The surprise of the wattle

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Flowering wattles, Flinders Ranges, Australia, October 2018

In October, it seemed that wherever we went, there was yet another flowering wattle in action.  The genus Acacia is a wide church really.  Here in South West France, the ordinary thorny Acacia is considered a pest, not what you want in your garden, rampant, painful to deal with, and invasive.  But, in the dry conditions of Australia, the wattle is not only the national emblem but even has its own celebration day, Wattle Day on 1st September.  The Aboriginal people use wattle bark extracts as medicine and carve the hard wood.

This Dagger Wattle, Acacia siculiformis, with dramatic, slim, pointed phyllodes, not in fact leaves but flattened stems, matches the danger of the points with delicate, small, pale coloured pompoms of a creamy yellow.  I was lucky to see one, it is not very common and is endangered in Tasmania.

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The Dagger Wattle, Acacia siculiformis, Jindabyne, NSW, Australia, October 2018

In complete contrast, Acacia havilandiorum, found in the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra, just dripped softly with flowing bobbles of yellow- almost like lampshade trimming.  Commonly called the Needle Wattle, but no sharp dangers here.

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Acacia havilandiorum, Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra, October 2018

In the bush near Jindabyne, in the Snowy Mountains, perhaps the cooler conditions favoured small, or even tiny flowers.  These flowers below were so small that from a distance, I thought that they were berries.

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Unknown wattle with tiny flowers, Jindabyne, NSW, Australia, October 2018

Wattles are sometimes cream-coloured, but I only saw one.  Flowering heavily, with the additional yellow bobbled buds, it was a magnificent bush or small tree .  Difficult to be sure from just one photograph, but I think it is most likely to be the Bramble Wattle, Acacia victoriae.

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Cream flowered wattle, I think it is Acacia victoriae, somewhere in Australia, October 2018

This small, spreading bush wattle, had fabulous almost triangular paired leaves, and really tiny flowers, only in bud when I saw it.  Another Snowy Mountain find, near Jindabyne, I think it is Acacia pravissima.  If the photos on the link are true, the flowers would have become an explosive yellow- rather smart with the angular, emerald green foliage.

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Acacia pravissima, Jindabyne, NSW, Australia, October 2018

You can see how obsessive the slight changes in form, leaf and flower can be!  But it’s a bit of a needle in a haystack job to identify one from the other.

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Possibly the Box-leaf Wattle, Acacia buxifolia, somewhere in Australia, October 2018
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Wattles en masse, Flinders Ranges, Australia, October 2018

But just one tree can illuminate a landscape. Magnificent.

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The brilliance of one Wattle, Flinders Ranges, Australia, October 2018

Here and there…

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Colquhounia coccinea, Tostat, December 2018

Since we came back about 4 weeks ago, we have had only tiny frosts and some really warm, up to 20C, days.  It seems quite weird to be looking at flowering shrubs and plants that have been flowering non-stop since mid October and still are.  Colquhounia coccinea was a new addition in early Spring this year.  The link takes you to Louis the Plant Geek, who is also in love with this shrub. A bit of a risk as it is not reliably hardy, probably not to -10C which is my normal benchmark for hardiness- but I thought I would try it, keep an eye on it, plant against a southerly wall though facing North, and be prepared to dash out with the fleece as soon as it flags.  It is quite a big beast, already nearly 2m tall and about 1.5m wide, so no chance of a pot-solution.  So we will see, but right now it is flowering beautifully and we have warmish forecasts for the next week.

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Colquhounia coccinea detail, Tostat, December 2018

From the detailed photograph, you can see that it has felted stems, and certainly the growth pattern is very similar to a buddleia.  The colours are sensational, stacked on each stem so the bush is covered with flowers- really unexpected so close to winter.

I have some salvias that I am very fond of, that grow really big at the very end of the flowering season, and this year I am risking them staying in the ground and having the fleece to hand.  Once they get touched by the frost, I will cut them back to half the size to protect them from wind and then get fleecing.  Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’ won’t make it through without all this help, and it may not be enough, so I am planning on sprouting some cuttings in a jar of water tomorrow.  Same goes for Salvia ‘Anthony Parker’.  Both plants can easily reach 2m x 2m, so pots just get too heavy and unwieldy.

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Salvia ‘Anthony Parker’, Tostat, December 2018
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Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’, Tostat, December 2018

Other than that, I am waging early winter war on my blasted Michaelmas daisies.  I have no idea what variety they are, and you might think that they have been sent to torment me.  They were here in the garden when we arrived, and, mistakenly thinking that they were rather bonny, I spread them about a bit.  In Scotland, they were quite mild-mannered, but here in France, they are no respecters of decency at all.  They will burrow under, swamp from the sides and generally bully, any other plant that you care to name.  Getting them out, or trying to, is usually a Spring ritual- but this year I thought I would hit them while they are still standing and, even though I won’t 100% succeed, I will throw my best at them.

Back in Australia, picking up on the sensational colour-theme, there were so many incredible plants to be found, although I haven’t been able to identify all of them.  Here are some of my favourites to warm up early winter for us all.

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Erythrina x sykesii, Melbourne Royal Botanical Gardens, October 2018

This coral tree, Erythrina x sykesii, was a knock-out flowering against a brilliant blue sky in Melbourne Royal Botanical Gardens. The oldest specimen in cultivation is actually in the Australian National Botanical Gardens in Canberra, where it has been growing for over a hundred years, but somehow, I missed it there.

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Erythrina x sykesii detail, Melbourne Royal Botanical Gardens, October 2018
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Acacia havilandiorum, Australian National Botanical Gardens, Canberra, October 2018

Raining golden bobbles, this was one of the showiest wattles that we saw in the whole trip.  The slender, curving leaves encase the flowers- and the flower colour is exactly that brilliant yellow as in the photograph.

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Golden Grevillea, variety unknown, Grafton, NSW, October 2018

This very fine Grevillea was draping itself gracefully over a garden wall in Grafton, New South Wales.  It could be Grevillea robusta…perhaps.  if it is, it has an AGM from the RHS and is surprisingly hardy, down to about -8C, and is recommended for xeric gardens.  But topping out at 22m or so, makes it a big choice for most of us gardening in more ordinary circumstances.  But doesn’t that colour make you glad that it exists?