Parrot beak (Clianthus puniceus)


Generality

We are talking about an interesting climbing plant, which in some cases can also have a semi-climbing nature and which comes from New Zealand and is more commonly called with the name of "Parrot's Beak".

It is a shrub that has the particular characteristic of reaching over four meters in height and belongs to the category of evergreens.

The stems of this climber are, in most cases, extremely thin, with a decidedly tortuous development, especially due to the fact that it can count on numerous tendrils.

The leaves of Clianthus puniceus are characterized by having a typical intense green color and by being pinnate.

In some cases, leaf fall can occur during the winter season, especially when temperatures drop below freezing level for several days.

During the summer and until the end of the autumn, the Parrot's beak is characterized by producing flowers with a typically scarlet color.

The flowering will be followed by the production of fruits, which are represented by traditionally very long pods, inside which there are numerous seeds that have a bean shape.

It is a climber that, in most occasions, is planted near a wall or a pergola.


Exposure and terrain

It is a climbing plant that needs to be grown in an area particularly exposed to the sun's rays or even placed in a partial shade position.

In any case, the Parrot's beak is an extremely delicate plant, but they are able to display an excellent resistance against rigid temperatures, since they can withstand even the minimum temperatures that go up to -8 degrees.

One of the main dangers for an optimal cultivation of this climber is undoubtedly represented by the wind: for this reason, it is always better to plant this plant in a decidedly sheltered area.

There is also an alternative, that is to cultivate this plant inside a container, so that it can be placed inside a cold greenhouse during the winter season.


Watering

Irrigation must always be carried out in the period between March and October and it will be necessary to carry it out with good consistency, especially during the summer and during periods of prolonged drought.

These climbing plants, in fact, are not able to withstand periods of drought and, for this reason, they require frequent and constant watering.

In any case, it is advisable to wait until the soil has completely dried before proceeding with a new watering.

In order to increase the level of humidity within the area where this climbing plant is grown, the advice is to wet the leaves rather frequently and, even here, with good consistency, especially during the summer season. .

During the winter season, however, when temperatures are particularly rigid, watering must therefore be less frequent and less abundant.

When the vegetative period arrives, it is essential to make fertilizer, especially for flowering plants, at least once every two weeks.


Multiplication

The multiplication of this climbing plant can occur both by seed and, in this case, it will be carried out only in the period corresponding to the end of the winter season, but also by semi-woody cutting: in the latter case, the best period to carry out this operation is undoubtedly represented by the summer season.

In some cases, moreover, the multiplication by semi-woody cutting can also take place in the spring season.

In any case, it is a plant that does not need any pruning: the only operation to which attention must be paid is to reduce the length of the branches after flowering has occurred.


Fertilization

At the end of the winter season, it is essential to provide the ivy plant with a good quantity of manure, but you can also use a slow release fertilizer, which must be mixed with the substrate.

During the growing season, fertilizer is also essential, specifically the fertilizer specifically made for flowering plants, which must be inserted into the soil once every twenty days.

Also during the spring season it is essential to guarantee the use of a systemic insecticide, which can act on a wide range, in such a way as to carry out a preventive action against the formation of fungicidal diseases or even to prevent the danger brought. from parasites.


Parrot beak (Clianthus puniceus): parasites and diseases

These are climbing plants that absolutely do not tolerate root rot: in these cases, it is always better to cultivate them in well-drained soils, in order to avoid the formation of water stagnations, from which root rot can subsequently derive.


Clianthus puniceus

In nature Clianthus puniceus is at high risk of extinction © Giuseppe Mazza

The name of the genus is the combination of the Greek terms "kléos" = glory and "anthos" = flower, with reference to the showy flowers, the specific name is the Latin adjective "puniceus" = purple, with obvious reference.

Common names: glory-pea, kakabeak, lobate claw, New Zealand glory pea, parrot's beak, parrotbill, parrot's bill (English) parrot's bill (Italian) bec de perroquet (French) bico de papagaio (Portuguese) flamingo (Spanish) papageienschnabel (German).

The Clianthus puniceus (G. Don) Lindl. (1835) is a fast growing evergreen shrub up to 3-4 m tall with numerous ascending stems, often arched the leaves are alternate, imparipinnate, 8-15 cm long with up to 31 leaflets of light green or gray green color, oblong , with obtuse apex, 1,5-2,5 cm long.

The papilionaceous flowers, gathered in number of 6-20 in axillary pendulous racemes 15 cm long, bloom in spring-summer and sometimes also in autumn, are 8 cm long, red, there are pink and white varieties. carried out by birds. The fruits are 8 cm long cylindrical pods, blackish in color when ripe, containing numerous seeds. It propagates by seed, semi-woody cutting in summer and by layering.

