All posts by anzplantsoc

Join Us

Join Us

By joining us you will not only gain access to the vast knowledge of our members but also a fantastic seed list, bi-annual journal and great days out visiting interesting collections of Australasian plants where we also hold plant swaps.

Details on how to join us can be found here.


Where To Go

Ever wondered where to go to see collections of Australian and New Zealand plants in the British Isles? Check out the ones below. There are no doubt many other places with interesting plants, and we would be pleased to hear of them. If you click on the Garden name it will take you to the web site of the garden.

National Botanic Garden Of Wales

Plas Newydd

Ventnor Botanic Gardens.

Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens.

Logan Botanic Gardens.

Lullingstone World Garden.

The Savill Garden.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.

Cambridge University Botanic Garden.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

Rowallane Garden, County Down.

Mount Stewart Garden, County Down.

Ness Botanic Gardens.

Sheffield Botanical Gardens.

Wakehurst Place.

Glenveagh Castle Gardens County Donegal.

Glasnevin, Dublin.

Mount Usher, County Wicklow.

Anigozanthos Flavidus

What’s On?

To find out what’s on, see the events below. If you have any questions then please contact our meetings organiser at


Saturday 9th June 2018: Cookscroft

Start Time: 11am

Cookscroft, APS members John and Jill Williams’ five acre garden, is located to the south west of Chichester, West Sussex. Being about one mile from the sea it has a relatively maritime climate. Started in 1988, it features cottage, woodland and Japanese style gardens, water features and borders of perennials with a particular emphasis on southern hemisphere plants. Of particular note to APS members will be the 40 eucalyptus species  together with collections of CorokiaCorreaCallistemonGrevillea and Hakea as well as a well grown Boronia heterophylla which has survived many years grown permanently outdoors. There will be an admission charge of £5.

For refreshments there are a number of pubs and restaurants local to the area although you  may need to prebook if wishing to attend the nearest.

Please contact Gary Firth at if you expect to attend.

Directions: Cookscroft is located in  Bookers Lane, Earnley, Chichester, PO20 7JG. Travelling from Chichester, after a long straight road in Birdham go left at the roundabout. One mile further on, on a sharp right hand bend, Bookers Lane goes off to the left from the apex of the bend. There may well be ”Diversion” signs but take no notice. Once you have entered the lane, Cookscroft is the second property on the left. Drive past the house and barns and you will see a double entrance on the left. Go through the first single gate and up the drive, turn right into the field and there is ample parking space.

A satnav should take you straight to Bookers Lane but beware of going too far down.


Thursday 19th July:  The Ecology of Banksia, Dryandra and Other Australian Proteaceae; a talk by Kevin and Kathy Collins of Banksia Farm

Location: Cambridge University Botanic Garden

10.30am: Meet at garden entrance

11am: Talk by Kevin and Kathy Collins in the garden’s classroom

12:30pm: Buffet Lunch at the gardens

13:30pm: Garden Tour with horticultural team.

Kevin and Kathy Collins of Banksia Farm are the holders of the only complete collection of Banksia in the world and are world authorities on the subject of Banksias and Dryandras, two of Australia’s most iconic genera.
See the following link for more information
An entrance fee to the garden of £6 will be charged to members attending the lecture.


8th September: Kew Gardens

Start Time: 11am at Victoria Gate, Kew Road

Point of Contact:

We will be visiting the newly reopened and replanted temperate house, Australasian plantings in the Princess of Wales Conservatory, Rock Garden and an exhibition of botanical art in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery called “The Florilegium, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney”.


