New England gardening: How to fly the floral flag in your garden

The royal bluebell: The pretty blue floral emblem of the ACT featured on a postage stamp in 1986.
The royal bluebell: The pretty blue floral emblem of the ACT featured on a postage stamp in 1986.

Previously, some state and territory floral emblems were described in this column. This time, more floral emblems will be featured, starting with Queensland.

The floral emblem of this northern state is the Cooktown orchid (Vappodes phalaenopsis). The Cooktown orchid is an epiphyte that grows attached to tree trunks. Unlike mistletoes, epiphytes do not derive nutrients from the supporting host tree. The host only provides support.

Plants may grow up to 80cm in height with three to 20 flowering canes. Leaves are lance-shaped. Each flowering cane may carry up to 20 flowers. Blooms are about 6cm wide and deep to pale lilac. Cultivated plants may flower throughout the year.

The Cooktown orchid occurs in northern Queensland and is considered rare due to loss of habitat and indiscriminate collecting. In cold climates, this beautiful orchid would have to be grown in a sheltered bush house.

The red and green kangaroo paw (Anigozanthus manglesii) is the floral emblem of Western Australia.

The kangaroo paw has broad leaves, up to 60cm long and has an underground stem. The flowers resemble macropod paws (hence the common name). They are held on stems up to 1m in height. They are tubular, red and green and create an eye-catching display between August and November. Flowers are rich in nectar and are pollinated by honeyeaters.

Many kangaroo paw cultivars have been developed and there is a proliferation of flower colours and plant heights. They take kindly to life in containers.

The royal bluebell would make a colourful addition to cottage gardens and rockeries.

The royal bluebell (Wahlenbergia gloriosa) the floral emblem of the ACT was proclaimed in 1982. The royal bluebell is a small perennial herb whose leaves are oblong and up to 2.5cm long. Violet blue flowers are 3cm in diameter, may be erect or nodding and carried on long stems. Flowering extends from October to March.

A postage stamp featuring the royal bluebell was featured on a postage stamp issued in 1986. This was one of a series depicting Australia’s floral emblems.

The royal bluebell would make a colourful addition to cottage gardens and rockeries. For best impact, clumps should be planted. A container-grown, flowering specimen could be taken inside in a well-lit situation.

South Australia has selected the Sturts desert pea (Swainsona formosa) as the state’s floral emblem.

Sturts desert pea is a scrambling ground cover with silky, grey-green divided leaves covered with soft hairs. The prostrate stems may extend for some metres.

The flowers are the crowning glory of this species. They are up to 9cm long and carried in clusters of six to eight on short, erect stems that hold the blooms above the foliage. The petals are blood red or scarlet with a glossy black swelling at the base known as the “boss”. Flowering extends from July to March, depending on rain. A mature plant, in full flower, is a sight to behold.

Plants may be grown in containers using a soil mix with plenty of sand added.

With the exception of the Cooktown orchid which needs special conditions, all the floral emblems described could be grown in local gardens.

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