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Banksia! My New Boyfriend…

by germinatrix | March 20th, 2010

is this a fuzzy mushroom? a giant acorn? think again...

I regularly fall deeply in love with plants – and when I fall, I fall HARD!

My new relationship was not love at first sight … it was a slow burn. Very slow.

Banksia. Ah. Just saying it makes me shiver a little. A banskia has it all – interesting leaves, unusual flowers, forms that go from large trees to groundcovers to all points in between. There is a bankisa for everyone. Mine is Banksia menziesii, sometimes known as firewood banksia. But who on EARTH would cut down this awesome beauty for firewood? People!

firewood? not here -this shrub holds pride of place in my garden!

I have admired banskias before, but I never met one I fell head over heels for. I don’t know why – they are totally my “type”. Tough, full of attitude, a little indifferent – but I wasn’t swept up. Then, one day, at a little nursery I sometimes wander through after lunch at my favorite LA area noodle house, I saw the silver leaves of one particularly attractive specimen and slowly sidled up to it and said “Hello, do you come here often?”. Well, maybe I asked it what it’s sign was – whatever I did, it was shockingly overt. I was a Hort Cougar, baring my fangs over this young, five – gallon hunk of plant.

“You are coming home with me,” I grabbed it and whisked it away before it could protest. Sure – it was a little aggressive – a bit of a tough guy, with sharp, thick olive-y gray leaves that look like they were cut with pinking shears, but I was smitten (I tend to like the bad boys anyway).

sigh. so hot.

Once I got it home – meh. I thought maybe I’d made a mistake. No real chemistry. It just kind of … sat there. It didn’t open up to me, I couldn’t find it’s “inner plant”, it was just there. Oh, well. I knew how this went. You can’t be a gardener without planting a few … um … well, if not “duds”, then at least “poseurs” – a plant that looked like it was going to be awesome, and then just wasn’t. It happens.

But it didn’t happen with my Banksia menzeseii. I think it was just shy. It followed the old adage gardeners hear about perennials; first year it sleeps, second year it creeps, third year it leaps. This was its LEAP year!

I am so into it. It still has a way to go, and I am expecting slow growth, but this banksia is definitely worth it. it will probably grow to around twelve feet for me – perfect! I can wait … this one is a keeper. Oh, and I found out why it’s called “firewood tree” – it ISN’T because Australians use it for firewood ( they are way smarter than that!), it is because these banskias count on wildfires to propagate themselves – their tough, conical seedpods  only pop open in extreme heat! Cool.

I love this plant – if you can grow it,(it’s picky, it needs a dry, hot climate) take a chance – you won’t be sorry! Promise!

12 Responses to “Banksia! My New Boyfriend…”

  1. I find him very sexy too. Ah, the forbidden fruit of love that I cannot grow here.

  2. Darling Keith – of course we’d have similar tastes! Our dark souls are united! (yes, the chirpiness of that exclamation point negates the brooding quality of the words preceding, but you know…)
    I will share my boyfriend with you. I am horticulturally polyamorous. But don’t tell anybody!

  3. LOVE THIS ONE! I’m in love with a huge specimen growing in the main greenhouse/retail store at Cistus Nursery. As long as I have one within driving distance it’s almost as good as having one in my own backyard. And really if I showed up at Cistus with a bottle of wine and just wanted to hang out under the fabulous blooms I don’t think they would mind, as long as I shared of course

  4. I’ve had a crush on Banksias for quite awhile too, but haven’t found the perfect match. He’s gorgeous!

  5. I’ve never heard of Banksias before. That’s probably because I live a few hours from Toronto. If I could grow them I would. Not love at first sight, but a very interesting plant that would definitely be worth a try. I’m hoping to move to Vancouver (zone 8) but it probably wouldn’t be warm enough and way too wet.

  6. Loree, as long as you have one that you can visit, you can be satisfied. And what nursery wouldn’t love a great customer hanging out and drinking under spectacular specimen? You’ll probably start a tradition! I can’t WAIT until mine gets big! XO!

    Oh, Megan – Bankias are hard NOT to have crushes on! They are just – cool. Yes, they are cool! One day, your match will appear – I didn’t expect mine, and now look at us! Happy and in love!

    Aerelonian – I am glad I’m the one to introduce you! Although I’m afraid that you might develop a plant crush that can’t go very far – They DO need warmth and a dry climate. But sometimes unrequited love is exciting! Admire them from afar – and one day, maybe in a greenhouse … one could be yours!

  7. I’ve never met a sexy Banksia that I would not bring home to my own garden or the gardens of my clients.
    Love ‘em all.
    Yours is blooming especially well.
    Totally enjoyable read.

  8. Gorgeous! My climate is not exactly dry… I don’t have what he needs… but looking never hurt anyone, right? ;)

    Maybe I can foist one on my mom, LOL

  9. Oh, Germi! This is why I love you, you plant seducer/seducee, you. Thank goodness you’re into sharing! That’s the only way I’ll ever get a piece of Banksia!

  10. Beautiful! I’ve been to Australia and seen these beauties in action. They are so cool! Do you have your Banksia planted in the ground or a pot? In either case what would you suggest to be the best soil to plant them in? And how often do you water? I live up in the Bay Area.

  11. domesticgodess says:

    Banksias freak me out because of the scary Banksia Men in the book “The Magic Pudding”…its an Australian bush story. Althogh I must admit they do look beautiful when they are safe on your blog and away from me!!

  12. Banksias freak me out because of the scary Banksia Men in the book “The Magic Pudding”…its an Australian bush story. Althogh I must admit they do look beautiful when they are safe on your blog and away from me!!