by germinatrix | March 20th, 2010
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!
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).
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!