This Coastal Banksia is attractive to birds like honeyeaters and a decorative plant for home gardens.
This Coastal Banksia is attractive to birds like honeyeaters and a decorative plant for home gardens. APN

Winter a native plant wonderland

IT'S amazing, isn't it, how so many northern hemisphere gardening traditions have embedded themselves in Australian culture.

One of the oddest is the idea that spring and summer are peak time for flowers.

This might be true from a cultivated garden perspective, bu thave a wander through some native bush anytime between May and September and you're likely to see a riot of colour.

In northern Europe, central Asis and north America, where the winters tend to be very cold, plants have adapted by going into a state of dormancy as temperatures begin to fall.

In spring they wake up and seek to make hay while sun shines by flowering and setting seed.

In Australia, things are a bit topsy turvy.

Lots of native plants have their main flowering season during winter.

There are a couple of theories for the timing.

One is that in some parts of the country, plants flower during the wet season, when there's a high chance of germination.

Another theory is that Australian plants have developed a synergistic relationship with native birds, many of which use winter flowers as a primary source of food.

The showiest of all the winter natives, in my opinion, are the large flowered grevilleas.

'Robyn Gordon' remains the standard bearer for most climates in Australia, with its beautiful cherry coloured flowers, and it's perfect for relatively small gardens.

If you've got more space and live in a frost-free climate, some of the bigger shrubs such as 'Golden Lyre' and 'Misty Pink' are stunning feature plants.

Groundcover varieties such as 'Bronze Rambler' and 'Poorinda Royal Mantle' are worth a go as well, but my all time favourite grevillea is 'Moonlight'.

Its creamy yellow flowers and dark green foliage are exquisite, but alas, it's not for cold winters and I can't grow it in my current garden.

Banksias are another standout winter plant.

Their erect flowers are a delight to the gardener and the birds, so look out for Banskia integrifolia, B serrata, and cultivars of B spinulosa such as 'Giant Candles' and the more compact 'Honeypots'.

Correas (native fuscia) are worth a go if you have well-drained soil, as if Hardenbergia (Happy Wanderer).

This relatively sedate climber produces showy purple flowers and is useful for hiding a low fence or covering a bank.

Then there's everlasting daisies, blueberry ash...the list goes on and on.

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