Before burying them, the seeds must be slightly scarified by passing them on sandpaper, to affect the hard and waterproof outer integument, and left in water for a few hours, alternatively they can be kept in water for 24 hours. Use a soil for sowing with the addition of sand or agri-perlite, around 30%, kept constantly humid and at a temperature of 20-24 ° C, germination begins after 30-40 days, flowering from the second year of age.

Considered the most ornamental shrub in New Zealand, due to the foliage reminiscent of ferns and the showy flowering, it requires a subtropical and warm temperate climate, it can resist for a short time, to temperatures as low as -5 ° C, in cooler climates it can be tried to be cultivated close to a wall facing south (in the northern hemisphere, north in the southern one) and with a good mulching at the foot of the plant in winter it does not like persistent temperatures that are too high, around 30 ° C and beyond.

It prefers a sunny position, at most a slight shade in the afternoon, and is not particularly demanding in terms of soil, as long as it is well draining, watering must be regular in summer, in dry periods, but allowing the surface layer of the soil to dry up before giving again water.

At the end of flowering, it is advisable to eliminate part of the older stems and shorten the others to stimulate the growth of new vegetation for the subsequent flowering. The leaves are particularly popular with snails and slugs which can therefore cause serious damage. Where the climate does not allow permanent outdoor cultivation, it can be grown in pots, to be placed in greenhouses, winter gardens or spacious verandas, in humus-rich soil with the addition of sand or agri-perlite, to improve drainage, in very luminous position, watering must be frequent in summer, reduced in winter.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has inserted the Clianthus puniceus among the species at very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future (“Endangered”).

Synonyms: Donia punicea G. Don (1832).


Clianthus puniceus

Sydney Parkinson after having "sketched" this plant in New Zealand for the rich and young Joseph Banks did not have time to make it in all its glory.

The botanical table indicated with the initials NZI / 40 is found at the Britis hMuseum, section of Natural History, London and shows, in excellent design, Clianthus puniceus.
The same table is reproduced in Norman and EveRobson's Botanical Atlas published by Orsa Maggiore di Torriana, which offers a selection of prints and drawings from The British Museum (Natural History) and The Royal Horticuitural Society (Lindley Library).
To meet this plant, it is necessary to go back to the first circumnavigation of the globe of the Endeavor, under the command of the legendary Captain James Cook, who had on board the young and wealthy naturalist Joseph Banks, accompanied by natural history scholar Daniel Carlsson Solander, Swedish, and the Scottish Sydney. Parkison artist and naturalist. The latter had the task of drawing the most interesting and valid plants for a compendium of natural history to which Banks intended to dedicate himself as soon as he returned to England.
Among the plants "sketched" by Parkinson in New Zealand, there is precisely, Clianthus puniceus that the artist was unable to complete when, still very young, his friends passed away during the journey, just dubbed Cape Java.
We can still catalog it today among the little-known plants and at least among those rarely cultivated, despite its relative rusticity and the extraordinary beauty that characterizes the entire vegetative cycle.

Two species
Its genus includes only two species of sarmentose plants of which it excels C. formosus (dampieri) of Australian origin, with its showy scarlet flowers with a shape that strangely recalls a submarine boat with large and swollen central portholes. Quite different C. puniceus which, as we have seen, is originally from New Zealand.
Defined as a "branched climber to be grown on supports" I have identified a shrub-like plant on the Sapri seafront. 12-24 leaflets make up the intense green pinnate leaves, opposite in the insertion on the caule.
The flowers, which bloom in May-June, about 10 cm long, are gathered in axillary racemes and are scarlet-crimson in color. their shape are the classic papilionaceous flowers, with the crown formed as a banner, represented by the upper pointed petal facing upwards of the crown by two wings (lateral petals) and by a keel, formed by two pointed petals that recall the keel of a ship.
The fruits are made up of beautiful brown pods, with three lateral "sails" arranged symmetrically along the entire length, and give the plant an ornamental aspect of great effect.


Flowers and Leaves

Climbing hydrangea or Hydrangea petiolaris

Bare walls, bare corners that you would like to embellish with a touch of green? A beautiful climbing plant might be the right answer. But which are the most suitable plant species? Maybe they don't ruin the walls? We asked the Viridea experts, who definitely pointed out some plants original and curious: from the pretty hops, used to make beer, to the bottle-pumpkins that grow hanging from pergolas and grills, to the curious climbing hydrangea ... And then unusual fruits, very strange flowers and elegant leaves that seem to have been created by a famous designer ...

