New England gardening: Growing a floral display

Bright display: Xerochrysum “Cockatoo” is a dense, compact bush with flower heads that are large.
Bright display: Xerochrysum “Cockatoo” is a dense, compact bush with flower heads that are large.

Cut flowers will brighten a house and will bring the garden inside. Exotic species have been the backbone of the cut flower trade for many years. In recent years native cut flowers have begun to appear in florists. Waratahs and Western Australian banksias are becoming readily available as cut flowers.

To avoid the cost of buying cut flowers, why not grow your own? With careful selection of varieties, it is possible to have a cut flower supply available for nearly 12 months of the year.

The cut flower possibilities described are all hardy, free-flowering plants that survive and thrive in local gardens.

Xerochrysum “Cockatoo” is one of the paper daisies which indicate that this cultivar may be used in fresh and dried cut flower arrangements.

“Cockatoo” is a dense, compact bush that will reach a height of one metre with a similar spread. The soft leaves have a greyish bloom. The flower heads are large, about seven centimetres across and light lemon with a golden orange centre. The flowers are held on long stems which make them ideal for cutting.

The main flowering period extends from spring to autumn with sporadic flowering at other times. Removing the flowers, at their peak, encourages more growth and blooms.

“Dargan Hill monarch” has similar growth habit and foliage. Its large flowers are golden yellow.

Chamelaucium uncinatum, the Geraldton wax as the common name suggests comes from Western Australia. The Geraldton Wax in local gardens, develops into a medium, spreading shrub. The leaves are narrow, light green and aromatic. The tea tree-shaped flowers cover plants for many months and they take kindly to being used in cut flower arrangements.

Thanks to the skill of plant breeders, Geraldton Wax flowers come in many colours ranging from white, pink, purple through to red.

Plants respond well to having large bunches of blooms removed and they reward the gardener by producing more flowers.

Bees and other pollinating insects are attracted to the nectar-rich flowers.

Philotheca myoporoides, the waxflower, was previously known as Eriostemon myoporoides. This popular shrub will reach a height of two metres. The leaves are narrow, up to eight centimetres long, with a slightly waxy appearance and aromatic. The buds are pink and open to star-shaped white flowers with five petals. The peak flowering period extends from late September to late November. At this time, the foliage disappears under the mass of blooms.

The waxflower takes kindly to cutting back and long, flower covered branches would be ideal for cut flower arrangements.

Philotheca myoporoides is a member of the Rutaceae family in company with the boronias, correas and exotic citrus.

Dodonaea boroniifolia is one of a large group of natives known as hop bushes. This species has insignificant flowers but eye-catching bright red, triangular seed cases. Cut stems have a long vase life and could be used in a striking indoor decoration.

These are just a sample of the native plants that may be grown in local gardens and harvested for cut flower arrangements.  

A happy Christmas and a horticulturally successful new year to all gardeners.