GARDENING WITH DEBBI
AS a child, I loved the gumnut babies and banksia men, characters in the classic Australian book Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, written by May Gibbs.
I loved the cute pink blossoms, which I later learnt are modelled on the young gum tree nuts of Eucalyptus Caesia, better known as Silver Princess. It is still one of my favorite trees.
The Banksia men, on the other hand, were the villains of the story and modelled on aged banksia cones.
Known as the “big bad Banksia men”, these cones develop on the branches of Banksia ericifolia and look like little, ugly, wicked men with follicles for eyes and fat, duck billed mouths.
I was slightly scared of the banksia men. Banksia plants are also a favorite of mine, long associated with childhood memories.
Banksias are Australian native plants first identified by Sir Joseph Banks during Captain Cook’s exploration of the newly found continent.
This new genus of plants was named Banksia in Banks’ honour.
There are over 170 different species from prostrate woody shrubs to trees up to 30m tall.
Banksias are attractive, evergreen plants easily recognised by the large, erect cones of stiff, wiry flowers in shades of greenish-white, yellow, orange, red, pink and even violet.
Most have serrated leaves.
They are a popular garden plant due to their large coloured flowers and the nectar produced which attracts birds, bats, possums and bees to the garden. Try: W 2-3m is a large bushy shrub with large orange “candles” in autumn and winter.
gnarled trunk and branches. Great garden specimen or bonsai subject.
3-5m W 2-3m. It has patterned bark and long green leaves with a silver underside. Large pale yellow flowers summer to winter.
W 1-2m. Spectacular red and white spikes of bottlebrush-shaped flower heads in spring and summer.
forms of Banksia spinulosa have become popular; Banksia “Birthday 0.6m.