Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - Front Page - WITH HE­LEN

AN un­for­get­table sight of in­land Aus­tralia are Sturt’s Desert Peas.

Their pro­fu­sion of brilliant red and black flow­ers are held above grey-green scram­bling run­ners in brilliant ‘cart­wheels’ of 6 or 7 blooms.

The ex­plorer Wil­liam Dampier first gath­ered spec­i­mens of the flow­ers in 1699.

The com­mon name hon­ours Captain Charles Sturt, who sighted great swathes of these beau­ties dur­ing his 1844 in­land ex­pe­di­tion.

Pack­eted seed is avail­able for en­thu­si­as­tic gar­den­ers and can be grown suc­cess­fully in deep pots or in the ground.

In na­ture the peas grow in red sand over­lay­ing a moist and nu­tri­ent-rich clay base – per­fect con­di­tions for the deep roots.

To grow the plants suc­cess­fully, it’s im­por­tant to mimic the natural grow­ing con­di­tions.

Sturt’s Desert Peas do not tol­er­ate their roots be­ing dis­turbed, so plant the seeds in their per­ma­nent po­si­tion. Pre­pare a sunny site in early spring. Plan to pro­vide ad­e­quate mois­ture down to at least 30 cm from the sur­face. In­sert­ing a poly-tube or in­vert­ing a plas­tic 2 litre bot­tle with the base re­moved will help with getting water where it is needed.

If plant­ing in a pot, choose a deep one and add mois­ture-re­tain­ing crys­tals or per­lite in a layer at the bot­tom of the pot.

Af­ter scar­i­fy­ing (crack­ing) the seed coats by im­mers­ing in boil­ing water, plant and cover lightly with soil and keep moist.

Seeds will ger­mi­nate within a few days. Keep up the mois­ture, fer­til­ize reg­u­larly with an all-round water-sol­u­ble fer­til­izer and pro­tect from snails. Plants should flower from around Christ­mas. Sturt’s Desert Peas are an­nu­als. They are not frost-tol­er­ant. Ma­ture seeds pods may be kept for plant­ing the fol­low­ing spring.

Pro­tect from chew­ing grubs and other crit­ters by stor­ing in a zip-top bag in your freezer. Ready-to-flower grafted Desert Peas are also avail­able. The root­stock is the New Zealand Kaka Beak ( Clianthus puniceus).


ADDING MOIS­TURE: Wa­ter­ing tubes such as the one pic­tured next to this plant can help en­sure ad­e­quate mois­ture reaches the roots. STUN­NING: Sturt’s Desert Pea is a dra­matic ad­di­tion to the garden.

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