Tableland Mirbelia – a Rare Australian Native

Even though so much in the spring garden is clamouring for attention with big bright showy flowers, I thought I’d focus on a somewhat rare and little-known native plant, Mirbelia platyloboides.

This little Mirbelia is native to elevated areas of Australia’s East Coast on fast-draining sandstone based soils and forms an open groundcover/prostrate shrub. Like so much of the lesser-known flora of the world, it is in decline.

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Close up of Mirbelia platyloboides

The flowers of M. platyloboides are small: less than 15mm / ½” across.

In my garden it grows on an embankment in the ‘bushland’ area that separates the public road from the private easement that allows my neighbours to get to their houses: and gives me the dubious pleasure of owning four ‘hell-strips’.

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Standing on the public road looking back to the easement and house: M. platyloboides is in the foreground

With so much mess to tackle in the main garden I haven’t touched this area since I moved in…although now that an El-Niño is bearing down on Australia (meaning less rain), I won’t do anything with this area yet.

But I am excited at the prospect.

The disconnection from the house and the rest of the garden that the easement brings is very unusual in a smaller garden – and allows me the opportunity to do something totally different from other garden areas around the house – and it will have a lot of Australian natives…but that is for much, much later posts!

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Though M. platyloboides flowers are quite intense up close, at standing height, they are much more subtle

M. platyloboides flowers late winter/early spring and has usually gone over by mid October. Its flowers are similar to the (only slightly) more well known Dillwynias.

This winter it survived a lot of severe frosts (the lowest being -10°C / 14°F as well as over 40 mornings of about -5°C / 23ºF) and many days where the temperature didn’t get above freezing and it was undamaged by all of heavy snowfalls and ice.

It is a member of the tough Fabaceæ family and bears the typical pea-flower. The small leaves have the most wonderful texture similar to reptilian skin.

Mirbelia does not tolerate clay and needs excellent drainage. Coming from cool areas, it dislikes heat and humidity, but could probably survive in the higher suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne or Adelaide as long as it had afternoon shade.

This is a very difficult plant to get hold of, but if you are an Australian native plant enthusiast, seeds can be purchased online. To germinate them, you must replicate a light, quick bushfire (I do this by lightly sowing the seeds in a large clay/terracotta/concrete pot, cover thinly with soil and then a thick layer of Eucalyptus leaves and then set fire to it).

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Close-up of leaves and flowers

But for something quite unusual, it is well worth the effort, and, once planted needs virtually no maintenance apart from an occasional light trim after flowering.

Happy Gardening 🙂

Tree Dahlia

Yesterday was a drizzly, dreary and chilly winters day.

Not really a good day for gardening, so I decided to go for a little walk in the neighbourhood to see what sort of plants are growing well.

Down a street with long-ago-pollarded London Planes:

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I stumble upon a tree dahlia in an old garden (Dahlia imperialis) still in full bloom:

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Pretty amazing!

This beauty comes from Central America/Mexico, but will grow in US zone 7/8 and I have seen them in the UK as well. They are easily propagated once the flowers start to fade by taking a piece of stem with at least two nodes (usually about 12″/30cm long) and laying it horizontally in the ground.

Once the frosts start getting more frequent, this plant will die back to the ground, ready to shoot next spring.

I shall have to go back to this house and butter up the owner for a cutting!