When we talk about climbing plants, our thoughts turn to the vigorous wisteria, which climbs up walls and buildings, or to the virgin vine that covers walls and railings. But in the great world of plants that rise to the sky, there are many curious surprises. Just a deep pot and a place in the sun, for example, and we will see it grow hops (Humulus lupulus), with beautiful leaves and flowers that are used to make beer: they give the drink the typical aromatic and bitter note. The development is rapid and the plant is perennial: in winter it rests and re-emits its leaves in spring.

Hop, fast growing climber

On a pergola or on a well exposed to the sun's rays we can grow the shoots of climbing gourds, which develop with surprising rapidity from seeds. In addition to the decorative varieties of the Cucurbita species, of American origin, the curious can be cultivated Lagenaria squash, of European origin and also called bottle-gourd: since the distant past, once dried, it was used to obtain containers and containers (flasks, water bottles), but also to make musical instruments. To get a good result you need a rather deep vessel. Also the loofah it is a type of pumpkin: curious fruits similar to courgettes are formed on the climbing shoots which, as they mature, dehydrate, retaining a fibrous structure that can be used as an excellent vegetable sponge to clean the skin in depth and wash the dishes.

If you prefer you have a plant wall that yields edible fruit, grow it passionflower: from the wonderful and strange flowers small orange fruits are formed, with a pleasant flavor, known as maracujà or passion fruit. Or the blackberry, in the varieties without thorns with large juicy fruits: the twigs are fixed to grates well exposed to the sun. The pergolas covered with i shoots of the vine in table varieties, such as various types of strawberry grapes or those whose grains are seedless ("Apirene"). Or, if you have space, the spectacular Kiwi (Actinidia arguta), of which male and female plants are needed to obtain the fruits. The large leaves make an excellent shade screen. And don't forget that too the lemon it can grow on the wall: it is not a climber but the branches, fixed to a sturdy support, create a splendid wall of leaves, fragrant flowers and fruits.

There are climbing plants with absolutely striking blooms, such as the extravagant Aristolochia (Aristolochia elegans, gigantea) with large spotted flowers, the Cobea (Cobea scandens) with large cupped flowers of deep purple color and the Clianthus (Clianthus puniceus), plant called "parrot's beak" for its red flowers with pointed corollas: very easy, even in medium-sized pots, Thunbergia (Thunbergia alata), known as “Susanna with black eyes”: it produces numerous yellow or orange flowers with a black heart.

And if the terrace or the garden are in the shade? Beauty is ensured by elegant leaves, which seem “signed” by a designer or a famous stylist. Like those of Actinidia kolomikta, which have an intense pink tip, or the round ones of the nasturtium, which gives beautiful flowers (edible, try them in salads). And those in the shape of the heartclimbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris), or the thousand varieties of ivy, mottled in yellow or white, small or huge, rounded or pointed ... A world of beauty that does not ask for the sun and is satisfied with very little attention.

CLIMBING PLANTS , Viridea's advice
• Before choosing the climbing plant that's right for you, ask yourself if you prefer a species with aerial roots (ivy, virgin vine) that sticks to the wall, or a species with shoots that wrap themselves around the support (rincosperm or false jasmine, clematis), or with shoots to be fixed to gratings and railings (chile jasmine or solanum, passion flower).

• All climbing plants require deep vessels some, such as wisteria and bougainvillea, need medium to large containers because they grow vigorously and quickly.

• In areas exposed to full sun, prefer grids and wooden structures: metallic ones get hot quickly, causing possible damage to the younger and more delicate shoots. However, solid metal structures are indispensable for vigorous plants such as wisteria


Australian plants, from the land of kangaroos

Saying Australia, in the collective imagination, immediately means thinking of kangaroos, koalas, eucalyptus trees, the desert, enormous distances, surfing, Christmas in the middle of summer. But this very distant and enormous country, from the beginning of the third millennium, represents the new mine of the gardener: in addition to the well-known eucalyptus trees, in fact, it offers a very wide catalog of species very suitable to live in the land of Italy. They are beautiful, robust, scenographic and above all very resistant, in particular to heat and drought, but also to a certain extent to the cold.

If it is true - and it is true, unfortunately! - that we are tropicalizing in terms of climate, gardeners, both professional and amateur, must completely change the cultivation parameters, starting from the species to choose for your garden.

Australia with its flora therefore offers us a wide range of species from which to choose to plant a garden that remains beautiful even with a sequence of hot summers, as there could reasonably be.

