CURL’S COOL SIGN
BUCKINGHAMIAS ARE SPLENDID SPECIMEN TREES WHOSE LATE SUMMER FLOWERS SIGNAL THAT THE WORST OF THE HEAT WILL SOON BE OVER
Sub-tropical climates may not have the four distinct seasons of cooler climates, but there is still a very definite rhythm to the way that our plants behave throughout the year.
In the heat of summer, I am always very relieved to see the early signs of autumn. It seems to make the scorching heat, howling wind and ridiculous humidity a little easier to bear. Tiny buds forming on the camellias are always a joy. It will be several months before they are in bloom, but it’s reassuring to know that the process has begun.
One sign that you don’t have to look hard for is the blooming of the ivory curl trees (buckinghamia celsissima). These are absolutely beautiful small to medium trees, perfectly suited to our climate.
Buckinghamias are beautiful all year, with lovely glossy foliage that is bronze when new and then becomes rich green. They flower profusely in late summer and into autumn, bearing masses of large cream grevillea-like nectar-rich flowers that birds and bees just love. They are easy to grow, have no weed potential, and develop a lovely neat habit with a clear trunk and well-shaped canopy without the need for pruning. They are evergreen and don’t grow too big, reaching a height of about 8m in a garden. They will be shorter in cooler areas, and taller in shaded situations.
Although they occur naturally in the moist rainforests of Northern Queensland, they are extraordinarily adaptable; there are specimens which have been growing in the botanical gardens in Melbourne and Adelaide for more than 100 years. They have been extensively planted as street trees in Brisbane, where they provide welcome shade.
They will do best in rich, well-drained soil with adequate water while they are settling in, but are quite drought tolerant once established. They will grow in full sun to part shade.
They grow fairly quickly, and the growth rate will be enhanced if the conditions are good. So use water crystals in the bottom of the planting hole, enrich the soil with organic matter, and mulch well to conserve water and suppress weeds. Buckinghamias flower quite young, at about 2-5 years of age. They don’t seem to be bothered by any pests or diseases.