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Colour in Summer

Bob O'Neill

We native plant people all have winter and spring colour, but here is a distinctive fading off with the onset of summer.

To have extra colour in the garden then probably requires one to visit friends' gardens and nurseries at that period to see what is in season and select according to your home conditions and criteria. That will hardly produce summer-like outcomes immediately, but it will help.

Mid-summer is certainly our low ebb of flowering, but none the less there is always a scattering of light flowering plus a few highlights. What is in flower is certainly very attractive to the wildlife, including numerous butterflies.

Each year we produce hundreds of paper daisies that are later used mainly as gap fillers on an annual basis. We have learned that each paper daisy occupies a space equal to a small correa, so although they can be striking plants, self-sown plants are usually removed for being wrongly placed, the others must earn their places. Seed is sown freshly gathered late December. Flowering is for several months, fading over summer. The plants are doubly as good in moist conditions.

Here is a list of some of our summer flowering plants:

Acmena smithii, Lilly pilly. Our best specimen is a mass of cream flowers in mid January. It is beautifully shaped and at 8 m it will certainly grow much bigger.

Crowea exalata. Varied forms perform extremely well for us. They flower in a variety of situations from dry to very damp, from shade to full sun - these are highly valued plants.

Brachychiton discolor, Lace bark. One tree here has grown wonderfully well and at 11 years and approx. 8 m high, it produces a great display of deep pink, bell-like flowers in late December and early January.

Lambertia pinifolia. Attaining 3 m x 4 m dimensions, these plants grow easily in a range of conditions and have flowered for months.

Verticordia mitchelliana. This compact plant grows readily from cuttings in our better drained soils. Main flowering September to December, but continuing into January.

Verticordia monodelpha var monodelpha. We had the plant before we got the Verticordia book and planted to allow for 1 m x 1 m. I read that it may reach 1.7 m x 2 m so it will be interesting to see what transpires. Flowering is November and December. It fascinates me that some plants grown here exceed the dimensions of their kind in the wild, while others are considerably smaller. As a rule of thumb, arid area plants may grow larger while tropical plants may be more stunted.

Colour in Summer
Brachychiton discolor
Corymbia ficifolia
Crowea exalata
Backhousia citriodora
Photos: Brian Walters.

Backhousia citriodora. This plant has colourful cream flowers in January. Our plant is a shrubby 1 m and looks unlikely to reach the 8 m suggested for Queensland. The foliage scent is the bonus.

Corymbia ficifolia. This grafted plant at 3 m is a striking specimen.

Blandifordia grandiflora. Our best specimen was in magnificent full flower in early December. I wish I had more of them. It enjoys its fertile, well-drained but moist, open sunny position.

From "Growing Australian", the newsletter of the Victorian Region of the Australian Plants Society, March 2008.

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Australian Plants online - 2008
Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants