LET IT SNOW IN SUM­MER

The Northern Star - - WEEKEND - WORDS: KATE HEFFERNAN

Bril­liant white flow­ers give melaleuca linari­ifo­lia its com­mon name of Snow in Sum­mer. Its height ranges from five to 10m with a dense crown of soft, pale green fo­liage, each leaf lin­ear in shape. From a dis­tance, it’s a sea of white, fluffy, brush-like flow­ers, but close up the fra­grant flow­ers are com­plex, with bun­dles of 30 to 60 massed sta­mens em­a­nat­ing from each flo­ral tube. After flow­er­ing, the tiny seeds de­velop in woody cap­sules along the branches.

The trunk of Snow in Sum­mer is an­other fea­ture. It has soft, spongy, al­most white pa­per bark – the orig­i­nal slow-cooker used by Abo­rig­i­nal Aus­tralians. Strips of bark were placed over slow-burn­ing em­bers, fish or meat added be­fore an­other bark layer, then cov­ered in soil or sand and cooked slowly.

Snow in Sum­mer is one of about 300 melaleuca species, al­most all en­demic to Aus­tralia. They are a habi­tat and food source for birds, na­tive bees, but­ter­flies and small mam­mals.

For gar­dens with­out space for a tree, there are sev­eral cul­ti­vated shrub forms read­ily avail­able from most nurs­eries.

Melaleuca Claret Tops is the per­fect name for a 1.5m bushy shrub that de­vel­ops rich deep pink to red new growth and creamy flow­ers. It makes a won­der­ful screen, in­for­mal hedge or potted spec­i­men.

A re­cent ad­di­tion to the list of melaleuca linari­ifo­lia cul­ti­vars is Melaleuca Lit­tle Red, which as the name sug­gests, has bril­liant red new growth.

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