A climate similar to ours

90% of Australia has a climate that ranges from that desert to steppe, characterized by large thermal variations between day and night. In the rest of the country there is roughly a climate Mediterranean. It follows that the vegetation has been selected over the millennia in order to favor species capable of absorbing these huge thermal fluctuations without problems.

Since these are three climatic types characterized by low rainfall, the plants that live there have adapted to live with a few drops of water, then compensated, in the intermediate seasons, by abundant downpours, partly beneficial, and for the excess quota which can be easily amortized also thanks to the basically poor and loose soil.

Over the past 20 years, Italy has seen a steady increase in annual average temperatures. It is now easy to have even in Northern Italy and up to the Prealps more than 30 days during the summer, and sometimes even consecutive or almost, with temperatures above 30 ° C. Without forgetting those places where lately it often exceeds 40 ° C. Experts speak of a climate subtropical which, after having taken possession of the South, is climbing northwards.

During the three summer months typically the rain does not fall. And if it arrives, it comes in the form of storms of short duration, devastating for the amount of water spilled in the short term, but of quick resolution: even the water streams away rather than being absorbed by the ground (with all the catastrophic consequences that have occurred in recent years).

The sudden thermal changes, however, are more and more frequent: it happens that a violent storm lower the temperature by even 10-15 ° C within a couple of hours.

Finally winters are less and less cold, with lows that rarely drop below freezing.

In short, the Italian climatic conditions since the beginning of the Millennium are increasingly similar to those in Australia, with the exception of the Alpine arc only, now comparable for the climate to the Po Valley of the 70s.

It was natural, then, for expert botanical nurserymen to turn to the southern hemisphere to find new plants that they resisted this climate change and that they were also beautiful to look at, as well as easy to cultivate.

The spectacular shrubs.

Callistemon or pipe cleaner tree, Australian shrub.

If the trees (see below) are less "palatable" - not because they are not beautiful, but because ours still tolerate the scorching heat quite well for now -, among the 27 thousand Australian species the attention of nurserymen is mainly focused on shrubs , which all offer some particularly welcome pluses: they are all evergreen and resist the saltiness.

Some are already relatively well known to Italian gardeners, because they are the most showy and therefore were the first to be "captured" and brought to us too.

For example the Callistemon citrinusor pipe cleaner plant (Bottlebrushes, as they call it in their homeland), characterized by the surprising red stamens which make the flowering showy. The beauty of the numerous flowers that literally cover the fronds, at the beginning and at the end of summer, have made the fortune of this species: in the last 15 years the Callistemon have seen an exponential spread in gardens by the sea, but also in the public green of the coastal centers. I am though can also be used in the cities of the Po Valley, in a sheltered position facing south, or in pots.

Also deserves the brother, C. viminalis, also called "weeping" due to the pendulous bearing of the fronds.

Banksia integrifolia

They are spreading fairly quickly too banksies (Banksia ericifolia and other species), which always arouse great wonder in spring gardening exhibitions, when they are presented in full bloom. And it is right the inflorescence to be spectacular: produced from May to August of large dimensions, in the shape of erect panicles, up to 30 cm long, white, yellow or dark orange, from which then derive fruits that resemble hard "pine cones", of true color , which contain the seeds. The leaves are small, needle-like, evergreen, greyish green in color, covered with a fine down. In the homeland it becomes a medium-large shrub (up to 4 m in height and diameter), where it is used for dense hedges. In Italy it is suitable in the Center-South, in a sheltered position, or in the North only if grown in pots.

Leucospermum conocarpodendron

Then there is the leukosperm or pincushion plant (Leucospermum cordifolium), formerly known as a cut flower and now also available as a whole plant, to be cultivated exactly like banksias. Low-growing, slow-growing shrub, it is characterized by long erect stems, scarcely branched, covered with curious fleshy and leathery leaves, without petiole, dark green, shiny and waxy. In autumn it begins to prepare the large buds, which at the end of winter open in large inflorescences, similar to huge pincushions, hence the common name of the plant. It blooms in more or less dark yellow and orange.

Leptospermum with deep pink flowers

Finally, among the easiest Australian shrubs to find is the leptosperm (Leptospermum scoparium), a small evergreen bush, up to 3 m tall and up to 3.5 m wide, with rapid growth, with sharp, glaucous, aromatic leaves. The thin twigs from May to October (!) Are covered with flowers, small and very numerous, which depending on the variety can be simple or double, red, pink or white. Use it in the garden as an isolated specimen raised as a sapling or as a single bush in the center of a flower bed, or to create a scented hedge. It also lives well in Northern Italy, but only in a very sheltered and sunny position, otherwise the vase is better.

. and those to discover

These too are plants that can be easily found in the best Italian nurseries and in spring and early summer gardening exhibitions: a good opportunity to experiment with them.

