Paws for thought

Not many flow­ers say Aus­tralian like the hardy anigozan­thos

Life & Style Weekend - - GARDEN - with Ma­ree Cur­ran Got a gar­den­ing ques­tion? Email ma­[email protected]­nat­by­ron.com.au

KANGAROO paws (anigozan­thos) are one of the most in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised Aus­tralian flow­ers. Their cu­ri­ously shaped paw-like blooms come in a range of colours and heights, and pro­vide a won­der­ful dis­play in the gar­den and in pots. They make a great cut flower.

Kangaroo paws have a clump­ing growth habit with strappy leaves. The flow­ers have a felt-like ap­pear­ance and are car­ried on stems above the fo­liage. A ma­ture plant can pro­duce more than 30 flower stems in a sea­son. Colours range from white through pink, red, orange, yel­low, mauve and even green.

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, the taller va­ri­eties, and those with green leaves (rather than the bluey or grey fo­liage) are the stronger grow­ers. They will last for many years in the gar­den. Va­ri­eties like Big Red, Yel­low Gem and Big Orange fall into this cat­e­gory. The dwarf forms have a shorter life span, flow­er­ing al­most year-round for a few years. They are best treated as an an­nual or short-lived peren­nial. Be­cause they flower so pro­fusely, they are fab­u­lous in pots. Bush Pear is a good one with blush pink flow­ers, and Bush Blitz is a lovely orange-bur­gundy.

Car­ing for your kangaroo paw is easy. First, choose a very sunny, well-drained po­si­tion. When plant­ing, en­sure that the crown of the plant is no deeper than it was in the pot, as plant­ing too deep will en­cour­age dis­ease. Once es­tab­lished, they are quite drought tol­er­ant, but they will re­quire some wa­ter to flour­ish. They will ap­pre­ci­ate an ap­pli­ca­tion of fer­tiliser a cou­ple of times a year. Wa­ter stress at flow­er­ing time will cause the flower stems to bend or fail al­to­gether. Try to keep the fo­liage and the crown of the plant dry when you wa­ter.

Re­move spent flower stems at the base, re­mov­ing the en­tire flow­er­ing shoot, leaves and all. If you are grow­ing the tall va­ri­eties, you can prune the whole plant back to ground level af­ter flow­er­ing to pro­mote a great flush of flow­ers the fol­low­ing spring.

In their nat­u­ral habi­tat, kangaroo paw have a deep root sys­tem, en­abling them to sur­vive in dry pe­ri­ods. So if you are grow­ing your paws in pots, it’s best to choose a deep pot to give that root sys­tem room to de­velop and make them less re­liant on fre­quent wa­ter­ing.

Leaf black­en­ing will some­times oc­cur when leaf or flower stem tis­sue dies. There are many causes, in­clud­ing frost, ex­ces­sive hu­mid­ity, too much or too lit­tle wa­ter, pes­ti­cide dam­age, and dis­ease. Fun­gal con­di­tions will also cause black or brown marks on the fo­liage.

The spec­tac­u­lar flow­ers more than com­pen­sate for the oc­ca­sional chal­lenges en­coun­tered.

PHOTO: GHEORGHE COSOVEANU

The drought tol­er­ant kangaroo paw.

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