GAR­DEN­ING WITH DEBBI

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - Front Page - WITH DEBBI GIB­SON, HORTICULTURALIST

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.

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