Saturday, May 16, 2009


When the opportunity came for me to have a garden after more than 13 years of living in a Sydney home unit, one plant near the top of my wish list was the Grevillea.
I’d grown a very successful Robyn Gordon many years before and was so impressed with it that Grevilleas became my favourite species of native plant.

My garden now has many different types of Grevillea but unfortunately the larger flowered types like the Robyn Gordon do not survive well due to the heavy winter frosts. As well as the Robyn Gordon I tried similar plants such as “Coconut Ice” and “Ned Kelly” before I realised that the conditions just weren’t suitable.

I still have one very impressive, leafy “Ned Kelly” in the backyard. It barely survived last winter and had to be cut back severely in early spring to remove the frost damage; but eventually recovered well. Now as winter approaches again I’m nervous and don’t hold much hope for it. It is very susceptible to frost burn when the frosts are heavy, and our temperatures can drop to -6.
While it is now a very attractive bush, it has never given a good display of flowers. At the most we’ve had a short spell with one or two, but most of the time it’s had nothing but leaves. But that seems to have been a problem with a lot of our Grevilleas. They are often described as being long-flowering plants but ours, if they flower at all, do so for only brief periods.

My “Coconut Ice” clings to life in my native “bonsai” garden near the front fence-line. While it hasn’t been affected by frost (it is sheltered by some kind of Melaleuca) its roots have been restricted by the concrete-like clay that lies under the raised garden bed. Nothing has thrived in that particular bed, and the “Coconut Ice” demonstrates its distaste for its home by refusing to flower.

This week I have noticed that several Grevilleas have started to bud. They are the sharp leaved types like the G. Rosmarinifolia. One is near our front windows. It is one of the few existing plants that we kept after we moved in. At the time it was a tiny specimen that seemed to have self-sprouted in a crack in the concrete garden edging. It has now grown into one of the most robust plants we have and when flowering is a favourite of the Red Wattle birds.

The pride of our Grevillea collection is the Bulli Princess, a plant that was discovered at the Bulli Grevillea Park near Wollongong. Ours has been here for less than a year so I am concerned about its chance of survival over winter. It is now over two metres in height and about the same in diameter, so it’s a bit too big to shield with plastic. There is a photo of a “Princess” flower in my article “Gardening Progress”; however the photo does not do the it justice. The photo was taken at the Bulli Grevillea Park. Our plant has so far joined ranks with my other Grevilleas in being stingy with its flowering. To date we’ve had only one flower from it.
The experts at the park seem confident that it won’t be affected too badly by frost. They know of one growing in Canberra where the climate is very similar to ours. But then again, survival can also depend on which part of a garden the plant is growing in. Some parts of our garden seem to be more protected from the cold than others.

Grevilleas in my Garden:

Bulli Princess; Fireworks (x2) Poorinda Peter; Longistyla; Ned Kelly; John Evans; Rosmarinifolia “Nana” (x3); Unknown Rosmarinifolia; Coconut Ice; Lady O; Amethyst; Scarlet Sprite;.

There are two more whose names elude me. For some reason the name Molongolo comes to mind for one, which is a very dull rust colour with absolutely no vibrancy. The other is one of the “woolly” Grevilleas; I think a type of “Lanigera”. The latter are quite common in nurseries around this area so I’ll be able to check the name next time I go plant shopping.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi. Wondering if you might help us solve a mystery? We planted 11 grafted Grevillea longistyla belle along our eastern garden fence. They did very well for approx 15 months but every few months one will simply die. The die offs began in summer and are occuring in an ordered fashion - the first in the centre of the row and then plants to left left slowly dying. The soil has been tested and is fine. We fertilise the lawn adjacent to the plants and thought that may be killing them but the sequence that the plants are dying in has us perplexed. We live in St. Leonards, victoria - a coastal town on Port Philip Bay, we do not experience frost.