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
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.