Banksias to take the breath away

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The very new-looking banksia garden at the Botanic Gardens.

“The Botanic Gardens has the largest collection of native plants in the world, and now, the largest collection of banksias,” says gardening writer CEDRIC BRYANT.

THE scope of the new banksia garden at the Australian National Botanic Gardens will take your breath away.

Like all new gardens, it may look bare at present and will take a few years for these new plantings to mature, but do take a look.

A majestic-looking banksia, one of hundreds.

The Friends of the ANBG have been an integral part of the gardens, providing guides, propagating plants for sale and funding projects in the gardens. Their latest contribution of $120,000 was for this new garden; a stupendous project with all construction done in-house. This entailed several hundred metres of stone walls, some of the best I’ve ever seen, to create the perfect drainage for many rare varieties.

Although various states have their own native plant gardens, our Botanic Gardens has the largest collection of native plants in the world. And now, this includes the largest collection of banksias.

Incidentally, this year marks the 200th anniversary of the death of Joseph Banks, who was instrumental in introducing so many of our native plants to the world at large. 

CONTINUING thunderstorms are keeping the rainwater tanks full. My last three-monthly water bill was just $113, the lowest ever – thank you, La Niña. The growth in our garden, particularly the abundance of flowers, has been no less than phenomenal. Daphne “Spring Pink”, covered with fragrant flowers, is a real winner. The ground cover Alstroemeria “Zsa Zsa”, with its crimson flowers, looks superb. Some would say this is too vigorous, but it’s so easy to pull up pieces and plant in bare spots.

Cedric Bryant.

Some salvias, such as S. “Heatwave Brilliance” are in flower now when they’re supposed to flower in autumn. Penstemons, with the flowers resembling someone sticking their tongue out, are also bursting forth. I cut these back to ground level in autumn and now they’re 40-50cm tall, with beautiful lavender flowers. And “wow” is the only word for the Clematis “Romantika”, with its deep purple flowers, and C. “General Sikorski” with huge pink blooms. Just how many flowers can one plant produce? Sweet peas in abundance are growing into the clematis. I have chives growing in conjunction with armeria, both with clusters of similar pincushion flowers.

All these plants can be grown with confidence, as I’ve tried and tested them for years. Ours is very much a trial garden, as wholesale plant growers send me plants to see how they survive in our climate.

HERE are a few reminders to consider when visiting a private Open Garden, events which are coming back as restrictions ease:

  • Never take cuttings or remove seeds off plants without asking permission of the owner. Gardeners are very good at sharing and in most cases, the owners will be happy to oblige.
  • Generally dogs are not permitted, with the exception of guide dogs.
  • Ask permission to take photos. Whilst it’s good to take photos of the whole garden I suggest you photograph specific features that can be used in your own. Or photograph plants you could add to your own garden. The owner may not be sure of plant names, so you can always take the photos to your local garden outlet.
  • Stop every now and again and look backwards, it’s amazing how many plants or features you may have missed.

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Cedric Bryant
Trained horticulturist and garden designer with over 30 years experience in the industry.

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