23: Spring 2009

Author: Rob Senior

If at first…

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If at first…Rob Senior

Flaming Firebushes! I’ve just killed the eighteenth embothrium. By the time this gets into print, the body count could be higher.

I do not keep to the same procedure. Variations have been to try vigorous seedlings or established suckers; potted plants or lifted in-growth specimens; differing species and varieties; locations – sun/semi-shade; shelter/wind exposure; isolation/companion planting; natural soil/prepared site (‘peat and grit – hold the fertilizer’). Usually plants responded giving a few weeks of perky growth with glowing green leaves and even a few flowers on sucker growths, and then – I know people have an aversion to the anthropomorphic, but – the plants look puzzled – leaf shine fades and they droop, yellow, then fall to leave a dormant stick. Well, rather more permanent than dormant. Embothriums remain on my needs list. I’m sure you all have such a memorized or written catalogue. I will continue trying plants in different locations as, only a few yards away my neighbour grows flourishing specimens and within a mile or two there are large trees, as established as laburnum or Prunus ‘Kanzan’ in suburbia. Two miles west, in Gulval churchyard, trees were suckering with troublesome abandon though I have not been to see this depressing exuberance recently.

The message of this chatter is ‘persevere’. In our half-hardy world we take chances and I pursue the concept that experimenting involves trying several examples of a subject in varying conditions. Just one specimen? It has been said that one should not accept failure until three plants have died, but this is advice to wimps. Of course this begs the question of sourcing a number of plants and for most of us with modest pockets it indicates patience and propagation. When buying a plant, the aim is to find one that will divide or provide cuttings. Growing from seed is even better, giving genetic variations. All takes time but ends in having several specimens to place around in the varying conditions.

Embothriums -why will they not thrive alongside banksias, hakeas, leucadendrons? Perhaps there is a soil fungus with a specific anti-embothrium gene out there. I wonder if using a fungicide at the next planting might work?

First published in the Half Hardy Group Newsletter Autumn / Winter 2005
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 23
©; Copyright for this article: Rob Senior

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2009. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.

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