12th September: Geoffrey Cooper’s Arboretum, Oxfordshire

Start Time: 12am

Point of Contact:

APS member Geoffrey Cooper’s six acres of rare trees and shrubs at Singe Wood in Oxfordshire have to be seen to be believed. Geoffrey pays close attention to his plants’ needs and to their provenance, and thus succeeds in growing many Australasian species well in what might seem to be a less than auspicious location. He has planted about 600 specimens, including 100 or so eucalypts, along with acacias and other Australasian shrubs and small trees, and Nothofagus from Australia, New Zealand and Chile, as well as trees and shrubs from other parts of the southern hemisphere, north America and Asia, all growing in a beautiful naturalistic setting.
As Singe Wood is not easy to find and parking is limited, we will meet at Geoffrey’s house (directions below) and leave at 12.00 sharp to drive to the arboretum, sharing cars if necessary. The terrain is a bit rough – think walk in a wood – and if it has recently rained it could be muddy, so sturdy footwear is a must. You will also need to bring lunch, including something to drink, as there are no nearby facilities.
Please contact Gary Firth at if you expect to attend.
Directions: Geoffrey’s address is Milton House, Cote, Bampton, Witney, Oxfordshire OX18 2EG, grid reference SP353027. From Aston (east of Bampton) travel about ¾ mile towards Standlake and Eynsham on the B4449 until you come to a crossroads. Turn right (towards Cote and Old Shifford; the lane has no name) and Milton House is about ¼ mile on the right. The entrance is between two stone pillars. Please park in the grounds, not on the road verge.


6th-7th October: Great Dixter Autumn Plant Fair

Times: 11am-4pm

Point of Contact:

Now under the stewardship of Fergus Garrett and the Great Dixter Charitable Trust, Great Dixter was for many years the family home of eminent gardener and garden writer Christopher Lloyd. Great Dixter’s plant fairs attract specialist nurseries from all over the UK and Europe and this year we will be attending to sell plants and publicise the society. Great Dixter is located just outside of Northiam in East Sussex, post code TN31 6PH; entrance to the fair is included within a garden entry ticket.

Please find more information about it here:


10th November: AGM, Lullingstone Castle

Start Time: 10am

Point of Contact:

All members are invited to attend the AGM which, thanks to our President’s continued generosity, we are again holding at Lullingstone Castle in Kent. This is always a terrific day, not least because the business aspects of the AGM are confined to the morning session and the remainder of the day is pure pleasure. After a buffet lunch Tom will take us round the World Garden and his varied undercover collections. In between there will be opportunities to catch up with old friends and make new ones, to purchase plants from specialist growers and to swap plants with other society members.


18th November: AGM at Lullingstone World Garden.

Start time 10am

As in previous years, we would like to welcome you to Lullingstone for what always proves to be a fun day.  The ‘business’ aspect of the AGM will be kept to the morning session and then after a break for a buffet lunch there will be the opportunity to visit the world famous ‘World Garden’, catch up with other members of the society, purchase plants from specialist nurseries and swap plants with other members.

30th September: Hastings, private garden and Alexandra Park

Start time: 10.30 am

Judy Clark’s small suburban garden will be open from 10.30. It is packed with around 300 southern hemisphere plants, the majority Australian, including a Plant Heritage national collection of correas, also know as Australian fuchsias. Correas bloom from August to March and, fingers crossed, many of them will have started flowering; see ‘What’s Growing’ for some pictures. This part of the event is joint with Plant Heritage Sussex.

Owen Johnson, author of the Collins Tree Guide, will show us round Alexandra Park, starting at 2pm. The tour will focus on southern hemisphere species but will not neglect other interesting trees. Alexandra Park is regarded as the best public park in England to see rare and well-grown trees, including 16 Champion trees.

For lunch bring a picnic or there is a reasonable cafe with a sea view about 5 minutes walk away on the West Hill.

Alexandra Park is a 20 to 25 minute walk from Judy’s house or a 5 minute drive plus a walk the length of which depends on where there’s a parking space.

Bring plants to swap or sell during the morning.

Contact Judy at for further details including directions.

 9th September (Provisional): Ness Botanic Gardens - Unfortunately this event is no longer going ahead. We hope to visit Ness in 2018.

