An exciting thing has happened in the world of Australian plants over the last twenty years. In response to shrinking gardens, plant breeders such as yours truly have been working hard to create dwarf varieties of many popular types of native plants from kangaroo paws to banksias and bottlebrush. So if you are one of those who are saying “Honey I shrunk the garden” then there are some vibrant bird attracting native plants that you really need to know about.
Numerous prostrate or dwarf banksias have appeared on the market over the last twenty years and these are well worth growing in containers. The various dwarf forms of the hairpin banksia (Banksia spinulosa) are probably the most appealing, and in particular ‘Birthday Candles’, ‘Cherry Candles’ and ‘Coastal Cushion’ have stood the test of time.
Prostrate forms of coastal banksia (Banksia integrifolia) and old man banksia (Banksia serrata) called ‘Roller Coaster’ and ‘Pygmy Possum’ respectively are also worthy courtyard plants.
The spider flowered Grevilleas are perhaps not as spectacular as some of their larger flowered cousins but they have much to recommend them as potted specimens. The Deua grevillea (Grevillea rhyolitica) from the south coast of NSW has provided the parent material for an exciting new range of small grevilleas that flower virtually all year round in most parts of Australia.
‘Lady O’ is a brilliant red flowered hybrid that grows to a height of 1-1.5m by a couple of metres across while ‘Deua Gold’ is slightly smaller in stature and boasts glowing golden flower heads throughout the year on an upright growth habit. If you are looking for a more compact plant with similar colour then ‘Goldfever’ grows to only 0.3 of a metre in height with a spread of 1.5 metres. ‘Ember Glow’ provides an orange-red alternative growing to around a metre in height by 2 metres across.
As a breeder of new kangaroo paw cultivars I declare my interest in this distinctively Australian plant group but would like to share my long experience of growing these fascinating plants in pots. One of the best cultivars I have bred is Anigozanthos ‘Bush Pearl’ which produces vibrant pink flowers to a height of around 50cm for much of the year.
‘Bush Diamond’ is an almost white flowered cultivar that has a dash of pink during the cooler months of the year. In addition the slightly taller varieties ‘Rampaging Roy Slaven’ and ‘Bush Fury’ also flower for most of the year.
Fan flowers (Scaevola)
The long flowering period of the fan flowers (Scaevola species) make them a great option for pot culture, with the fairy fan flower (Scaevola aemula) being the outstanding choice in my experience. This species is a very vigorous grower that flowers for up to 9 months of the year and looks great in either a medium sized pot or hanging basket depending on the cultivar.
Plant breeders have worked hard to create more compact growth habits as well as an extended range of colours. In addition to the normal purple forms there are several other options now such as whites, pinks, mauves and even a bicoloured type called ‘Zig Zag’. ‘Purple Fanfare’ is an old ground covering cultivar that has stood the test of time because of its capacity to flower from spring right through the warmer months to autumn. ‘Aussie Salute’ and ‘Fandango Erect Early Blue’ are interesting new cultivars for pot culture due to their more upright growth habit while ‘Aussie Crawl’ is a very compact ground covering purple type.
Native Fuchsias (Correa)
Correas are known as native fuchsia due to their tubular shaped, bird-attracting flowers. The fact that they flower through autumn and winter makes this group of plants an elegant addition to balconies and courtyards. Correa reflexa is perhaps the most adaptable of all the Correa species, being found right around the coastline of south eastern Australia and it has given rise to many beautiful cultivars.
‘Federation Belle’ grows to around half a metre in height and has relatively large red and green flowers. A whole new series of compact free flowering varieties has been released over the last few years by Bywong Nursery near Canberra including ‘Catie Bec’, ‘Green Dream’, ‘Jezabell’ and ‘Adorabell’
Australian native daisies in the genus Brachyscome provide a profusion of delicate daisy flowers at ground level in the garden. There are dozens of species worth growing but for pot culture, a group of cultivars that sucker from their root systems is particularly useful. The species Brachyscome angustifolia and Brachyscome formosa have been used by plant breeders to create some outstanding candidates for long term pot culture due to the way they can regrow if subjected to stressful conditions such as drying out.
The light purple flowered cultivars ‘Mauve Delight’ and ‘Pacific Breeze’ are long flowering types that need very little attention to be at their peak. The dark purple-pink flowers of ‘Hot Candy’ and ‘Pacific Reef’ are very showy and have flushes of flowers in both spring and autumn.
All of the varieties I have mentioned will have the added benefit of attracting various native creatures to your garden as well. Honeyeaters, spinebills and butterflies will all eventually find your little bush garden and further delight your senses.
You can learn more details about these and many other courtyard plants from my extensive Australian plant database at Gardening With Angus