Every Blooming Thing

Courtesy photo/John J. Garaventa

A ground-cover carpet of Wooly Grevillea growing in Red Bluff Garden Club member John Garaventa's garden.

While pondering the subject of this Red Bluff Garden Club article, I sauntered down my garden paths seeking inspiration. There right before me in the patent splendor of a ground cover carpet, Grevillea Lanigera, Coastal Gem, aka, Wooly Grevillea revealed itself to me. Sometime ago I had planted this into a pathway border. This low lying, mound crawling plant is approximately 1 foot tall and 5 feet wide. It bears deep purple-pink popcorn-like flowers interspersed in a grayish green wooly foliage. It is cold hardy to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Grevillea Lanigera likes to bask in the sun, but will also tolerate semi-shade.

Grevilleas like well draining soil. They don’t like wet soil. When planting, it is recommended that you use a porous soil, predominantly potting soil, with measures of pumice and sand.

These plants can provide your garden with a subtle tropical ambience. You can produce a tropical environment when combining them with palm trees and various succulents, such as agaves, mangaves, aloes and sedum. It is underrated and underused in many parts of the West Coast. There are an array of over 350 species of Grevillea. They range in form from trees, to shrubs to ground covers. These plants will thrive in USDA zones 8-10 and our Northstate is suitable for most, if not all, Grevilleas.

These sun loving evergreen plants will reward you with an abundance of flowers, mostly in the winter and spring; however some varieties will crown your garden with nearly year long bouquets. They will provide you with a profusion of colors: pink, red, yellow, cream, orange and white. The flowers resemble star bursts and bottlebrushes.

For those of you concerned with our roaming deer herds, Grevillea, generally is not attractive to Bambi and her brethren. However, you will receive a plethora of hummingbirds, bees and butterflies feeding on the copious nectar. Grevillea has few pests; however, there is a possibility that they may be colonized by some pesky caterpillars. A spray of organic neem oil will neutralize any of these pests.

Pruning your Grevillea is advisable since some varieties tend to get leggy and susceptible to wind damage. Up to two-thirds of the plant can be pruned off, but I would caution against doing this to a Grevillea that is not full established. Mid to late spring is the best time to prune your Grevillea to the shape that you desire. Regular pruning will strengthen your plant and, as a natural concomitant, will promote flowering.

I do have a strong admonition though, do not fertilize this or any other Grevillea! I nearly dealt a fatal blow to the specimen in the above photograph when I fertilized it. You will not promote its growth, but rather hasten its death with fertilizer usage. Phosphorus will absolutely kill Grevillea. Some gardeners condone using a low phosphorus fertilizer, but I say, “Is any potential benefit worth the risk?”

Here are two other Grevillea considerations which I have planted in my garden:

Grevillea Robusta (Silky Oak): Sadly, last year we lost a 25 foot tall Aptos Blue Redwood tree. The Silky Oak tree is quickly filling the void. We planted a 5 gallon specimen last year and it is nearly 7 feet tall already. With a growth rate of 3 feet or more per year, it can attain a height of 50-75 feet in record time. This tree is harvested for its wood in Australia. It bears 5 inch long yellowish orange flowers.

Grevillea Long John: This is an excellent screen plant. Compact and bush-like, it can reach 10 feet tall and wide at maturity. It will withstand a medium frost and is hardy to 25 degrees Fahrenheit. It has large, dark rose-pink and orange flowers.

Every so often, a plant species gains popularity. I predict that Grevilleas will achieve some prominence in the plant world. They are a relatively undiscovered native wonder of Australia. Its namesake, Charles Francis Greville, a co-founder of the Royal Horticulture Society in 1804, extolled the beauty of the numerous Grevilleas. They are a member of the Protea family (Proteaceae) mythical descendants of the Greek god, Proteus, the prophetic old man of the sea, who could change his appearance and form at will.

I haven’t found Grevilleas in the box store nurseries, but Peter and Tanya at The Rock Garden in Gerber carry Grevilleas. Check them out.

Hopefully, herd immunity is near and our Red Bluff Garden Club meetings will recommence. Be safe, be well fellow gardeners.

“Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.” Albert Einstein

The Red Bluff Garden Club is a member of Cascade District, California Garden Clubs, Inc., Pacific Region Garden Clubs, Inc. and National Garden Clubs, Inc.

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