Garden Weekends - by Amanda Crotty
Its not hard to see how these Australian evergreen shrubs and small trees got the common name of Bottlebrush, this perfectly describes the flowers produced from late spring through summer, with some types even flowering again in Autumn.
Callistemon are widely cultivated with flowers in colours of green, yellow, white, various shades of red and violet. Size varies from five feet shrubs to small trees with tough leaves and often with papery bark. Callistemon are worth a place in any garden as they grow under a wide range of conditions and put on quiet a show when in flower.
These primitive plants consisting of about 20 species are said to have been on the Australian continent for over 100 million years, pre dating the eucalypts.
Grass trees are very slow growing and may live to a great age. Normal growth rate is about 2 or 3 centimetres a year or about 1 metre in 30 years. They generally reach a height of 2 or 3 metres with some varieties growing to more than 5 metres. Some of these taller plants may be 500 or more years old, putting them amongst some of the oldest living plants.
Xanthorrhoea are the most unlikely looking members of the lily family. Found only in Australia with species in all states, it is thought to only flower once or twice every fifty years. Many insects and honey eating birds feast on the nectar produced when in flower. After flowering fruit capsules producing a few hard seeds are formed, these seeds are poisonous to humans and domestic animals but harmless to native animals.
The usefulness of the grasstree was appreciated by the indigenous Australians who gathered the longicorn grub, often found burrowed in the trunk for food. They also made use of the long spikes in framework construction of their shelters with the leaves used as a kind of thatching, and a type of resin extracted from the charred wood was used to fix heads to their spears and axes. Learn more about ilikesheds at www.ilikesheds.com .
Grass trees are well adapted to poor infertile soil and harsh conditions often found in arid, desert wastes, with the ability to survive bush fires. Another Australian beauty.
Coriander is an annual native to southern Europe and western Asia. Grows to 50cm, with finely cut upper leaves, small white or pink flowers and rounded seeds in beige seed coats.
This herb is now grown throughout the world for its spicey aromatic seeds, used in curry powder and other spice mixtures, ground seed used in cakes, cookies and making chutney, one or two crushed seeds adds flovour to hot coffee and whole seeds added to vegetables gives extra flavour.
Prefers to grow in light rich soil with full sun, seeds are best sown in early spring direct to where it is to flower then thinned as required. Corriander needs a long growing season for seeds to ripen properly.
In late summer when seeds have turned a light greyish brown, cut down the plant and leave in a dry airy place for 2 to 3 days then shake out seeds and store in air tight jars.
This plant has been used for well over 2000 years and is said to freshen breath, aid digestion and was used as a treatment for measles in 6th century china. It is said the plant has an unpleasant smell till the seeds ripen so its best not grown in confined places. I haven't noticed this with my plants though.