5th August: Marks Hall Garden and Arboretum in Essex

Start Time: 10.30am

The Marks Hall collection is planted on a geographical theme with plants from the temperate regions of the world grouped together. There are areas representing Europe, Asia, North America and the Southern Hemisphere, set in more than 200 acres of historic landscape providing interest and enjoyment throughout the year.

Highlights include the Millennium Walk, designed for structure, colour and scent. The largest planting of Wollemi Pine in Europe and the inspired combination of traditional and contemporary planting in the 18th century walled garden.

Afterwards there will also be an opportunity to visit RHS Hyde Hall Gardens which is holding its annual show that weekend.

The gardens are situated between Coggeshall & Earls Colne, with access from the M11 & A12. There are brown and white signs on the A120 north of Coggeshall.

For further details please contact Gary Firth at


4th-9th July: RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

This year, the society will be displaying plants from Australia and New Zealand in conjunction with Plant Heritage, including representatives from National Collections and Plant Guardians, at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. There will be members manning the stand, so come along and say hello! This will also be a great opportunity to find some plants for sale from nurseries specialising in plants from Australia and New Zealand.


27th January: Linnean Society Tour

Start Time 10.30am (meet outside Burlington House on Piccadilly, London at 10.15am) 

Cost: A donation to the Linnean Society with a suggested minimum donation of £5 per person

Join us for a unusual opportunity to tour the collections of the longest standing society for the study of natural history. The Linnean Society of London is the world’s oldest active biological society. Founded in 1788, the Society takes its name from the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) whose botanical, zoological and library collections have been in its keeping since 1829. As it moves into its third century the Society continues to play a central role in the documentation of the world’s flora and fauna – as Linnaeus himself did – recognising the continuing importance of such work to biodiversity conservation.Boasting such famous names as Charles Darwin and Sir Joseph Banks among its fellows the societies collections hold treasures that are sure to be of interest to anyone interested in Australasian plants. Not least of all among these collections are two volumes of Celia Rosser’s ‘The Banksias’  which we have made a special request to see during our visit.

If you wish to attend please let Robbie Blackhall-Miles know by email at by 20th January 2017

Please direct all enquiries to


12th November: AGM at Lullingstone World Garden.

Start time 10am

After a record attendance to our AGM in 2015 we would like to welcome you back to Lullingstone for what always proves to be a fun day.  The ‘business’ aspect of the AGM will be kept to the morning session and then after a break for a buffet lunch there will be the opportunity to visit the world famous ‘World Garden’, catch up with other members of the society and purchase plants from other members and specialist nurseries.

21st August: Chelsea Physic Garden and Mona Abboud’s Garden, London. Meeting at 11am at the Main entrance to Chelsea Physic on Swan Walk, just off Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea.

The Chelsea Physic Garden was founded in 1673 by the Worshipful  Society of Apothecaries for its apprentices to study the medicinal qualities of plants. The focus of the garden remains plants of medicinal and ethnobotanical interest. They also grow rare and endangered species and plants named or introduced by people associated with the Garden’s history. Not to mention botanical order beds, collections of island endemic species and a large glasshouse for plants too tender to thrive outside. Medicinal plants on show include ones  associated with Aboriginal, Maori and South African tribal medicine. We anticipate that Head Gardener Nick Bailey will be able to show us round. An entrance fee for the Chelsea Physic garden applies.

APS member Mona Abboud is the holder of a National Collection of corokia. Her long narrow garden in Highgate is chock full of interesting plants, including many from Australia and New Zealand; more information can be found at

4th – 10th July: Maria and Gary Firth shall be showing Australian myrtles in the Plant Heritage area at the Hampton Court Flower Show.

