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.

14 Comments on “A Gem from Down-under

  1. Love the close-up of the flowers. They’re amazing – like an Ascot hat designed by an alien.

  2. this grevillea is a tough reliable plant commonly found in many aussie public landscapes – popular in the 70s –

    by the way many south eastern parts of Australia are cold and also experience snow – so there may be several other plants suited to the UK climate as well

    ooo don’t think a grevillea can be classified as a conifer?? i may be wrong

    • Sorry I didnt explain myself very well – the plant looks like a conifer although I realise it isn’t

  3. This is my first introduction to Grevillea. What an interesting and beautiful plant!

  4. Helen, anything with ‘Canberra’ in its name means it’s as tough as old boots, to Australian gardeners, as our national capital is a harsh climate by our standards: icy cold in winter, baking hot and dry in summer. I’m glad it’s thriving for you. Two growing tips for you: one is that grevilleas hate virtually all fertiliser, especially those with phosphorus in them. Here in Australia we use slow-release foods specially formulated (ie, low phosphorus) for natives such as grevilleas. The second tip is that grevilleas like to be pruned. At the very least cut off the faded flowers, but cutting it back lightly, annually, generally keeps the plants looking more dense, and flowering better. Good luck with it, yours looks wonderful.

  5. Jamie – thanks for the advice, writing the post had made me wonder about fertilising so will take you advice and also give it a light prune when it has finished flowering,

  6. I’m fascinated by this plant – my front garden is somewhat barren and because it faces a fairly busy road and is exposed to onshore Sussex winds, not a lot does well in it: hardy fuchsias and weeds, basically! So I’m wondering if a Grevillea might not actually rather like it there …

    • It worth giving it a go as it definately is a lovely shrub

  7. Why am I not over here every day?? You have the coolest plants growing in your garden. I’m green with envy. Love these blooms ~ they are crazy pretty. Also so neat that you are trialing beauty products ~ who wouldn’t like to do that?

  8. What a treasure to come by – you must have been so relieved that it survived the winter. A fascinating flower close up.

  9. Hello, I came back with a Grevillea Granberra Gem yesterday…and your blog says it all. Many thanks

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