Stylish Plants

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Here is Don’s list of five stylish plants suitable for gardens in many areas of Australia.

Evergreen magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

The evergreen magnolia, or Bull Bay magnolia as it is commonly known, grows to around 20m (60′) in cultivation. It has dark, glossy green leaves with a rusty reverse, and large white, lemon scented flowers. It likes a deep, well-drained soil, which has added compost or old manure. It grows best in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and the tropics. In cooler zones it needs a warm, sheltered position.

There is a dwarf variety of the evergreen magnolia. ‘Little Gem’ has many of the attributes of its parent, including large, white fragrant flowers, but it is a smaller, more compact plant. ‘Little Gem’ will reach approximately 4m (12′) in height and 2.5m (8′) in width.

Frangipani (Plumeria cvs.)

Frangipanis bring a heady, romantic fragrance to the garden, as well as a wide choice of warm, tropical colours. In Australia, frangipanis are sold by colour, rather than variety, and the further north you go, the wider the colour choice.

Plumeria rubra is the most widely cultivated species in Australia, particularly the form acutifolia, which has white flowers with yellow centres. Other forms have yellow flowers sometimes flushed pink (lutea), deep pink flowers with yellow centres (rubra) and white flowers with yellow centres and red or pink tips (tricolor). Another lovely frangipani is P. obtusa, which has intensely fragrant, pure white flowers with yellow centres.

Frangipanis will grow and flower well as far south as Sydney and Perth, particularly in coastal gardens. In colder or inland areas grow them against a warm masonry wall, in a north facing position and protect them from frost.

Lilly pilly (Acmena smithii var. minor ‘Hot Flush’)

This is a sensational screening shrub to around 3m (10’) tall. It is a compact, pretty plant with cherry coloured new growth. Some species and varieties of lilly pilly are susceptible to attack by a tiny insect called a psyllid (Trioza egeniae). The psyllids suck sap from the new leaves, causing ugly oval lumps on the upper surface and corresponding depressions on the lower surface. However, ‘Hot Flush’ is a variety of the small leafed lilly pilly (Acmena smithii var. minor), which does not seem to be troubled by this pest.

Lilly pillies like a sheltered position in sun or part shade, with protection from frost. They will grow in all climates except frosty zones.

New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax cvs.)

These dramatic, clump-forming plants have long, sword-shaped leaves, which vary in colour depending on the variety. Most cultivars are frost hardy and grow well in almost any climate. Flax likes an open, sunny position, fertile soil and regular watering during summer. Remove spent flowers and old leaves that have been shredded by wind.

Liriope (Liriope muscari)

Liropes are clumping, grass-like perennials that make very stylish groundcovers or edging plants. There are many varieties, including some with stunning flowers and variegated foliage. Don showed a tall variety called ‘Evergreen Giant’, which was planted around the base of a specimen evergreen magnolia. Liropes like an open position in full sun or part shade, and a well-drained soil. They grow in most areas of Australia, except for the tropics.

Further information

Plants listed above are readily available at nurseries and garden centres.