Grevillea rosmarinifolia

Always for a protected position in the North, or in pots, and with free positioning in the South there is the grevillea (Grevillea rosmarinifolia), with a short flowering - if compared to the prolonged flowering of the leptosperm - but extremely suggestive for the singular red inflorescences that open in clusters from March to May. It owes its name to the similarity of the fronds to those of the more Mediterranean rosemary, but without the unmistakable aroma. The plant has small to medium size and a slow growth: it is perfect as a border in the driveway or for a low hedge.

Chamelaucium uncinatum

It looks like a cross between leptosperm and grevillea il camelaucio (Chamelaucium uncinatum): from the first it has small but very numerous flowers, of a white color veined with lilac, and from the second the dark "needle-like" leaves, among which the small white corollas stand out during the flowering, which takes place from January to May. This shrub is recommended only for the whole Tyrrhenian coast from Liguria down and for Southern Italy, if only for the flowering period.

THE metrosideri stand out for the showy flowers that bloom from May to August. At home, where they become real trees, they are cultivated, as well as for their ornamental value, for the wood which is hard and robust: some species are able to climb due to the presence of aerial roots. In Italy they are available Metrosideros robustus, which blooms in late spring with dark red flowers and M. excelsus, shrub with erect branches, leaves similar to those of boxwood and red blooms from June onwards, with flowers gathered in compact inflorescences with feathery stamens. Both require the cultivation in pots in Northern Italy.

Westringia fruticosa

Also there westringia (Westringia fruticosa) has small long and narrow leaves, but the bush remains small (max height and width 50 cm), making it suitable for a border or low hedge, to delimit an area of ​​the garden. Between March and July she too is covered with minute and very abundant white flowers, many stars resting lightly on the foliage tending to glaucous, with a vague effect of carpet of daisies. Gaographically, the indications given for metrosiders are valid.

The "rarities"

Then there are the "goodies", that is, those very special plants, for an audience of true amateurs, who can only be found in some nurseries specializing in rare plants.

Anigozanthos

For example the "kangaroo paw", Anigozanthos flavidus: it is a rhizomatous plant that produces large tufts of greyish-green leaves, thin, ribbon-like and arched. From April to August, thin dark, branched, red, finely hairy stems up to 80 cm high appear between the leaves. At the apex of the stems, numerous tubular-shaped buds appear, grouped in racemes, also finely hairy in the same color purple, red, orange, yellow or green. The tubules open into small corollas with six clear petals. And it is precisely the flowers that remind us, in shape, of the legs of kangaroos: we Europeans must take our word for it. It deserves a privileged location, for example in the center of a flower bed, combining at least 3-5 plants, with flowers of the same color or harmonized with each other. The flowers can also be used as a cut.

If you already have a myrtle in the garden or in a pot, you can also add a plant of Eugenia myrtifolia, also in the 'Etna Fire' variety with intensely reddened foliage. It is another Mirtacea, with a dense and rounded crown, up to 5 m high and up to 2 m wide, formed by leaves similar to those of the myrtle. From May to August it is filled with small but numerous flowers gathered in panicles at the apex of the branches, deep purple in bud and then lighter, with showy white stamens. They follow (not in variety) the purplish-red berries, edible, with which in Australia sauces and sweet-sour jams are prepared. In addition to being a focal point in a flower bed, it can be used for tall hedges and topiary forms, because it tolerates pruning very well, which indeed, in the variety, stimulate the production of red leaves (more charged in autumn). It also resists in Northern Italy, in the usual well-protected position. Only 'Etna Fire' can live in pots, for a maximum of ten years.

The unusual creepers

If you live in Southern Italy, there is a beautiful unusual creeper, which deserves a good place in the garden, for example by having it climb on a gazebo (4-5 plants) or along a column, or even a living tree, or on a dividing net: it is the clantus (Clianthus puniceus) or parrot beak. This evergreen with light foliage desires a sunny, but not windy position, to produce a profusion of scarlet flowers - with the curious "parrot beak" shape, hence the common name - gathered in racemes, in August-September, followed by showy , long purple pods. The shoots reach a length of 3-4 m, and it is better not to prune them, if not to reduce their size. In Northern Italy it can be grown in pots which must be at least 30 cm in diameter at the beginning, to end with a tank of 60 x 20 x 40 h cm.

