There are certain plants that really have the wow factor. One of these plant groups is the Agonis family. They are of the Myrtaceae family, the plant group prone to myrtle rust. I have been informed that this fungus has indeed been found in this plant group, but this doesn’t stop me from purchasing them.
The whole genus is endemic to Western Australia so are mostly reliant on winter rains and drier summers. Agonis flexuosa or Weeping Myrtle is the largest of the group and was the plant that originally took my interest; it is such a graceful weeping tree.
I grow numerous Weeping Myrtle because of its habit, in the species form and in some of its newer forms. Agonis ‘After Dark’ is a cultivar growing, according to the label, to 6 metres by 3.5 metres with exceptionally deep burgundy-black foliage with small white flowers in spring. I have never seen it taller than 2.5 metres and it’s usually looking very ratty because it has been incorrectly positioned. From personal experience I have found that it is a great plant, albeit very slow growing, when planted in part shade with protection from hot winds and afternoon sun. Areas with low humidity are not suitable.
Agonis ‘Midnight Shadow’ is a large shrub reaching 2.5 metres by 1.5 metres, also with very dark purple foliage with claret red tones. The label states that it is fast growing, but to date I have not noticed this being pronounced. It may take off in growth next spring which I look forward to. Once again, it should be planted in a spot where it receives protection from direct sun and hot winds.
Agonis flexuosa nana has been around for many years and is a dwarf form of the parent plant Agonis flexuosa. This is a small to medium compact rounded shrub growing to 1.5 metres by the same width. The new growth is a rich red, changing to soft green as the season progresses. It has the typical small white flowers of the type in summer. This is a great coastal plant as are the rest of the group.
One of the new releases is Agonis flexuosa ‘Mini’ which is a small rounded shrub from 80cms tall by 1 metre wide. Its compact habit will make it a very useful small shrub for native and/or exotic gardens where a bun shape is required. It would also make a tough hedge plant. The new growth is mid green with copper tinged tips.
Another release soon to come on the market is Agonis flexuosa ‘Lemon n Lime’. Growing up to 6 to 10 metres tall depending on conditions, this sounds as though it will be a must have for native plant enthusiasts. I will certainly be looking out for it.
Agonis ‘Burgundy’ has been around for a number of years and still remains popular. It does grow taller than the labels state to 10 metres in good conditions. It is also a fast grower.
I tried on numerous occasions to grow the species form Agonis flexuosa in the Clare Valley, South Australia – with no success. It does well in soils with a limestone shelf which we had in this former garden but it seems to prefer the sandy topsoil of many coastal regions to really perform well. And they don’t like frost, albeit many gardening books will state that they tolerate frost. It sets them back to the point of no return.
In order to buy clean plants that have no indication of myrtle rust, I for one choose to buy my plants from reputable plant suppliers, preferably from an accredited source with high standards of hygiene.
(NSW Dept of Primary Industry has pictures that can help you identify myrtle rust)