Armidale gardening: Melaleucas have much to offer

Little beauty: Melaleuca micromera rarely grows taller than 1m high and can be used as a foreground plant in a native garden bed.

Little beauty: Melaleuca micromera rarely grows taller than 1m high and can be used as a foreground plant in a native garden bed.

The melaleucas belong to the Myrtaceae family, together with the better known callistemons, eucalypts and leptospermums. There are at least 200 species with Western Australia home to the majority of species.

It is a pity that melaleucas are not as popular as their callistemon cousins as in many ways, they are more interesting plants.

There are more species to choose from. Their growth habits range from trees to ground covers. Their flowers are held in clusters and although some are in the traditional shape, there are many variations on this theme.

Melaleucas have a wide range of flower colours including green, white, cream, pink, apricot and red.

In local gardens, they have proved to be just as hardy and free flowering as their relatives. Many Western Australian species have magnificent, eye-catching blooms that are held for lengthy periods.

This time we will describe some small melaleucas. These species will all survive and thrive in local gardens.

Melaleuca micromera is a native of Western Australia and is a small, upright shrub that rarely exceeds one metre in height. This melaleuca is an unintentional mimic. Plants resemble conifers when not flowering and are reminiscent of wattles when blooming.

Melaleuca micromera is an unusual plant that could be grown as a foreground plant in a native garden bed or shrubbery.

Melaleuca Ulladulla Beacon is a dwarf form of Melaleuca hypericifolia and as the name indicates comes from the south coast where it grows on exposed headlands.

Ulladulla Beacon is a dense, mounded ground cover with a spread of at least two metres. In spring and summer, plants produces many large rusty-red bottlebrush-shaped flowers.

Melaleuca Ulladulla Beacon is a beautiful plant that will form living mulch. 

Melaleuca violacea is another Western Australian native that develops into spreading shrub that reaches a height of less than one metre. The bark is papery. Branches are usually horizontal and layered giving plants an unusual flat top.

Violet flowers are held in small clusters at the base of the leaves. What blooms lack in size they make up for in quantity and in spring plants are a mass of colour.

This species would be at home in a Japanese style garden because of its growth habit.

Melaleuca thymifolia, the thyme-leaved melaleuca, is an eastern states species that also develops into a small shrub. Flowers are held in claw-shaped clusters that appear in spring.