SHOWY NEAR AND FAR

WARATAHS MAKE A GREAT DIS­PLAY FROM A DIS­TANCE AND AN EVEN BET­TER ONE CLOSE UP – IN­CLUD­ING AS CUT FLOW­ERS

Life & Style Weekend - - MAGAZINE | GARDEN - GREENTHUMB WORDS: MARE E CUR­RAN Got a gardening ques­tion? Email [email protected]­nat­by­ron.com.au

Australia is blessed with many beau­ti­ful flow­er­ing plants, and telo­pea specio­sis­sima is one of the most spec­tac­u­lar of all. Per­haps that is why it is the flo­ral em­blem of New South Wales.

The name telo­pea is de­rived from the Greek telo­pos, mean­ing seen from afar, and refers to the great dis­tance from which the crim­son flow­ers are vis­i­ble. The spe­cific name specio­sis­sima is the su­perla­tive of the Latin ad­jec­tive specio­sus, mean­ing beau­ti­ful or hand­some.

Telo­pea are com­monly known as waratahs. This is the Abo­rig­i­nal name and it was adopted by the early set­tlers at Port Jack­son and re­mains in com­mon us­age.

The telo­pea Shady Lady se­ries are a hy­brid form, a cross be­tween telo­pea specio­sis­sima and telo­pea ore­ades. They only grow to about 3m, and have large flow­ers in pink, crim­son, red, yel­low and, of course, white. Their long-last­ing flow­ers ap­pear from late win­ter into spring, and

at­tract nec­tar-seek­ing birds. The red and crim­son forms make a spec­tac­u­lar wind­break. The leaves are large and leath­ery, and may have ir­reg­u­lar ser­ra­tions on the edges. The new growth on the dark flow­er­ing forms of­ten has some dark tones.

Like their South African cousins the proteas, waratahs make a great cut flower and are grown com­mer­cially for this pur­pose.

If you would like to grow a waratah, you will need a site with good drainage, plenty of air cir­cu­la­tion and, ideally, pro­tec­tion from the hot af­ter­noon sun. If your drainage is not as good as it could be, cre­ate a mound or raised bed, but be sure to break up the ex­ist­ing soil first so the new soil can be in­cor­po­rated with the old.

Mulch well to help keep the soil moist, re­duce weed growth and keep the sur­face roots cool. Waratahs are not as drought tol­er­ant as some other na­tive plants, so you’ll need to wa­ter dur­ing par­tic­u­larly hot or dry spells.

Waratahs re­spond well to prun­ing, which en­cour­ages flow­er­ing and keeps them look­ing good. You can cut the flow­ers to en­joy in­doors or leave them on the plant un­til they are spent. When you do prune, take off about half of the flow­er­ing stem. Don’t prune the non-flow­er­ing stems be­cause they are next year’s flow­ers.

Shady Lady waratahs are well suited to many gar­den styles, and thanks to their com­pact size there is room for one even in the small­est of gar­dens.

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