Tips for grow­ing the un­der­rated win­ter win­ner the na­tive fuch­sia

The na­tive plants that pop­u­late our sur­round­ing hills are part of who we are as Tas­ma­ni­ans — rugged with a touch of bril­liance — writes TINO CARNEVALE

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - NEWS - Tino Carnevale:

The na­tive fuch­sia is proper tough and makes its ex­otic name­sake look like a bit of a sooky la la.

When peo­ple talk about their favourite win­ter blooms the usual sus­pects such as camel­lia and jon­quil are the first to come to mind, but per­son­ally I give big ups to the lo­cal un­der­rated win­ter win­ner the na­tive fuch­sia. Now when you think fuch­sia, like me it may be as an eight-year-old sneak­ily pop­ping the plump flower buds of Nanna’s ex­otic fuch­sia col­lec­tion. Such a sat­is­fy­ing pop.

The na­tive fuch­sia botan­i­cally known as Cor­rea re­flexa does not pos­sess this popable qual­ity, which is prob­a­bly good for the blood pres­sure of Nan­nas ev­ery­where. When you work in a nurs­ery there are few plants that you can be con­fi­dent to rec­om­mend to clients that need ev­ery­thing — at­trac­tive, com­pact, nice fo­liage and colour­ful flow­ers, frost hardy, low and low wa­ter needs and also ca­pa­ble of grow­ing in next to no soil un­der a gum tree. It’s quite a list.

There are about a dozen dif­fer­ent species of Cor­rea with a few en­demic to Tas­ma­nia and within the Cor­rea re­flexa there is a lot of vari­a­tion. Dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties grow on our rocky north coast, the wild west, the dry east, the hilly cen­tre and all the way down to the re­mote south. They grow well pretty much any­where around our is­land.

There has been much in the way of se­lec­tion and de­vel­op­ment of Cor­rea cul­ti­vars over the last decade or so, mean­ing there is now a greater se­lec­tion to suit the needs of the home gar­dener.

Cor­reas come in many shapes and sizes. There is the mag­nif­i­cent ground cover Cor­rea re­flexa “Dusky Bells” with its green-tipped pink flow­ers and its im­pres­sive 2 to 4 me­tre spread, then there is the more the com­pact Can­berra belle and the Fed­er­a­tion belle which was re­leased to com­mem­o­rate the foun­da­tion of Aus­tralia.

Th­ese are per­fect for pots and peren­nial bor­ders and of course there is their chunkier cousin the white Cor­rea, Cor­rea alba, which in my opin­ion is one of the best hedg­ing and screen­ing plants for its speed of de­vel­op­ment, its den­sity of foli­main­te­nance

age, its longevity and its ap­pear­ance.

It is rare that I am able to write about a plant that will flour­ish in an open sunny po­si­tion but also does quite well in shade, in full shade po­si­tions the plant will flower less and may be­come a lit­tle strag­gly reach­ing for the sun but it will still grow.

As I have stated be­fore, this plant is proper tough and makes its ex­otic name­sake look like a bit of a sooky la la. With next to no at­ten­tion it sur­vives but with only a small amount of love it thrives.

Cor­reas have long fi­brous root sys­tems which is one of the rea­sons they are so hardy. Be­cause of this, de­pend­ing on how ex­treme the site con­di­tions are, I like to put a bit of ef­fort into the prepa­ra­tion of the plant­ing hole as the quicker and larger those roots de­velop the bet­ter the plant will be able to fend for it­self. If I am plant­ing a cor­rea as a spec­i­men in a pot or gar­den bed I usu­ally in­vest in larger plant but when try­ing to pop­u­late a no-grow area or form­ing a hedge I like to use small tube stock with es­tab­lished roots. I find that th­ese take bet­ter and as a re­sult catch up to the size of a more ma­ture plant any­way.

Wa­ter them in well. In some po­si­tions and some sea­sons that may be all they need. To keep them look­ing tip top I give them a drink dur­ing hot dry con­di­tions and a small hand­ful of blood and bone or pel­letised chook ma­nure in early au­tumn.

Many of the new va­ri­eties of cor­reas don’t need a lot of trimming. I usu­ally find pinch-prun­ing us­ing your thumb and fore­fin­ger to take off soft grow­ing tips through­out the year is enough to keep the plants com­pact if that is the de­sired ef­fect. Large spec­i­mens of Cor­rea alba may need the as­sis­tance of a set of shears or in the case of a hedge, a pow­ered trim­mer can be em­ployed.

Prun­ing not only shapes your plant, it gives you the op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate more as cor­rea do prop­a­gate very well from cut­tings.

When I started in hor­ti­cul­ture many decades ago I was dis­mayed by the gen­eral at­ti­tude to­wards our coun­try’s plant her­itage. To me, the plants that pop­u­late our sur­round­ing hills are in some way part of who we are as Tas­ma­ni­ans, rugged with a touch of bril­liance.

It is thanks to pas­sion­ate peo­ple study­ing and hunt­ing down new types, pro­mot­ing and grow­ing plant species like the cor­rea that we are able to ap­pre­ci­ate them more in the gar­den en­vi­ron­ment.

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