GAR­DEN HINTS

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - FRONT PAGE - with HE­LEN

FROM the early 1400s, the Chi­nese, Por­tuguese, Span­ish, Dutch, Bri­tish and French sailed near the South­west coast of Western Aus­tralia. It was a coast­line fraught with dan­ger. Some ves­sels sought shelter from storms whipped up by the ‘roar­ing for­ties’. Some were ex­pe­di­tions, map­ping the coast and in­ves­ti­gat­ing the land­scape and its veg­e­ta­tion. The south-west of Western Aus­tralian is a botanist’s par­adise and worl­drenowned “bio­di­ver­sity hot spot”. The French bi­ol­o­gist Jac­ques La­bil­lardière sailed with the ex­pe­di­tion of D’En­tre­casteaux, in 1792. In De­cem­ber the ships en­coun­tered se­vere storms and, ex­hausted and short of wa­ter and food, sought shelter near Esper­ance Bay. The bi­ol­o­gists put their time on land to good use. La­bil­lardière’s vast plant col­lec­tion in­cluded Chorizema il­li­ci­folum which “was found with many other plants in a marly soil”. The name for this bril­liant flow­er­ing plant is aptly named. The Greek word Cho­ris means a dance and Zema means food or a drink­ing ves­sel. La­bil­lardière’s botan­i­cal col­lec­tions were pub­lished be­tween 1804-1806 and were the first im­por­tant pub­li­ca­tions on the botany of plants of Western Aus­tralia. There are about 25 species of Chorizema. They are mem­bers of the pea fam­ily. C. il­li­ci­folium is one of the most widely grown. This dense semi-climber reaches around 2 me­tres x 2 me­tres, Leaves are vari­able, but they are of­ten heart-shaped with toothed mar­gins. Flow­ers are spec­tac­u­lar, borne pro­fusely in loose racemes from Septem­ber to De­cem­ber. The stan­dard is orange, red and yel­low, the keel is pur­ple/pink. There are var­i­ous other forms, in­clud­ing one with a clear yel­low stan­dard. All Chorizema species are suit­able as gar­den or con­tainer plants. Chorizema species will grow in most rel­a­tively well-drained, moist soils. They en­joy dap­pled shade or par­tial sun. Some will tol­er­ate full sun. They should be pruned after flow­er­ing to re­tain a denser form. C. il­li­ci­folum may be cul­ti­vated suc­cess­fully from scar­i­fied seed. The seeds are tiny and need to be col­lected as soon as the pods ma­ture. It is ad­vis­able to store in the freezer for a few days to kill seed-eat­ing in­sects. C. il­li­ci­folum can also be grown from cut­tings.

with He­len van Riet AUS­TRALIAN PLANTS SO­CI­ETY (VIC)

VI­BRANT: Chorizema il­li­ci­folum (Holly Flame Pea).

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