Native plants make garden statements


A wide range of clumping New Zealand native plants can be used to add points of interest to the garden. They’re sometimes called ‘Designer Plants’ because their structural form makes design statements in the landscape. They usually make good pot specimens or can be used to draw attention to a part of the garden. Many have colourful leaves that add interest at a time when flowers are scarce.

Flax (Phormium species) are some of the best known native clumpers. These hardy plants will grow in a wide range of conditions and are now available in varied sizes, from 50cm dwarves to two-metre-tall giants. Leaf colours are naturally bronze or green but newer cultivars come in purple, red, apricot, cream, striped and many other shades. The flower stems on flax are a welcome bonus that attract tui and other honeyeaters into the garden. They can also be picked and used to make striking floral arrangements.

Watch for the flax caterpillar that chews strips out of the leaves. Control by spraying Yates Success at the first sign of damage. Scale insects can also adhere to the leaves and suck away at the sap from the protection of their scaly coating. Control by smothering with Conqueror Oil. Additional treatment with Yates Bug Oil can also help get rid of scale pests.

Cordylines (cabbage trees) are much loved for the iconic statements they make in the wild, but they can be similarly dramatic in the garden. The traditional, green leafed cabbage tree can grow up to ten metres but, fortunately, these days there are smaller growing varieties, many with coloured leaves. Cordyline ‘Purpurea’ usually reaches up to three metres, which makes it far more manageable for smaller gardens.
Cordyline ‘Red Fountain’ (pictured), a cross between two native species, was developed by well known New Zealand plant breeders, the Jury family. Red Fountain is close to trunkless, has deep burgundy leaves and looks particularly effective when planted en masse.

With all cabbage trees, watch out for leaf-spoiling fungi. A Yates Rose Gun may help to prevent and cure this problem.

Astelia ‘Silver Spear’, with its striking silver leaves, is a very lovely clumper. Astelia will grow in full sun or part shade and is valued for the distinctive shine it brings to a landscape.

Another very popular native plant is the rengarenga lily (Arthropodium cirratum). Its grey-blue, arching leaves are very soft to the touch. ‘Matapouri Bay’ is a widely grown selection that has short leaves and large white flowers.

Arthropodium is very versatile. It will grow in sun or shade and in dry, exposed conditions. It is especially useful when crowded as a ground cover beneath trees. Be vigilant about snail/slug control (sprinkle Blitzem or Baysol) as these introduced pests have developed a liking for the soft leaves.

Take care when feeding native plants as most are reasonably slow growers. A light sprinkling with Nutricote or Dynamic Lifter a couple of times a year will be all they’ll need.


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Annual Garden Calender