Saturday, February 13, 2010

Showers of colour

There I was mid-afternoon sitting by my outdoor table under the covered pergola, enjoying a pot of tea and a quiet read of the Saturday papers. It was a pleasantly warm, cloudy, very humid day cooled by regular light showers of rain. The lazy slob that lurks deep within my soul was quietly cheering at the prospect of doing no sweat-drenched gardening in this dreadful humidity, and I admit I was on the slob's side, too. However, instead of reading about the appalling level of executive salaries (my annual wage in a day!) my eyes kept on wandering out towards the garden.

Something utterly familiar was looking especially lovely, probably the loveliest it has been in quite some time. And I'm sure all the recent rain is the cause of this sudden burst of richly coloured blooming in my grevilleas.

The grevilleas are blooming beautifully at the moment, and as I've done nothing whatsoever to encourage them I can take no credit. It's all their own work, plus thanks to Huey for all the recent rain.

This plant has a bit of an identity problem. The label when I bought it from a specialist native nursery several years ago definitely said it was Grevillea 'Superb', because that is what I was after. And while it looks superb at the moment, it's not orangey-red like a real 'Superb'. Instead, it's rich red, like the very common G. 'Robyn Gordon', which is closely related. And while 'Robyn Gordon' is regarded as boring because it's so common in gardens, it's not at all dull when it looks this good. Maybe I should compromise and call this one Grevillea 'Superb Robyn' and think of it as named accurately after my oldest sister? Much better!

One little thing I love about grevilleas is the way the individual curly needles of colour unfurl from their fuzzy casings, starting at the wide base and ending at the tips.

Across the other side of the path the Grevillea 'Peaches and Cream' is also in its pomp, flowering as it has never done before. This is a youngster only a few years old, and last year I wondered if there was something wrong with it, as the native birds which flock to the 'Superb Robyn' left it alone for some reason. This year no such problem. In fact it's squabbled over at times by different nectar-eaters, so all is now as it should be. As it's only a few feet from our back door, it has brought various native birds much closer to Pam's studio/office, which is a treat.

Peaches and Cream is Pam's grevillea. She saw one growing in a nearby street, took a photo, told me to get one (no, not 'asked me'!) and picked out where it was to be planted. I showed the photo to Geoffrey at work, he identified it, I bought it and planted it, nursed it to good health when it was a sickly child, and it's definitely still Pam's grevillea. She keeps a close eye on its welfare. Should it ever get sick again, I'm in trouble (or at least on duty until it gets well).

Australian natives are some of the most misunderstood plants in our gardens. While they're well adapted to our dry climate and can survive long dry spells better than many other plants, the fact is that they love a good amount of rain, provided the soil isn't gluggy, boggy and heavy.

In fact, Australian natives often look and smell their loveliest on a rainy day. If ever you're planning a bushwalk in Australia and are tempted to cancel it because it's raining, don't. Go for that walk through the bush in the rain. It smells so incredibly lovely, the colours change, many of them to softer hues, others simply to new hues you won't have seen before. But even if you can't quite make it out into the bush, next time it rains in your garden make sure to visit your native plants – they're very likely to be at their nicest then.


Evelyn Howard said...

These are beautiful. I love them both - yours and Pam's. Hope you are having a nice weekend.

Bangchik said...

I call that beautiful... brush look, exotic looking! ~bangchik

Chookie said...

'Robyn Gordon' boring? Humph! It's only ubiquitous in Sydney because it's such a fine plant. How can you argue with something that flowers so frequently and is so hardy? If anyone tells you it's boring, give them a slap around the head from me!

Glennis said...

There are lots of lovely Gravillias, you have some nice ones.

Onesimus said...

My love for Grevilleas started because of a magnificent Robyn Gordon that grew near the front door of a former home. When I sold the place the new owners ripped the plant up!!!

I haven't been able to grow a Robyn Gordon where I now live. They don't like the frost. I've been able so far to mollycoddle a Ned Kelly through winter (which is similar to the Robyn Gordon) but it still takes a beating from the cold and requires some heavy pruning afterwards to remove the frost-burned leaves.

My pride and joy is a Grevillea Bulli Princess. So far I haven't had the best of flower displays from it but it gets better each year. When it's fully established and mature the flowers are stunning, changing colour with age.