Sunday, August 8, 2010

Quiet achiever

There are several plants in this garden which are, essentially, Pammy's. It's my job to care for them, but they're Pam's plants. Pictured below is one such plant, looking good.

One day early last year Pam came home from an art course at the Botanic Gardens in Sydney and said "I want an Acacia cognata - it's really cute, very hairy, just like a pet animal." There was a nice specimen growing at the Botanic Gardens and so I had to find one, grow it so it was just as nice and, for ever and ever, keep it alive. (In ye olde days of yore way back when, brave knights rode out to slay dragons for their fair maids. These days, with dragons an endangered species, dragon-slaying is definitely out. And so I have to ride out and grow fussy natives.)

Fussy natives? Well, I only discovered this 'fussy' reputation after I read up on them, and then spoke to one of the gardening experts with whom I work, and the conversation went something like this...
Jamie: "I've just bought an Acacia cognata for Pam. Any tips?"
Expert: "Good luck."
Further enquiries revealed that this plant needs excellent soil drainage, light feeding, steady watering but never too much, and probably some nursing during humid weather (which it hates, and of which we get stacks in summer). Knowing all this, I decided that it would almost certainly die if I tried to grow it in the ground, so I opted for keeping it in a pot as its best chance of survival. Pots aren't perfect, but you can control soil drainage better with them, and you can move a plant to a safe spot during terrible weather.

This is how the new guy looked on Day One, early April, 2009. The first job was to put it in a better pot.

The potting mix was a specialised native potting mix, combined 50:50 with coarse propagating sand. A few weeks later and, in its new pot, it's putting on good growth. In fact this good growth continued all through autumn, then really took off again in spring last year, and by late spring I was sure it looked like it was getting too big for that pot. (What's all this 'fussy' malarky – it's a weed!) Nevertheless, concerned that it might grow too much and get pot-bound in mid-summer, I potted it up into its new (and current) larger, white pot.

And here it is this morning, green and long-haired with good health. So far so good. I think it likes me! This white pot has its own built-in pot feet, so the base sits off the ground by about 2cm.

So why call this post 'quiet achiever'? Well, this plant doesn't flower. It's just a foliage plant. It doesn't do much else. As it gets bigger the foliage should just keep growing all the way down to the ground. There's one form of Acacia cognata marketed as 'Cousin Itt', named after the very hairy character from the 'Addams Family' cult TV show from the 60s. So you get the picture. Apart from being cute and hairy, that's all it does. (Edit: this one is called 'Limelight', by the way.)

Well, its other trick is to put gardening knights in shining armour on permanent watch. Any moment, any time, it might just sag, then sigh, and say "I feel sick, mystery illness I'm afraid old chap, I think I'm on the way out." Until then, there's really nothing to worry about. Growth is good, foliage green. What could possibly go wrong?


Deb said...

YOu are a funny man! I like Cousin It.

Bangchik and Kakdah said...

Even if it doesn't flower,it has such beautiful flowing foliage.. At a glance, it resembles a healthy dwarf bamboo.... ~bangchik

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

It's strange, isn't it, that it's a native yet needs such attention. One would expect the reverse.

I think it would look nice if you planted a couple of large, shiny eyes on sticks in the pot - a really hairy monster!


Tony said...

Hi Jamie, I never saw this kind of plant here in the U.S.A. or I never looked for it. It looks real nice and you also have a nice blog. Happy Gardening to you Jamie.


Unknown said...

Beautiful... you know what - I killed mine about a year ago!

Susan said...

You know you shouldn't have said that? I've killed one as well but then I had it in our clay soil and I didn't know (until now) they were that particular about their conditions!

I do really like them though so I may get another one and try it in a pot.

life in a pink fibro said...

I love this little Acacia - I want one. My boys will want to pat it. Thanks for your sterling advice re my pouty camellia - I was hoping you'd pop by today!

robyn said...

yes good luck. Mine died!

Crazy Garden Lady said...

You're such a romantic! Made me sigh and smile and gaze fondly upon my own romantic fella, who is snoring like a champion on the lounge!

Chookie said...

I did't know it was fussy either, until both of my Limelights quietly died!

Anonymous said...

I bought one in 2011 when I first got into gardening. Planted it straight into the garden bed. Wilted not 24 hours later. It was shocking. But it was also in the middle of summer and I was asking for it.

Somehow I feel better now that i know it's a 'fussy' plant. So I never really had a chance as my first garden project anyway. :)

When I get some more courage, I'll try again next spring. Perhaps in a pot this time.

Jamie said...

Hi "anonymous"

Yep, planting in midsummer will kill em every time. The best time to plant natives is autumn or spring, and the smaller the plant the better, too.

If you try one in a pot next time, make sure to get some native potting mix (normal potting mix contains fertiliser which natives hate) and mix that potting mix up about 50:50 with coarse propagating sand, so the mix is very free-draining. And put the pot up on pot feet, so excess water totally drains away.

Good luck, you'll need it!