Tag: banksia

Banking On Banksia

Having caught the propagating bug last year, I’ve decided to try my hand at growing my own plants again in 2024, this time turning to the difficult proposition of raising banksias, the flower that most symbolizes Australian flora in my eyes.

So far, my luck with banksias hasn’t been great, mainly thanks to ignorance and ill preparation to be fair. And impatience, perhaps?

Kangaeroo Corner has a banksia that has grown well since it’s initial planting almost two years ago, but it has yet to flower for us. I expect it will do so one day.

But I still want to see the banksia flowers in the garden. We bought a hairpin banksia last year. It made it through the harsh summer, then got root rot when I planted it in the ground. It’s probably dead, but I put it back in a pot and keep looking after it for the time being in the hope that it may spring into life in the spring growing season, when I will make the final decision on its fate.

The wilted banksia was replaced by a seedling planted in autumn and a a lucky pick-up at year end by a huge, potted hairpin banksia destined for planting where the eucalypt had been before I removed it over the new year as it threatened other plants. And some banksia birthday candles, too, which should grow well closer to the ground.

In the meantime, I found a place in Japan selling Australian native plant seeds. I hadn’t planned on trying to propagate anything this winter, but I enjoyed the process last year even if the results weren’t great. I was satisfied because the most successful experiment came with kangaroo paw, which basically thrived, and most of the other dozen or so plants I tried didn’t work even though I got nearly all of them to germinate, including some heath banksia.

Banksia are fickle and difficult to raise, apparently.

Seeds arrived yesterday. Soil arrives today. I’ll study more, draw on what I learned last year, and give it a try again in another month or so, preparing in the meantime, and keeping the seeds away from the prying eyes (and belly) of our dinosaur.

Of Banksia and Birdies

Bird’s eye view of Kangaeroo Corner

It’s the most glorious day of the year so far in terms of weather and I am sitting in my back office, stuffing myself full of chocolate and lollies and preoccupied with bloody banksia and birds.

I’m stuck here because I’m waiting on delivery of the newest member of Kangaeroo Corner, a hairpin banksia that I am positive is going to be worth the wait.

For me, no flower is more iconic of Australia than the banksia.

And it holds a place in Australian folklore, named after Sir Joseph Banks, an 18th-century British naturalist who accompanied Capt. James Cook on the navigation of the northeast coast of the country that led to European colonization (or invasion, as most Indigenous Australians view it). Banks would take the banksia, acacia and eucalyptus from Australia and spread it around the world.

Even more iconic for me, though, is an anthropomorphized version of the hairpin banksia called the Banksia Men terrorized my early childhood.

Big Bad Banksia Men

Banksia Men were the villains in the delightful tales composed by May Gibbs, an early 20th century Australian author who wrote stories for young children featuring native Australian flora and fauna, most notably The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.

Anyway, I digress…a little bit, at least.

While I was waiting, there wasn’t much else to do than clean the house and garden.

I was shocked yesterday to learn that I had, indeed, destroyed the mower during the May working bee even though I thought I’d fixed it.

Worse still, I discovered that while trying to mow the lawn, which was still sodden following a week of virtually unhalted rain.

But, I borrowed a weed whipper from the estate office and cut the grass. I initially put the clippings in the kangaroo paw pots I’ve set up, but thought they were perhaps creating too much humidity and it would harm the plants, which like the dry, light heat of their native western Australia.

Waiting with me is our bird, who continues to sit on her eggs and appears poised to add to their number.

She looks a little lethargic and she worries me sick with fear of binding. She won’t eat the calcium I leave for her.

And…the banksia finally arrived just after 3 p.m. It was boxed with tremendous care and meticulousness and looked to be a flourishing picture of health.

Dino came to life, too, with the box presenting her with a new opportunity to tear something to shreds and use it in her nest.

Originally my plan was to leave the banksia in its pot rather than plant it in the harsher weather conditions of the rainy season.

For the time being, she’s in her pot alongside the Fountain of Strewth.

It’s a hardy tree. I’m thinking now might be as good a time as any. Mrs. Kangaeroo will need to be consulted!

Welcoming the Hairpin Banksia

A Seed Of An Idea

As I touched on over the weekend, I’ve started trying to grow plants from seed and I completed the first round of the process this morning before heading off on my bike.

Blend of potting mix, peat moss and pearlite

Dwarf wattle seeds that I soaked in boiling water last night were the final group of seeds that can be planted in the winter.

I managed to spread the seeds over a tray and put them in the humidity pod.

Most of the work was finished yesterday after the ride.

Potting mix

The process so far started in September and October of last year (2022) when I collected Australian native plant seeds, mostly from Bunnings.

Native Australian plant seeds purchased from Oz

Managing to get the seeds through Customs in Oz and Japan, the next toughest step was stopping myself from getting over eager and trying to plant them before they were ready.

Plant starter kits

I did start preparing, mostly by buying plant starter kits, which are lit and heated humidifier pods. They came equipped with diggers, cards and a scoop, all of which I’ve put to use.

Tools

Just before Christmas, I put some waratah seeds in the fridge and kept them there for the subsequent six weeks, as advised by the growing instructions.

Some study revealed that I was on the back foot.

Australian native plants often need to be smoked or exposed to boiled water to replicate natural conditions before they germinate.

I didn’t study that until now, so I missed the opportunity to get starter granules or smoke water, either of which aids in the process, and I couldn’t find them for sale in Japan.

But I did learn about pearlite and vermiculite, so I purchased a bag of both and got to work.

First, I sorted the seeds, setting aside those that could be planted in the winter.

Humidity pod covers with openings to let out the humid air

In addition to the waratah, the seeds were the dwarf wattle, Australian Christmas tree, red cap gum, honeysuckle banksia, orange banksia, everlastings and one of the two sets of kangaroo paw seeds that I have. I had kangaroo paw growing in Kangaeroo Corner from the outset, but I killed them through overwatering, so I am particularly keen to make a better fist of growing them this time around. Another set will go on a tray of their own in another month or so.

Labeled seeds

I took turns sowing each of the seeds in a blend of potting mix, pearlite and peat moss, then covered them with vermiculite.

Each time the seed was sown it got a card with the planting date added so I will be able to tell how long it takes to germinate: if they do, indeed, begin to sprout.

Humidity pods for growing seeds

They were then laid out in the humidity pods in the spare room.

The humidity pods are exposed to daylight (albeit north-facing), but get pumped up with artificial light overnight.

Lighting the humidity pods at night

I’ve never grown anything like this, but am having fun.

In the meantime, I’ll keep checking and updating.