Pandorea

As well as in Southern Italy, it also resists on the entire Tyrrhenian coast up to Ventimiglia la Pandorea (Pandorea jasminoides), a relative of the bignonia which, however, blooms in pale pink with a fuchsia throat (there is also a floricultural variety with candid corollas), from May to July. It is a vigorous evergreen climber (it cannot be grown in pots), with thin and branched stems. The leaves are composed of lanceolate, thick and waxy, dark green leaflets (there is also a variegated cultivar, which is more delicate). THE numerous trumpet flowers are delicately scented. In case of frosts it loses the aerial part, but it tolerates 3-4 days just below zero. It gives a dense coverage, thanks to the shoots that can reach 8 m in length (and that it would be better not to prune, nor out of extreme necessity): it allows you to cover fences, columns, gazebos, pergolas, possibly even walls if equipped with support. It is enough just that the position is sunny for at least 5 hours a day.

On the other hand, it is also suitable for Northern Italy, in a sunny position sheltered from the winds hardenbergia (Hardenbergia violacea): if winter is going to be freezing, just wrap it well with one or more non-woven sheets. And in any case, it also lives well in pots, even though it is as large as that of the cliander. It may still lose its otherwise evergreen leaves, which it will re-issue in spring. From March to May it is filled with clusters of small flowers purple amethyst absolutely extraordinary, which emerge in the midst of the lanceolate and often dark green foliage.

Curiosity for the South

Xanthorrhoea (Wikipedia photo)

Poiché esige una temperatura minima di 12 °C, può essere allevata in piena terra solo nel Meridione più mite, mentre altrove va coltivata in vaso. È la Xanthorrhoea australis, pianta molto rara e protetta perché la sua sopravvivenza in natura è a rischio.

Ha una forma particolare, che ricorda una piccola palma, ma con foglie lunghe e sottili. I primi coloni europei che raggiunsero l’Australia furono attratti dal suo incredibile fascino estetico e la chiamarono “albero dell’erba”.

Non si tratta di una pianta “facile”, ma vi darà molte soddisfazioni senza creare problemi di spazio perché la crescita è molto lenta, intorno a 1 cm all’anno. Per questo motivo non ama essere rinvasata spesso allevatela in vasi grandi riempiti di terriccio ben drenante. Assicuratele un’esposizione molto luminosa e bagnatela regolarmente, ma senza eccessi. In inverno va ricoverata in un ambiente riscaldato ma non propriamente dentro casa: un locale caldaia, una stanza senza termosifone, anche un pianerottolo dove non arrivi direttamente l'aria esterna.

Coltivate così le piante australiane

  • Messa a dimora: in piena terra effettuatela in novembre-dicembre, quando nessuna di queste piante è in fiore in vaso in qualunque momento dell'anno tranne che durante la fioritura e fra giugno e agosto. Serve un ottimo drenaggio sul fondod ella buca o del vaso, e un terriccio leggermente acido: la buca va colmata con solo substrato per acidofile, mentre nel vaso 2/3 devono essere di terra per acidofile e 1/3 di terra per piante da fiore. Fanno eccezione i rampicanti (clianto, pandorea e hardenbergia), che possono tollerare una proporzione di terra acida dimezzata.
  • Vaso: essendo tutte piante arbustive o arboree, seppure a crescita lenta (il che consente di coltivarne alcune in contenitore), le dimensioni devono essere adeguate. Una pianta alta 40 cm deve avere un vaso di almeno 30 cm di diametro. Si procede al rinvaso in base all'accrescimento: quando risulta piccolo, si sostituisce con uno di due misure in più.
  • Posizione: preferibilmente ampiamente soleggiata, come minimo con 4-5 ore di sole al giorno. Nel Nord Italia anche assolutamente riparata dai venti gelidi.
  • Annaffiature: sono tutte piante da terreni frugali, tendenzialmente aridi, comunque molto ben drenati. Vanno annaffiate in abbondanza nel primo anno dall'impianto e in seguito solo se non piove per più di 20-30 giorni in piena estate. In vaso invece le annaffiature vanno somministrate ogni volta che il terriccio si è asciugato, perlomeno da febbraio a ottobre.
  • Concimazione: ricordando che si tratta di piante evolutesi su terreni poveri, il concime va distribuito in forma granulare a lenta cessione due sole volte l'anno, in febbraio e in settembre, scegliendo un prodotto per acidofile. In ogni caso non fornite mai un fertilizzante ad alto titolo di azoto perché hanno l’effetto – su tutte le piante frugali – di indurle a produrre una notevole massa fogliare a scapito però dei fiori, che possono anche non apparire.
  • Potatura: non è mai indispensabile, ma può essere effettuata per correggere – solo se necessario – il portamento della pianta: limitatevi a ridurre i rami che tendono a sfuggire e tagliate immediatamente sotto i fiori subito dopo che si sono seccati.

