Introducing an Aussie spectacular

A spring spectacle for any size garden is the New South Wales Waratah (Telopea speciosissima and other Telopea species).

This giant of a flower satisfies those who like to grow Aussie native plants but want the size, colour and dramatic effect of popular exotics.  

It puts on a great show outdoors from August to November and the long-lasting blooms are one of the best cut flowers ever to grace a vase.

Flowers come in various bright shades of red to cultivars of yellow and white.

Strangely, you don’t see many of these shrubs being grown in the home garden.  

One reason is they are not a common stock item in garden centres so look for them in a specialist native plants nursery.

The other is an undeserved reputation for being “difficult” and short-lived.

Yet their demands are quite simple and easily fulfilled – well-drained soil on the sandy side (basalt soils are ideal but not heavy clay), a sunny or lightly shaded position, regular watering in summer and a low-phosphorus fertiliser to promote blooming.  

Given all this they will thrive for many years and reward you with spectacular flowers throughout spring.
Pruning is important for continued good flowering and should be done once the last flower of the season has gone, usually in late November – early December.  

Prune only those stems which have produced flowers that year. The unpruned stems should then flower the following year.

In fact, if you are cutting most of the flowers for vase use then you will be doing all the pruning required and this will also keep the shrub to a manageable 2m or so in height.

The big waratah flower heads bring honeyeaters to the garden.  

And here’s a tip – because this shrub, even when well-pruned, looks a bit straggly, plant it in the centre of a bed and put shorter, colourful plants all around it.