Great time for patriotic planting

AUSTRALIA Day is a great day to plant an Aussie tree or shrub.

Here are a few suggestions, starting with our national flower Acacia pycnantha or Golden Wattle, an evergreen, small tree 4m-8m tall with an abundance of golden-yellow flowers in spring.

This plant has had an interesting path to being proclaimed our national flower. The then-Surveyor-General of NSW, Thomas Mitchell, collected the first specimen in 1836. He led many exploratory expeditions to the Murray and Darling River systems.

Archibald Campbell founded a Wattle Club in Victoria in 1899 to promote Wattle Day every September as a symbol of patriotism. On September 19, 1912, by royal warrant, it was introduced into the design of the Australian armorial bearings on the recommendation of Prime Minister Andrew Fisher. This wattle was also engraved on the golden trowel used by the Governor-General Lord Denman and other dignitaries at the laying of the foundation stone for Canberra.

While A. pycnantha was unofficially accepted as Australia’s national flower by most States, interestingly it was not proclaimed as such until 1988, our bicentenary year. A ceremonial planting by the Prime Minister’s wife, Mrs Hazel Hawke, took place at the Australian National Botanic Gardens on September 1, 1988. Four years later in 1992, September 1 was declared National Wattle Day.

WATTLE flowers are, in almost all cases, yellow or cream with one exception, the unusual red wattle, Acacia leprosa.

In 1995, two bushwalkers found a single mutant seedling growing in a Victorian forest. They took 12 cuttings to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.

Two survived to maturity, from which thousands of plants have since been propagated.

In 1998, the Melbourne Botanic Gardens applied for plant breeders’ rights over this rare and unusual red wattle and this was granted with the registered name of Acacia leprosa of Scarlet Blaze. In 2001, it was selected as Victoria’s floral emblem for the Centenary of Federation.

It has since been developed commercially by Plants Growers Australia, a well-known Victorian wholesale nursery, and is now readily available. This is a truly unique Aussie plant worthy of a place in any garden. You can see it growing at our Botanic Gardens.

MADE famous by May Gibbs and her stories of the Gumnut babies, banksias are available from huge specimens, suitable only for large country gardens, to those with the smallest garden.

For example, Banksia Birthday Candles, a dwarf variety of Banksia Spinulosa, will only grow to 0.5m tall x 1m spread and is a perfect container plant with its rich orange flowers and compact growth. It can even be grown on a sunny unit balcony, demonstrating that one does not have to have a large bush garden to grow Aussie plants.

Hints on growing Aussie plants:

  • Select a place in the garden that receives full sun for most of the day.

  • Good drainage is vital as most Aussie plants will not tolerate wet feet.

  • In heavy clay, add compost and washed river sand. Rotted pine needles are also ideal. Or apply Multicrop liquid Ground Breaker.

  • Mulch well, but keep the mulch away from the stems of plants to avoid collar rot. Canberra Organic Mulch from Canberra Sand and Gravel is ideal. Spent mushroom compost is not recommended due to its high lime content.

  • Water-in at planting time with a liquid seaweed solution to encourage new root growth. Do not use fertilisers containing phosphorus such as chicken manure, fresh or pelletised form. Blood and bone is also not recommended for the same reason.

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