GAR­DEN HINTS

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

AMONGST the gi­ant Lon­don Plane Trees that dom­i­nate the King Ge­orge V Gar­dens in Wan­garatta, the ob­ser­vant plant en­thu­si­ast will spot some rare and fas­ci­nat­ing Aus­tralian rain­for­est trees.

Two of in­ter­est are a large, Cas­tanosper­mum aus­trale [Black Bean] grow­ing ad­ja­cent to Rowan Street, and a slender tree of ex­cep­tional beauty - the Firewheel Tree [Steno­car­pus sin­u­a­tus].

This grows along­side a tran­sect­ing path lead­ing from the chil­dren’s play­ground to Ovens Street. Look up! From Fe­bru­ary to May, you will be de­lighted with large, or­ange-red wagon wheels glow­ing in pro­fu­sion among lobed glossy deep green leaves. Firewheel trees are na­tive to NSW and Queens­land. They grow well in our dis­trict, are great bird-at­trac­tors and make a lovely gar­den spec­i­men.

Al­though they may reach 30 me­tres in their na­tive habi­tat, in cul­ti­va­tion they are slow-grow­ing, and may at­tain five me­tres in about 12 – 15 years.

They are a pop­u­lar street tree in Aus­tralia, and are planted ex­ten­sively in USA and parts of Europe.

A Firewheel Tree would be a de­light­ful fea­ture or shade tree in your gar­den.

Es­tab­lished plants are avail­able from lo­cal nurs­eries. Choose a po­si­tion in full sun or part shade. More rapid es­tab­lish­ment can be aided by mulching with well-rot­ted com­post and the ad­di­tion of a low-phos­pho­rus fer­til­izer.

Keep well-wa­tered dur­ing dry times, but, once es­tab­lished, they will tol­er­ate dry pe­ri­ods.

They can be lightly pruned to en­cour­age a pleas­ing shape. Pro­tect from se­vere frost un­til es­tab­lished. Seed-grown plants will flower in about 6–7 years. Like many rain­for­est trees, flow­ers may emerge from the trunk and bare stems as well as from pre­vi­ous year’s growth.

The 14-spoke wagon-wheel flow­ers ap­pear from Fe­bru­ary, last­ing un­til late May.

Clus­ters of seed cap­sules which fol­low the flow­er­ing pe­riod are large, solid and boat-shaped. They hold a pro­fu­sion of pa­pery seeds. Our gar­den spec­i­mens are 14 years old and are about four me­tres high.

We prop­a­gated our spec­i­mens from lo­cally col­lected seed.

DIS­TINC­TIVE: The blooms of the firewheel tree.

with He­len van Riet, AUS­TRALIAN PLANTS SO­CI­ETY (VIC­TO­RIA)

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