By Bec Wenzel
It’s not something I like to talk about freely in front of such a kiwi audience, but yes, it is true that I may have sprouted on the Western side of Australia. Born and bred in Aussie, I never had a green thumb growing up, nor much of an interest in the garden. I did however grow my love of plants from the love of animals I have and the need to preserve a future for us and for them through the act of conservation.
I studied in Tasmania which to me looks like a cross between NZ and Aussie, and after meeting a kiwi I came here to live. I now live and breathe native NZ plants. I plant out native trees in the day, and in my free gardening time I enjoy putting food on the plate through growing fresh, healthy veges. I have a huge love of house plants, tropicals and exotics of all kinds, and I most definitely have a love for Aussie plants. My only regret is that my love for plants didn’t ignite when I was younger so I could appreciate them more while I lived there.
One plant in particular from Australia that makes a very gorgeous winter display is the Grevillea, and there are a tonne of varieties to choose from which makes it a very interesting choice for this time of year.
Grevilleas are a tough and hardy plant that can withstand dry conditions as well as frosty ones. They prefer a free draining soil in full sun and are perfect for a coastal situation and do not require too much maintenance. They come in many shapes and forms from ground covers to small trees. They are a preferred food source for many birds, especially through the winter months when food isn’t as abundant for them. Grevilleas have quite a unique flower, that can be described like a toothbrush or a wiry, spidery ball depending on the particular species. They come in a range of colours from white through to greens, oranges and reds. They have gorgeous divided foliage that also makes a beautiful display.
Very little maintenance is required, if you are not fond of watering this is a good choice, a controlled release fertiliser low in phosphorus can be applied at the beginning of spring. Trim back the flower heads once they have bloomed.
A few readily available varieties are:
Grevillea Bronze Rambler
The bronze rambler is a vigorous ground cover forming a dense mat. It can grow up to 4m wide. It has gorgeous new bronze foliage with red toothbrush like flowers. A great plant for banks and walls. It is a great plant if you want to fill a space quickly and if the conditions are quite dry and unfavourable for many other plants.
Grevillea ‘Lady O’
‘Lady O’ is one of my favourite grevilleas. It has stunning bright red flowers that can give you colour all year round. It is a medium shrub that grows to around 1.5m high. I particularly love this plant when it is grown as a standard. It looks great in large display pots, a good choice if you are looking to bring birds back into the garden. Some pruning will be required to keep its shape.
Grevillea Cream and Green
Dark green foliage and spider like blooms of green and cream. This is a fast growing and compact shrub growing to 1.5m high. Always a popular choice.
Grevillea Drummer Boy
A small cascading ground cover only reaching to about 20cm high. It has an abundance of pink flowers through autumn and winter. Drummer Boy has gorgeous blueish grey foliage. Perfect for walls, banks and rockeries. It flowers over a long period of time.