22nd June: Judy Clark and Gary Firth will be among 5 Sussex Collection Holders talking on Plant Heritage Collections (Correas and Myrtles) at the Chichester Garden Fest (on from 20th – 22nd)

18th – 19th June: The Australasian Plant Society will have a stand at the ‘All About Plants’ event, held at RHS Wisley (in Wilsons Wood). This is a major Plant Society show featuring displays from many plant societies, large colour-filled central displays, information about showing and judging a range of plants, planting displays and master classes.
10am – 5pm Saturday and 10am – 4pm Sunday

Saturday 14th May: Open Garden Day at Maria and Gary Firth’s Garden in Haywards Heath at 10.30am and then on to Tim and Gill Burr’s Garden for 1.30pm.

15th February, 5.45pm to 7.15pm: Seed banking, the forest & mountain flora of New ZealandKew Mutual Improvement Society lecture by Gareth Porteous (Kew Diploma student). Venue: Jodrell lecture theatre, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. Price: £2 entry

11th January, 5.45pm to 7.15pm: Growing against the odds in AustraliaKew Mutual Improvement Society lecture by Rupert Harbinson (Kew Diploma student and APS member). Venue: Jodrell lecture theatre, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. Price: £2 entry


14th November: AGM at Lullingstone World Garden.

22nd August:

West Sussex, 22 August

Please note important changes to the advertised programme

The programme for this meeting has had to be changed due to the sudden serious illness of Gary Firth, at whose garden we were going to start our meeting. I’m sure everyone will join me in wishing Gary a very speedy recovery.

So, the day will start at  Borde Hill Garden ( where we will meet in the car park (parking is free) at 11 am. Borde Hill is 1½ miles north of Haywards Heath, 20 minutes north of Brighton, and 20 minutes south of Gatwick on the A23 (exit 10a via Balcombe). For satnav users the postcode is RH16 1XP. The garden is free to RHS members during August and National Trust members paying the full entry price get two for the price of one.

We will eat lunch at Borde Hill. There is an excellent cafe (I have been there), or bring your own. I anticipate that we will leave about 1.30 for our next venue.

In the afternoon we will visit Nymans (, approximately 15 minutes drive from Borde Hill. Since first  planning this meeting I have learned more about Australasian plants there and Gary has arranged for a member of staff to show us round. They are creating a new gully garden which will be almost solely devoted to Australasian plants. It won’t be fully open until next spring and it will be interesting to see it at this early stage and to find out about what plants they’ve chosen and why. There is also a Chilean walled garden and a South African bed, so plenty more of interest.

Entry to Nymans is free to National Trust members and, during August, to RHS members (as far as I can understand from  the RHS Members’ Handbook). The address is Nymans, Staplefield Road, Handcross, Haywards Heath, West  Sussex, RH17 6EB.

For anyone who wants to make a weekend of it on Sunday 23rd we will visit Wakehurst Place ( and a nursery or two if I can manage to organise something. Final arrangements will be made when we meet on the Saturday.

Do bring plants to swap and we will make some time for this during the day.

If you would like to attend please let Judy know in advance at


4th July: Sheffield Botanic Gardens and APS member Sue Kohler’s garden.


Saturday 7th June: Edinburgh Botanic Gardens + AGM

July 12th: Wakehurst Place

September 20th: Plas Newydd, Crug Farm & Fossil Garden

November 15th: Lullingstone World Garden


For Our National Meeting for 2013 we are going to The National Botanic Garden of Wales in South West Wales

We had a meeting there when it first opened, and it will be interesting to see how it has developed over the years.

We are planning to have a guided tour of the Great Glasshouse as part of the day, and whilst some time will be taken up by our AGM there will be plenty of time to look round.

And as an inducement as it is our AGM we will pay for entry for paid up members.

Our events have always been very enjoyable – a mix of sociable and learning about plants, so please put the date in your diary now.

Rhododendron viriosum

Australian Rhododendrons

There are over 900 rhododendron species. The genus is split into several subgenera, one of which is called Vireya. One of Vireya’s characteristics is the presence of scales on the leaves, stems, flowers and fruits. The purpose of these scales is not known but a possible explanation is that they help to protect the plant from the strong solar radiation on the tropical mountains where they are found.

