Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Australian native plants: Flannel flowers

Where I grew up in a less-than-distinguished part of Sydney’s north shore our house was built on rocky outcrops close to bushland. I remember my father being keen on retaining whatever native plants existed on what was really an otherwise desolate block – one thing he retained for years was a self-seeding clump of flannel flowers (Actinotus helianthi). I have had an interest in them since though I’ve never tried growing them because of (misleading) tales I had heard about difficulties of doing so.

But this year - in Melbourne - I did. I planted a compact variety in a pot containing a fair bit of gravelly sand and a good quality (low phosphorus) native potting mix. The drainage was perfect.

It grew quickly to become a mass of flowers that has lasted weeks.

They liked more water than I had believed - they wilt demonstrably if deprived. Apart from that all I did was cut back the spent blooms after they flowered. They are a beautiful native flower that is easy to grow.

By the way the best flannel flowers I have seen in Melbourne are at the northern end of the Melbourne University’s student union. They are adjacent to one of the best flowering waratahs I have seen in this city.

This whole area features West Australian banksias and dryandras – there is at least one very knowledgeable gardener at the University! The Melbourne campus has some spectacular shrubs and trees – near the Old Geology Building are a pair of male and female Ginkgo Giloba, a source of the widely-used brain food. These trees are also the best I’ve seen in Melbourne.

I should mention that the Melaleuca blog is good on native plants - this are some of Mel's favourite native plants.

4 comments:

theysaywordscanbleed said...

Are the petals of the flannel flowers felt-like or are they smooth?

hc said...

Are these alternatives? They have a dry, felt-like sort of feel but smooth. Like many flowers of the Australian bush they are unusual.

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