A Gem from Down-under
I have a love hate relationship with my front garden as has been documented many times on this blog but I think the relationship is heading towards more love than hate. There are two large plants in my garden which I adore: one is a birch tree the boys bought a few years back for my birthday and the second is my Grevillea Canberra Gem.
I bought the Grevillea about 3 years ago from a small nursery near Malmesbury. My sister, a novice gardener, was desperate to show me a new nursery she had discovered as she suspected it was full of good plants. She was right, the Walled Garden nursery was very small but packed full of fab plants, in most cases only one of each. In amongst the plants I spotted the Grevillea Canberra Gem.
Strangely I had been reading Christopher Lloyd’s ‘Colour for Adventurous Gardeners’ in which Lloyd includes the Grevillea in his red section. I have a strong disliking of conifers, primarily because many of them bring me out in a rash, but I was rather taken by the red flowers. All I knew was that the plant originated from Australia but the guy at the nursery assured me it should be fairly hardy outside.
A bit of research showed that the Grevillea is a member of the Proteaceae family, therefore not a conifer, and as suspected originated in Australiasia. My A-Z of plants had it down as tender to down to -5 so I decided to plant it out in the front garden where it would get the most sun and the soil was fairly well drained. The plant has established quickly and is really putting on growth so I am glad I left plenty of space round it – it can grow up to 12ft high and as wide.
I am amazed at how floriflorious the plant is and how early it starts flowering. The last two years the shrub has been in flower as early as late March/early April and is a real magnet for bees. In fact it often has more bees around it than the nearby lavender. Not only does it flower early and plentifully but the flowers carry on for months.
Naturally this winter, my Grevillea was one of the plants I was worried about. The weight of the snow was bending the branches down and I was out after each snow fall shaking the snow off to try and avoid the branches breaking. I was convinced that the prolonged coldness would be too much for the plant, after all they do originate from down under and it wasn’t listed as fully hardy; but I needn’t have worried. Whilst it was late to flower this year, it is flowering as much as in previous years and already seems to have put on growth. The only down side is that the stems don’t seem to have as many linear leaves on as I remember them having last year; they are described in the A-Z as ‘crowded’ with leaves and this doesn’t seem to be the case at the moment. Hopefully with a bit of sun and some warmer temperatures it will fill out. The bees are certainly appreciating it at the moment.