The Brilliant Banksia16 July 2020 Sandra Ross
Do you remember the Big Bad Banksia Man from the pen of May Gibbs in her famous classic, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie?
May had a soft spot for banksias and so do we. Their golden candles are a beacon for bees and a haven for birds. Grow it as a dense shrub to provide safe haven for little birds such as the blue wren.
May Gibbs' Big bad banksia men were inspired by these seedpods, Banksia serata
Visitors to Empress Josephine’s garden at Malmaison outside Paris were wowed by her banksia collection. Two hundred years later gardeners still thrill to these bold and beautiful flowers, but have cold feet about growing them. ‘Giant Candles’ is a variety that brings the birds to feed on its pollen.
Merran, our lovely neighbour, says that it’s been a good year with deep intense burnished colour. And our friend Angus Stewart loves this variety of banksia: “massive flower spikes up to 40cm long are the outstanding feature of this cultivar (Giant Candles) which can grow to around 5 metres if left unpruned. A very adaptable plant that makes a fantastic medium sized screen as well as a great cut flower. Birds are attracted to the nectar rich flowers, which are long lasting both on the plant and as cut flowers. Flowers best in full sun, prefers well drained soils.” You can find lots more about winter wildflower on his website, ‘Gardening with Angus’.
Banksias grow well in pots, especially the dwarf Western Australian varieties, ‘Stumpy’ and ‘Birthday Candles’, do better in pots than in the garden. Choose a special potting mix formulated for natives and feed them with a special native plant food such as Bush Tucker.
Banksia ‘Golden Candles’