks growth and germination of other plants.

It is tempting to give up or plant the whole garden to Agapanthus as many gardeners in the Eucalyptus dominated areas of the hills currently do. An alternative is to use plants that naturally grow under trees that can cope with all the limitations while still looking great and attracting wildlife to your garden.

One of the most versatile groups of plants for this situation is the Correas, with many colours, sizes and forms available thriving in dappled light and semi- shade as well as coastal conditions. Where height is needed for screening or structure Correa alba var.alba is reliable in any well drained soil including clay that has had gypsum treatment. The bell shaped flowers are a magnet for nectar feeding birds and the dark green leaves have a contrasting light undersides.

Lower and with lots of bright colour are Correa “Jezabell” and Correa “Catie Bec” for highlighting garden edges and rockeries with pink bell flowers. There are even a few groundcover forms such as Correa pulchella “Autumn Blaze” with bright orange flowers found originally growing on Kangaroo Island.

Goodenia thrive in understorey conditions, most with masses of bright yellow flowers and fantastic for cottage style gardens as well. With many different species and forms available there are choices of large shrubs down to groundcovers. One species that would have grown on the Adelaide plains but still grows in some areas of the hills and coastal areas is Goodenia amplexans. With large leaves and fast growth this plant is very attractive, great cover for rockeries and likes being pruned which keeps the plant growing tightly.

Doryanthes are large lilies from Eastern Australia with leaves of mature specimens reaching 2-3m and masses of flowers on tall stalks. Both species are best suited to large spaces and are happy growing at the base of tree trunks. These plants are bold statements with strong architectural form.

Lomandra are generally smaller members of the lily family and most species are right at home with dappled light. They are ideal for edging and borders or just creating foliage contrast, especially if you have used a lot of shrubs in your design. Lomandra confertifolia “Little Pal” has a soothing and graceful lime green foliage that is soft to the touch. Lomandra multiflora ssp. dura is a local species little known or used in horticulture but with great potential. It has stiff silver –blue foliage with contrasting yellow flowers and the ability to cope with long periods of drought when established. Butterflies love the flowers and the foliage is host to the rare Phigalia Skipper butterfly while the seed is food for skinks.

Using plants that suit your conditions will always produce better results than trying to change your garden to grow plants that are incompatible. There are usually a large number of native plants that could suit any garden situation while saving water, providing food for wildlife and unique beauty.

Gardening Under Established Trees

Gardening Under Established Trees