The first mention of an Australian rhododendron  was when Baron von Mueller collected and named Rhododendron lochae  on the Bellenden Ker range, inland from Cairns in Queensland.  Nowadays the specific name, which commemorates Lady Loch, then wife of the Governor of Victoria and a patron of horticulture, is spelt lochiae. The first account of  R. lochiae being cultivated was in the Gardeners’ Chronicle in 1939, where it was reported as growing at Kew. In 1953 Rhododendron lochiae  appeared in the catalogue of Basil Hodgkins, at his nursery in Essendon, Victoria. It quickly became popular and was used as a parent of many hybrids.

In the early 1990s it became apparent that two different plants were being grown and sold as R. lochiae  and the botanist Lyn Craven discovered that the Hodgkin plant was new to science.  To change its name would have caused much confusion in horticulture all round the world, so Craven created a new type species and called the von Mueller plant R. notiale (meaning from the south). Unfortunately this action did not meet with the approval of international botanists so it was renamed R. viriosum, while the von Mueller plant remained as R. lochiae.


When not in flower the two plants are indistinguishable but in bloom they are easily separated:

R. lochiae has a curved floral tube, with the stamens on one side. This indicates that it is pollinated by birds.

R. viriosum has a straight floral tube, with the stamens arranged in a circle (see photo page 20).

It is possible that further species remain to be discovered in the mountains of North Queensland.


In the wild these plants grow both as epiphytes and on the ground, on steep slopes, and in rich soil with much organic matter. They are subject to frequent heavy downpours of rain and the cool mountains on which they are found are often misty. Although growing in acid conditions, they have a high requirement for calcium.

I have found that they can be grown in leafmould and in a mixture of equal parts of coarse and fine bark. Calcium was added as baking powder (it contains acid calcium phosphate). Temperature is also important. Temperatures below 5°C result in dark spots on the leaves, which also lose their gloss. A winter minimum of 10°C is recommended.  The compost must never be allowed to dry out, yet must be very well drained.

Seedlings bloom in their third year and for me that has been in August. However at the Tatton Park Flower Show R. viriosum has been shown in bloom in late July.

Author : Jeff  Irons

Published: Issue 47 (December 2011)

Acacia dealbata

Acacia dealbata

Seeing the picture of acacias on the Algarve on the cover of the May 2009 Pentachondra prompted me to write this article about Acacia dealbata.

A. dealbata is confined to Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory where it has the common name of Silver Wattle. In the United Kingdom it is called Mimosa or Florists’ Mimosa and  it used to be sold in posies or bunches by florists and even from street barrows in London. Flowering branches came into England from southern France but it is many years since I saw Mimosa on sale. Whilst much admired as a cut flower in Europe, in Australia it is considered bad luck to bring cut branches in flower into the house.

In southern parts of Australia it can make a shrub but more often it is a tree, especially in Tasmania where it can reach or even exceed 100 feet (30 metres). Most species of Australian acacia have their leaves replaced by phyllodes which are hard and spiny (see Jeff Irons’ article on the botany of Acacia in Pentachondra December 2008, page 8). Acacia dealbata has true bi-pinnate leaves which are silvery-grey, hence the common name. New stems and young leaves have a silvery pubescence which intensifies the leaf colouring. There are forms in which the leaves are glaucous rather than silvery, becoming almost blue in some selections. It was the blue leaved forms that were favoured by florists. In my experience, these forms are less hardy than the silvery grey ones.

Flowering occurs in winter or early spring. The yellow spheroidal heads of tiny fragrant flowers form large panicles. In the open this species tends to be tender and has not been reliably hardy in Britain except perhaps for the south west. But after 20 years of mild winters it might well be that it has become more widely established and plants have grown to flowering during that period. Flowering is variable and is dependent on summer warmth in the year before flowering.