Alberi, per prime le mimose

  • Le mimose (genere Acacia) sono originarie dell'Australia, che ha eletto infatti A. baileyana come proprio fiore nazionale.
  • In tutta Italia (tranne che sulle Alpi) può vivere in piena terra A. dealbata, a condizione, nel Nord, di porla in un punto ben soleggiato e soprattutto molto riparato dai venti freddi: rischia la vita sotto gli 0 °C. Va comunque protetta con pacciamatura alla base e teli di non tessuto sulla chioma. Ama il sole e le temperature elevate, alle quali reagisce senza richiedere annaffiature (nel caso di esemplari già adulti in piena terra: nei primi anni va annaffiata regolarmente). Richiede un terreno leggero, sciolto, anche sassoso ma fertile. Per favorire la fioritura si può concimare in autunno. Le potature si effettuano solo se necessario, per ripulire l’albero. Può vivere anche in un grande vaso (diametro e profondità minimo 50 cm).
  • Se sceglierete una pianta da innesto, avrete risolto anche il problema delle proprietà infestanti degli esemplari nati da seme, e quello del terreno, dato che gli alberi innestati su A. retinoides tollerano anche i substrati calcarei, oltre ad avere dimensioni più ridotte e un portamento più ordinato.
  • Solo nel Sud Italia può vivere A. podalyrifolia, la perla delle acacie, alberello dal bel fogliame dato da fillodi di colore verde argento, che nel pieno inverno dei climi miti si ricopre della tipica fioritura gialla delle mimose.
  • Infine ci sono A. bayleiana, dalla fioritura copiosa e uniforme, e A. karoo, un po' meno fiorifera ma ideale per siepi di recinzione, sempre in Meridione: i suoi rami sono infatti muniti di robustissime, lunghe e pericolose spine, che scoraggiano qualunque bipede o quadrupede dall'affrontarle.

Le piante australiane di fama consolidata

  • Alcune specie australiane sono già fra noi, comunemente coltivate da un ventennio, senza che lo sapessimo: è il caso di cordiline, formium ed ebe.

Cordyline 'Pink' Le cordiline (Cordyline indivisa) hanno una forma simile a quella delle yucche e delle dracene, tanto da essere spesso confuse, ma presentano all’estremità dei fusti una bella rosetta di foglie allungate con una foggia più morbida (le lamine sono un po’ meno rigide) e mossa. In estate producono alcune pannocchie piumose, lunghe fino a 1 m, ricoperte di centinaia di piccoli fiori bianchi. Si coltiva in vaso grande, oppure nei giardini delle zone a clima mite e nelle zone costiere, data l’elevata resistenza al vento e alla salsedine: richiedono posizioni soleggiate o al massimo a mezz’ombra, un terreno ricco ben drenato e annaffiature regolari solo nei periodi più caldi.

Phormium

  • The formium (Phormium tenax) è una graminacea ornamentale di grandi dimensioni, che tollera anche la vita in un grande vaso sul terrazzo. È caratterizzato da robuste foglie lanceolate, di grandi dimensioni (altezza e diametro fino a 1,5 m). In giardino rende bene come punto focale, piantato in esemplari isolati o accostato ad altre graminacee di taglia minore o anche alla yucca. In estate produce spighe fiorali di colore rosso scuro, decorative.Preferisce le zone calde, dove può essere coltivato in piena terra senza protezioni, mentre dalla Val Padana in su è preferibile coltivarlo in vaso, da proteggere in inverno con un telo di non tessuto. Non ha esigenze particolari in fatto di terreno, purché sia sempre perfettamente drenato. Va piantato in posizione soleggiata. Resiste all’inquinamento delle aree cittadine, ai venti salmastri o secchi delle zone costiere e alla siccità.
  • L'ebe o veronica (Hebex andersonii) è un piccolo arbusto sempreverde, alto fino a 80 cm e largo fino a 60 cm in vaso, con crescita media foglie lanceolate o ovate, di medie dimensioni, lucide, consistenti, di colore verde bottiglia oppure variegate fiori piccoli, di colore viola o azzurri, riuniti in spighe numerose, in maggio-ottobre. Va allevata in vaso. Resiste all’aperto tutto l’anno è da proteggere con abbondante pacciamatura in Val Padana da ritirare in cantina o in serra fredda in montagna. Vuole esposizione soleggiata o al massimo a mezz’ombra. Tollera il caldo intenso e il vento, anche salmastro.
  • Piante australiane adatte al vaso

    • Vivono benissimo anche in vaso i callistemon, le cordiline e le ebe o veroniche. A loro si affiancano altre due belle australiane da contenitore: la scevola e la pianta dell'incenso.

