Star of the Season: Correa
Maria Hitchcock holds the National Living Collection of this wonderful little native, which is easy-care, versatile, generously flowering and bird-attracting.
Here she shares her favourites and her growing tips.
The flowers of C. glabra ‘Mt Barker Beauty’ start crimson and fade to pink as they age.
My love affair with correas began back in 1977, not long after my son was born. A friend gave me two plants, Correa alba and Correa ‘Dusky Bells’. Progeny of those original plants survive in the garden today.
Correas are the ideal Australian plant for temperate gardens. They range in height from groundcovers to large shrubs and are highly bird-attractive, bringing honeyeaters such as Eastern spinebills into the garden. Correa flowers, which vary in colour from white through to deep burgundy, have larger volumes of nectar than many other native flowers and they tend to appear in the cooler months, providing a copious nectar source when there is not much else around. This is one reason they are such a valuable plant in any garden. They are also very frost-hardy, are virtually pest-free, and require little maintenance apart from an annual light trim in summer and a handful of Dynamic Lifter scattered at their feet in spring and autumn.
Corra reflexa has gorgeous bright bell flowers. This variety is ‘Point Ricardo’.
If you dig up a correa plant you will discover a wide, shallow root system with many fine roots which seek out every tiny bit of moisture in the soil making these plants very drought-hardy and able to survive under trees, including gums. They love a deep cover of woodchip mulch to keep the soil surface moist but care should be taken not to over-water as these plants cannot tolerate waterlogged soils. Most correas do best in full sun or light shade and are usually grown in shrub gardens or rockeries. The smaller varieties are ideal for tubs, courtyards, and along paths. They partner well with westringia, mint bush (Prostanthera), Crowea, Eremophila and other small native shrubs.
Correa alba, differs form other correas in having open starry flowers.
Correa alba – my top choice, with white flowers, silvery-grey foliage and a compact habit. It is very versatile, being suitable for beachside gardens, hedges, fence screening, or even pruning into a tight ball.
C. glabra ‘Mt Barker Beauty’ – originates in the Adelaide Hills , as the name suggests and grows to 1m in height. It has shiny, dark-green leaves and masses of red and green bells throughout autumn and winter. Like Correa alba it is very frost hardy and versatile as a hedge, screen, understorey plant or planted near ponds.
C. glabra ‘Coliban River’ – this is my husband’s favourite and originates north of Melbourne. We have it growing in one of the toughest parts of the garden but it always looks lush. It is a medium-sized shrub, approximately 1.5m high with apple-green leaves and yellowish green bells for most of the year.
Correa reflexas - the gorgeous, bright red bells are the draw here. These small open shrubs do best in light shade with deep mulch, regular watering, and frequent tip-pruning.
C. glabra “coliban River’ produces these wonderful green bells for most of the year
Maria sells correas and other natives from her mail order nursery, Cool Natives, www.coolnatives.com.au.