GAR­DENS.

BLOOM­ING FROM LATE SPRING TO SUM­MER, VIS­IT­ING BIRDS, BEES AND BUTTERFLIES WILL LOVE THIS LILLI PILLI’S POW­DER-PUFF FLOW­ERS AS MUCH AS GAR­DEN­ERS DO

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - CONTENTS - WORDS AND PHOTO: KATE HE F FERN AN

One of the most pop­u­lar and well-known hedg­ing plants grown in Gold Coast gar­dens be­longs to the group of plants known as lilli pil­lies.

Most lilli pil­lies grow into trees, of­ten quite size­able and in some cases gi­ants of the rain­for­est. Over the past decade or so plant breed­ers have de­vel­oped dozens of cul­ti­vars, in­clud­ing tall nar­row spec­i­mens, per­fect where space is lim­ited, and dense bushy shrubs that tol­er­ate reg­u­lar and even heavy prun­ing to pro­vide a for­mal hedge or sim­ply to main­tain at a mod­er­ate size.

The genus name for lilli pil­lies is syzy­gium (siz-idg-eum). The name is de­rived from the Greek word syz­gos, which means yok­ing, re­lat­ing to a small lid or cap that joins the petals to­gether on some of the al­most 50 species that are na­tive to Aus­tralia.

Lo­cally there are eight dif­fer­ent syzy­gium species, two of which are en­dan­gered in their nat­u­ral habi­tat.

All lilli pil­lies de­velop fleshy fruits after flow­er­ing, of­ten ed­i­ble, some de­li­cious.

Syzy­gium luehman­nii, known as riberry, was an im­por­tant highly nu­tri­tious fruit of Aus­tralian Abo­rig­i­nals, and was one of the first na­tive fruits recog­nised by early colonists and used in jams, sauces and jel­lies.

An­other claim to fame for S.luehman­nii, the riberry (or small leaf lilli pilli) is its hy­bridi­s­a­tion or “cross­ing” with the ge­net­i­cally dif­fer­ent syzy­gium wilsonii, the red pow­der puff lilli pilli.

The re­sult is a small to mid-sized shrub which, if left without any prun­ing, may be­come a small semi-weep­ing tree around 4m tall.

The re­sult­ing hy­brid is called syzy­gium Cas­cade. It has flushes of bright pink soft new growth through­out the grow­ing sea­son in rich con­trast to its more ma­ture light green fo­liage.

It’s pos­si­ble to hedge Cas­cade, but it’s so lovely in its nat­u­ral form that a light prun­ing after flow­er­ing might be pre­ferred and is all that’s needed.

Fruits are also pink, and are ed­i­ble. Flow­ers will at­tract nec­tar-eat­ing birds, while the fruit will bring seed and soft fruit eat­ing birds. Na­tive and honey bees are at­tracted to the nec­tar, as are butterflies.

Syzy­gium Cas­cade grows in full sun to part shade and al­though it re­quires ad­e­quate mois­ture it is rel­a­tively tough through the dry sea­son.

It’s known as a drain friendly plant and is a use­ful wind break.

It’s also re­sis­tant to the small pim­ple-like dis­tor­tions some­times seen on other lilli pil­lies, caused by the nymph stage of a tiny psyl­lid in­sect, which be­comes em­bed­ded like scales into the un­der­side of fo­liage.

This is a great plant for gar­den­ers without space for one of the tall grow­ing lo­cal lilli pil­lies, or who don’t want a for­mal hedge.

It will flower from late spring through sum­mer, bring wildlife and re­ward with clus­ters of beau­ti­ful pink round pow­der-puff flow­ers up to 8cm di­am­e­ter.

If you need ev­i­dence of this great look­ing plant, check out the tall spec­i­mens in the dis­play gar­dens at the Gold Coast Re­gional Botanic Gar­dens where they are in flower now.

Kate Hef­fer­nan is a horticulturalist, ed­u­ca­tor and hon­orary life mem­ber of Friends of the Gold Coast Re­gional Botanic Gar­dens. You can lis­ten to her ra­dio show Gar­den Talk­back on ABC 91.7FM ev­ery Satur­day from 9am. She has de­signed a tour for gar­den lovers in Septem­ber 2018, in­clud­ing a cruise along the vine-clad rivers of Por­tu­gal and the South of France, stop­ping at his­toric vil­lages and vis­it­ing gar­dens. De­tails at kate­hef­fer­nan.com.au

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