(Photo: E. Cousins, Cape Jervis; feathery fronds overhanging another bush, plant in full bloom in November)
Looking for a showy, clumping grass for a coastal garden? This one is a beauty when in bloom, normally from August to January, because of its misty look. It is a perennial, tufted native grass, growing up to 1m tall from a small rhizome underground. It often likes to grow near shrubs whose foliage will help support the flower stems and the narrow (up to 3mm) leaves, as in the first photo above. The open, diffuse flower heads seem to shimmer in sunlight, because of the long silky hairs on them (see 1st photo again). The flowers have a long, bent stalk, tipped with a bristle (or awn); the stalk itself has one very pronounced bend, and another less obvious second one. This arrangement helps the seed to bury itself in the ground, after clusters of the seed heads are dispersed by being blown off in the breeze.
(Agapanthus praecox subsp. orientalis)
(Photos: E. Cousins; leaves and habit, 6-petalled blue flower, three-sided fruits.)
Here’s another fence-jumper! This is a really hardy garden plant, with long, dense strappy leaves the whole year round, a tuberous/rhizomous root system, and lovely, lanky 1m flower stems that abound in summer. Low maintenance, showy, grows just about anywhere, drought resistant…no wonder they are so popular! Each flower stem produces up to 100 blue or white bell-shaped flowers; each flower can produce a three-sided fruit, and fruits can produce 20-100 viable seeds …that’s a lot of seeds per plant, to be spread on coastal winds! So please, dead-head the flower stems when the fruits are green (or earlier) before this lovely plant becomes another problem for the coastline!! Alternatively, buy hybridized cultivars that set very little seed e.g. miniatures, or Queen Mum.
Carolyn’s Corner – April 2016
Local seed is best – or is it? An accepted dogma is that seed sourced locally is best for revegetation. But what is local? 10 km along the coast from Cape Jervis is very different from 10 km inland. A researcher from Adelaide University, Prof Andy Lowe, and his team have suggested that using 10-20% of seed sourced from hotter and drier areas could produce habitats with greater resilience in the face of increasingly variable weather patterns/climate change. Their reasoning is that this will promote biodiversity and prevent the “fixation” of adaptations to past environments. To read more, see the Oct 2015 edition of ReLeaf magazine (http://www.treesforlife.org.au/resources/our-publications).
Plants in the Cape Jervis area are often smaller and more drought tolerant than their Adelaide Hills counter parts, so perhaps sourcing seed from a coastal region further afield may be good for species such as the “critically endangered” Hibbertia pallidiflora. These two plants were photographed at Lands End Jan 23 (left) and were doing it really tough. February rains brought an amazing recovery for these two plants (23rd Feb), but will they be so lucky during the next drought?
Next get together, 2 & 3 Apr 2016. Training & great cakes provided.
We welcome new volunteers. Contact Carolyn Schultz 0448 909 881.