Sunday, January 16, 2011

Paws and Peas

I have become enamoured of Kangaroo Paws (Anigozanthus sp). Close up, they splay out half a dozen flowers like an extended hand, closer still, each flower opens like a furred six-pointed starburst.

But from a distance, a single plant is not especially striking, with it's low strappy leaves close to the ground. It's a bit of a shy and retiring kind of plant, and to be honest I hadn't thought too much about it, my Native Love being almost entirely focused on Correas (Ahhh, Correas!)

And then I saw them planted along the new, rather extravagant and overblown overpass between South Road and Anzac Highway in Adelaide (for those playing at home), of all places. And then I understood. To appreciate the Kangaroo Paw, that retiring native from Western Australia, you must see them en masse. The flowers, which can be up to 2m tall, rise above those green strappy leaves in a froth of upraised hands. Beautiful.

(Image from here)

So, naturally, I must have some kangaroo paws in my garden. Lots and lots of them. I google, I look them up, I work out how many I would need (perhaps 100+), I am aghast; even little plants are $8 each. $800 in Kangaroo Paws? I am, for all intents and purposes, a stay-at-home-mum. I have no money, but I do have lots of time. Off to Ebay, where I dither for an hour: do I want yellow ones, or red ones? And then in the post arrive 150 Red Kangaroo Paw Seeds (Anigozanthus flavidus: $3). Read the instructions, seems fairly straight forward - plant in seed-raising mix, keep damp etc - wish me luck!

With my Paws, I also ordered 40 Sturt's Desert Pea seeds (Swainsona formosa: $3), the SA floral emblem, dontcha know?

(Image from Fir0002/Flagstaffotos).

They're pretty cool, and seeing the seeds for sale I couldn't resist. The propagation instructions for the Peas is, unlike the Paws, not very straight forward. One must soak the seeds overnight in hot water (which is happening as I write).

Then 'nick the seed coat of the seed lightly with a sharp knife opposite the eye'. Hmmm. They're only about 2mm long. And flat. Then they need to be soaked again. Mind you, some more googling tells me I might be able to get away with just very hot water, lest I slice off a finger in my nicking attempts. Or I can use sandpaper to break the coat open. I am hedging my bets by just trying half of the seeds to begin with. Such a hard coat is necessary in the wild to protect the seed until ideal germination conditions arrive (we have a hard climate, here in SA). And then I read that they can be hard plant to maintain in a home garden. $3 well spent, or more trouble than they're worth? We will see!

1 comment:

Anita said...

I say $3 well spent for the experience whether they flower or not. ;)

You're right about the Kangaroo Paw too; I'd only ever seen them in nurseries (ie small plants) before we moved to this house. There are quite a few homes in our neighbourhood where there are large plants (at least 1m 'round) and 'though I thought they were "cute" before I've come to love them since seeing them like that. Apparently they shouldn't be bard to transplant, we separated some from one of Mum's plants to put in our garden, I guess they didn't much like the soil as everything else I've transplanted here has thrived.