Simpson Shadehouse - Adelaide Botanic Gardens

Simpson Shadehouse - Adelaide Botanic Gardens

30 April 2014

Plectranthus argentatus

Plectranthus is in the mint family and this species originates in rain forest in Queensland and New South Wales where it grows as an understory plant in shade.  It's an excellent plant to grow in dry shady areas in the garden because, once it's established, it's very drought hardy.  Plectranthus argentatus is also extremely easy to grow from cuttings.  Just poke a hole in soil, insert the cutting and give it some water when it's dry and more than likely it will grow.  The plant is mainly grown for its silver foliage but it has attractive racemes of white flowers in autumn which attract bees.  It's supposed to be frost sensitive but if it's under shade trees they protect it anyway.  After a few years' growth Plectranthus argentatus gets a little straggly and can be cut back quite hard - and you have plenty of cuttings to grow, give away or compost.

Acacia iteaphylla (Flinders Range Wattle)

Flinders Range Wattle is relatively common in suburban South Australia.  It generally grows as a shrub but I've also seen it growing as a small tree.  As it ages it tends to get straggly and some people plant it as a quick growing native which gets replaced by something "more permanent and more attractive" some time later although a botanist told me once that Flinders Range wattles can live up to 200 years.  They provide a source of pollen in autumn which is useful for birds, bees and butterflies and they're very drought hardy but probably die from overwatering.

26 April 2014

Correa 'Dusky Bells'

Correa 'Dusky Bells' is one of many hybrids of Correa reflexa and Correa pulchella.  According to the Australian Cultivar Registration Authority, it has had a number of names such as Correa sp. (pink), Correa 'Rubra', Correa 'Carmine Bells' and Correa 'Pink Bells' and the name Correa 'Dusky Bells' was originally applied to another Correa reflexa cultivar.  Correa 'Dusky Bells' grows up to a metre high and spreads up to 4 metres but it can be pruned to smaller dimensions.  It flowers in autumn and winter and seems to do best in a partly shady spot (as this one is in).  It's drought and frost hardy and attractive to honeyeaters.  There's also a variety with variegated leaves which is usually sold as Correa 'Wins' Wonder'.

25 April 2014


Hibiscus is part of the mallow family (the flowers are similar to those of marshmallows) but I didn't realise how widely used various species of hibiscus are around the world until I read the Hibiscus article on Wikipedia.  The flowers are attractive to birds, bees and butterflies, the leaves of some species can be used for making tisanes (and the brew has some antioxidant properties), some species have edible leaves and one species is chiefly used for making paper amongst other uses.

20 April 2014

Correa ''Jezabell''

This is a named cultivar (and PBR variety) Correa (C.'Candy Pink' x C.pulchella) with intense lipstick pink flowers.  This is a young plant but it already has a number of flowers coming so I expect it will be quite showy when fully grown and in full bloom. Like most correas, "Jezabell" flowers in autumn and winter so it should be a nectar source for honeyeaters.  Apparently Correa "Jezabell" can grow to about 75cm high and wide but it probably benefits from pruning after flowering.

11 April 2014

Eastern Spinebill (Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris)

Eastern Spinebills are small Australian birds that survive on nectar and small insects (unusual for honeyeaters). Acanthorhynchus literally means "spine bill" whilst tenuirostris translates as "narrow billed".  The bill is especially designed for extracting nectar from "throated" flowers such as correas, eremophilas and grevilleas and they have adapted to feed from non-native plants such as salvias and abutilons.  Their range is described as "south eastern Australia" stretching from northern Queensland to Adelaide (there's also a Western Spinebill confined to West Australia). Eastern Spinebills generally move very rapidly when feeding from flower to flower and they also flutter (like hummingbirds) on occasion whilst feeding.

I was fortunate to be able to get a few reasonable shots of this Eastern Spinebill yesterday feeding in a large abutilon. Interestingly it inserts its long bill between the interleaved petals near the base rather than from the front of the large flower. There's further information about Eastern Spinebills on the Birds In Backyards website including a recording of their very tuneful piping call.

10 April 2014

Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)

Pineapple sage has these bright red flowers which are attractive to many humans I suspect but even more so to honey eaters and butterflies.  The added bonus for humans is the pineapple scented leaves (I've not heard of non-human animals that deliberately rub leaves just for the fragrance!). In hotter parts of Australia pineapple sage prefers a semi-shaded position.  It's quite drought hardy.  When the leaves droop is the time to give it some water.  According to a Wikipedia article the leaves are edible (but I've never tried them) and they also have medicinal uses.

05 April 2014

Our first Fig!

I planted the tree this fig grew on almost 5 years ago but I've moved the tree twice in an effort to give it as much light as possible.  So this was the first fig on it and it was delicious.  I think it's a black genoa fig but I lost the label in one of the transplantings!

03 April 2014

Autumn crocus

Earlier this week I found this poking up underneath a pelargonium.  Autumn crocus or Colchicum autumnale is not a true crocus and all parts of the plant are poisonous.  The active ingredient is colchicine which actually has medical uses in the treatment of gout, some fevers and in the treatment of cancer but don't try it at home!!