    Scaevola La scevola (Scaevola aemula) è una perenne utilizzata come annuale, con fusti prima eretti e poi ricadenti, flessibili, lunghi fino a 30 cm, a formare densi cespuglietti, da impiegare come tappezzante e su muretti, oppure in cassette o in basket. Da marzo a settembre produce incessantemente piccoli fiori a forma di ventaglio, color porpora, blu o viola, con occhio giallo o bianco. Soffre a temperature inferiori a 10 °C e in caso di piogge prolungate: desidera un terriccio molto sciolto, leggero, con drenaggio perfetto. Va annaffiata con regolarità in estate, specialmente se è in vaso, ma solo dopo che il substrato si è asciugato. Si concima ogni 15 giorni con un prodotto liquido per piante da fiore. Desidera il sole o la mezz’ombra. In inverno può essere ricoverata in appartamento, in una stanza fresca.

    Plectranthus

  • There pianta dell'incenso (Plectranthus coleoides or P. forsteri), così chiamata per l'odore che emette il fogliame se sfiorato, ha portamento eretto fino a 30 cm di altezza, poi i fusti quadrangolari assumono un andamento ricadente. In commercio si trova quasi solo la varietà 'Marginatus' con foglie opposte, lunghe 5-7 cm, con lamina cuoriforme, pubescente, di colore verde chiaro, con margini crenati bianco o bianco-crema. I fiori sono insignificanti. Si utilizza come ricadente in basket e fioriere appese alla ringhiera dei balconi, mescolata con piante a fioritura colorata e portamento svettante, come i gerani. Ama il sole, tollera la mezz'ombra. Se ricoverata in ambiente fresco d'inverno, può durare da una stagione all'altra. Richiede annaffiature abbondanti ma distanziate.
  • In casa il fiore di cera

    • La chiamano “fiore di cera” o “fiore di porcellana” perché i fiori sono piccole stelle bianche con il centro rosso, carnose e compatte, veramente simili a piccole stelle di cera. Inoltre sono profumatissimi, soprattutto verso sera. Compaiono in primavera-estate, riuniti in infiorescenze che arrivano a 10 cm di diametro.
    • È Hoya carnosa, una rampicante dai fusti che si allungano di continuo fino a 2 m, che va allevata su un traliccio o una cupola inseriti in profondità nel terriccio del vaso. Attenzione: radica ai nodi.
    • L’eccesso d’acqua, i raggi solari diretti (ma vuole moltissima luce) e la temperatura troppo bassa (resiste solo fino a 13 °C) sono i suoi grandi nemici.
    • Fiorisce solo se la pianta rimane all’esterno da maggio a settembre (in mezz’ombra) e in interni in una stanza fresca (max 15 °C) durante l’inverno. Lo stelo fiorale non va mai tagliato, perché è sempre lo stesso stelo a produrre di anno in anno.

    Alberi insoliti per il Sud

    • Grevillea robusta

    C'è una grevillea, Grevillea robusta, che diventa un albero sempreverde che in Meridione supera i 10 m di altezza: chiamata anche quercia di seta o pino dorato, è caratterizzata da un fogliame verde brillante nella pagina superiore e bianco setoso in quella inferiore. Produce una spettacolare fioritura dorata con spighe lunghe fino a 20 cm, ricchissime di gocce di nettare che richiamano molti insetti impollinatori. Altrettanto notevoli sono le infiorescenze di Lagunaria patersonii, albero resistente e versatile che si adatta ai centri urbani e alle posizioni prospicienti il mare. Questa malvacea, detta anche Hibiscus patersonii, ha una bella chioma sempreverde di foglie coriacee, che all’inizio dell’estate si ricopre con i fiori tipici dell’ibisco. L’unica avvertenza riguarda le bacche autunnali che presentano una singolare peluria irritante al tatto.

    Lagunaria patersonii Sempre nei giardini del Meridione si coltivano i brachichiton, alberi sempreverdi di medio sviluppo (5-7 m), provenienti dalle regioni interne aride dell’Australia e molto resistenti alla siccità e al caldo. Per es. Brachychiton populneus, una specie dalle foglie molto simili a quelle del pioppo, largamente ombreggianti, i cui fiori campanulati, color crema con l'interno rosato variegato, compaiono all’inizio dell’estate e sono molto ricercati dalle api che ne producono un ottimo miele. Da fiori si formano frutti legnosi tozzi da cui è possibile estrarre semi gialli di facile germinabilità, avvolti in setole a effetto pruriginoso che gli aborigeni consumano abbrustoliti.

    Brachychiton rupestris


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