One of my favourite Australian plants for the garden would have to be the cushion bush (Leucophyta brownii) with its amazing globe-like growth habit highlighted by the silvery glow-in-the-dark foliage and flowers. It is the perfect plant for salt-windswept coastal gardens and, well, really just gardens in general. Apart from being an almost zero maintenance plant that will win friends and influence passers-by, it is also one of a select bunch of Australian plants that can tolerate and even thrive in the alkaline soils that result from the limestone parent material that is often present where it grows in the wild.
I always love to seek out my favourite plants in the wild and the cushion bush has to be one of the most rewarding of all when you see its little cushions in their coastal homes. It can be found all around the southern coastline of Australia from Western Australia right across to Victoria and Tasmania and varies considerably across such a wide variety of longitudes. It can be intensely silver in WA to forming very large mounds on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria to having a slightly lemony tinge where I have most recently been cushion bush spotting on Kangaroo Island.
Kangaroo Island is a short ferry ride from the southern coast of South Australia and has an environment that is heavily influenced by the fact that you are never far from the sea and the ferocious winds that rip over the island from the Southern Ocean. The coastal areas provide for some of the more fascinating ‘wild gardens’ which often feature cushion bush amongst other ultra tough plants that cling on for dear life.
The pock-marked limestone that outcrops in many areas of the Kangaroo Island coastline makes for a sculptural background to cushion bush and the Australian succulents that often accompany it in its natural habitat such as pigface (Carpobrotus rossii) and coastal noon flower (Disphyma crassifolium). However, for my money it is when cushion bush is framed by rocky outcrops that it really comes to life in the landscape.
From a design point of view its wonderful shape, colour and texture can be used as a year round backdrop that can either contrast or harmonise with flower or foliage plants nearby. Interesting textural plants such as everlasting daisies and kangaroo paws are some famous Australians that sit well among the silver cushions.
If you are now inspired to grow cushion bush just give it plenty of sun and a well-drained spot and let it do its thing. It is fairly readily propagated from tip cuttings if you have a friend that has already discovered the joys of the great Australian cushion. You may wish to include some rocks to give it something to contrast with, but however it is presented I guarantee it will be noticed all year round. Apart from watering it in it does not need to be fertilised unless you particularly want to speed up its growth rate. Do not prune it under any circumstances!