My experience of it in southern England was in the earlier decade of the 1980s when cold winters with snow were frequent. I raised saplings from a range of wild collected seed from many sources. These were planted at the foot of a high south facing wall with most being killed off during the first winter. If they survived this stems were thicker and  roots had penetrated deeper and as a result these saplings were more likely to survive the next winter. My best result was with saplings raised from high altitude Tasmanian seed. One of these survived for four winters and  reached  a height of 15 feet (nearly 5 metres) only to be killed in the next.

Wattles are easy to raise from seed. Pour boiling water over the seed and allow it to remain in the cooled water for 24 hours before sowing. In my experience A. dealbata requires an acid soil and yet one can read in books that it will tolerate some alkalinity. Most usually, even in the milder winters, shrubs/trees will be grown against a south facing wall and this needs to be of considerable height.

A memorable experience, from when I was flying over Tasmania in winter on a journey from Melbourne to Hobart, was to see through the portholes mountain tops which were golden with the flowers of Silver Wattle.

Author: Brian Halliwell

Published: Issue 43 (December 2009)

Phyllocladus aspleniifolius

Celery-Top Pine

Early travellers along Tasmania’s rivers often saw what looked like the top of a bunch of celery sticking up above the general rainforest canopy. They called the tree that bears it Celery-top Pine. Botanists took a different view and thinking that the foliage resembled that of a Spleenwort, gave it the specific name aspleniifolius. They put it in the genus Phyllocladus.

So the botanical name of Celery-top Pine is Phyllocladus aspleniifolius.  The Greek word for leaf is phyllon and that for branch is cladon. So the name, daunting at first sight, actually tells us that the flattened branchlets (cladodes), which contain chlorophyll,  have taken over the function of the leaves and that the cladodes themselves are shaped like the frond of a Spleenwort (see photo page 9). The true leaves are minute deciduous scales, seen along the edges of the cladodes.

Plants can either bear flowers of one sex only, or can have separate male and female flowers. Often in clusters of 3 or 4, the flowers are borne on the cladode edges and the fruit, like that of a yew, is a small nutlet surrounded by a fleshy aril. Scale bracts at the base of the fruit turn pink or red and swell so that they partly enclose the aril, acting as bird attractants.

Phyllocladus used to be found over  a large part of S.E. Asia but today there are only four species, one in Australia and New Zealand and three others in Malesia. They are not pines (Australians give that name to all conifers) but are actually in the southern family Podocarpaceae.

Celery-top Pine is a tree with a straight bole and no buttresses. Although it can be up to 30 metres high, specimens of less than 20 metres are quite common.  Needing moist acid soil, in the wild it grows in conditions with cold winters and cool or humid summers with an annual rainfall of 1000-3000 millimetres. Seedlings have long narrow true leaves and quite quickly the new foliage is cladodes, not leaves. Like legumes and casuarinas the tree has a mycorrhizal association which enables it to utilize soil nitrogen, so seedlings should be put into a compost containing unsterilized soil and there are obvious implications for cuttings.

Nowadays it is confined to Tasmania, with a dwarfed subspecies alpina in New Zealand. This latter plant has a green ‘leaved’ and a glaucous ‘leaved’ form. Both can be found in British gardens. As pot specimens they enable gardeners with small gardens or alkaline soil to grow this delightful, handsome  and desirable tree.

Author : Jeff Irons

Published: Issue 43 (December 2009)

Sturt's Desert Pea

Growing Sturt’s Desert Pea

Sturt’s Desert Pea (Swainsona formosa) is one of the iconic plant species of inland Australia, and is the floral emblem of South Australia.  In the wild it can produce massed displays of extraordinary scarlet flowers, usually having a glossy black central boss.

The photograph on the front cover, taken in August 2006, shows one such display in the Cape Range National Park in Western Australia. It is worth noting that many populations in that park lack the glossy black boss on the flowers.

It is reputed to be fairly easy to cultivate in hot climates.  I  guess it has been cultivated in Britain occasionally, though I am not aware of any reports of this.  It seemed to be an interesting challenge….

I bought a small packet of seed in Australia in 2006, and decided to give it a go this spring.  The seed germinated well and rapidly using the bog method on an indoor windowsill, without any pre-treatment of the seed, following sowing on 5th May.  The young seedlings transplanted well into a peat-based compost containing 30% perlite, and grew on in the greenhouse. Then slugs discovered them (even in the greenhouse!).  I transplanted the surviving plants into 2 litre pots (both clay and plastic) containing a similar, well-drained, soil-free compost.  The plants that had survived the slugs grew well initially, but many succumbed to root rots in the dank conditions in July and August.  Two plants initiated flower buds during August, and one of these flowered in early September. This plant made a spectacular display on our kitchen windowsill before it too succumbed to a root rot. These flowers too had paler bosses than normally seen in the wild, but the red colouration was superb.

With hindsight, and having read more on the cultivation of this species, I may have achieved better results had I used a free-draining inorganic compost at transplanting.  And I am sure I would have seen better growth had there been more sun this summer!  Nevertheless, my experience does show that Sturt’s Pea can be grown to flowering fairly easily, and I’ll try again.

Author: John Purse

Published: Issue 41 (December 2008)

Baloskion tetraphyllum

Australian Restios

I have to start by confessing that I am a Restio addict.  I have been growing Restios from seed and buying plants when and where available for the past 8 years.  I now have 34 different species.  30 of which come from South Africa, 3 from Australia and 1 from New Zealand.  I find it easy to source seeds from South Africa but far more difficult to source seeds from Australia and New Zealand.

The Restionaceae is a family of rush like plants largely from the southern hemisphere.  They are valued for their great form and year round presence.  Many of them make great cut foliage, with individual stems that can last for months in water.  They have become popular in the florist cut foliage industry.

They are not easy to germinate.  Best germination comes when seeds are treated with ‘instant smoke’ prior to planting, and when they experience a marked difference between day and night temperatures after they are sown. After germination I place the seed tray outside in a sunny, windy position. During their first year the seedlings look very different from the adult plants and have numerous finely branched sterile culms.  In the second winter a new set of culms is made usually with the seedling morphology and the first year’s growth dies back.  Only in the third year do the plants reach the typical adult form.

All Restionaceae are dioecious (male and female flowers are borne on separate plants) and are wind pollinated.  I am experimenting at the moment having planted a male Elegia capensis upwind of a female Elegia capensis, I have gathered the seed and will be sowing it shortly and hoping that it is viable! Given sun, lots of air movement (which is never a problem in our coastal garden) and lots of water Restios grow very fast.   They prefer acid soil of low fertility and hate phosphorus.  They also hate root disturbance and can sulk for 2 years or more if moved or worse still split!!!!!!!!

Identifying Restios is a nightmare as is their names.

The Australian Restios I am growing are Baloskion australe (was Restio australis), Baloskion tetraphyllum (was Restio tetraphyllus) and Tremulina tremula (was Restio tremulus). The names were changed as the taxonomists decided that the Australian Restionaceae family was totally different from their South African cousins.  Certainly the South African Restios I am growing on the whole are much larger and robust than the Australians I am growing, but then I only have a very small representation of the Australian plants.  The sole New Zealand Restio I have is Leptocarpus similis and only one seed germinated so it is being carefully monitored.

I would love to try more Australasian Restios and would be very grateful for any information on seed sources in Australia and New Zealand.

If you do not have acid soil Restios can make stunning accent pot plants given the required sun, air movement and plenty of water. As they are fast growers they will need to be potted on frequently, but they look so good all year round unlike some other members of the grass family.

Author: Phemie Rose

Published: Issue 40 (May 2008)