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Hardy Australian Plants (S452a: 1892)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: Printed on page 153 of the 20 August 1892 issue of The Garden. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S452A.htm

    Every gardener knows that very few Australian plants, whether shrubby or herbaceous, are hardy in this country, except in such favoured districts as the southern coasts of Cornwall and Devon, Guernsey, or the Scilly Islands. But I am inclined to believe that this want of hardiness depends on the circumstances under which the greater number of Australian plants reached this country, and that there would be now no difficulty in obtaining representatives of all the more characteristic and interesting groups of these plants which would be perfectly hardy over a large part of the south and west of England, Scotland and Ireland.

    If we look for the chief genera of Australian plants in Johnson's "Gardeners' Dictionary" or Loudon's "Encyclop√¶dia of Plants," both of which give the date of introduction of each species, we shall find that almost all the Acacias, Correas, Bossi√¶as, Kennedyas, Epacrises, Banksias, Grevilleas, Brachycomas, Pimeleas and scores of other Australian plants which once decorated our greenhouses were introduced in the early part of this century, a large number before 1820 and almost all by 1840 or 1850; but at that time the only settled country was in the coast districts. Victoria only began to be settled in 1835, and Mount Kosciusko with the alpine region around it was only discovered in 1840. Hence it happened that all the Australian plants brought to England for cultivation were obtained in the low-lying and warm districts near the coast, and were therefore all tender greenhouse plants, the attempt to grow which in the open air is hardly ever successful. Then, at a later period, when Orchids and bedding-out came into fashion, there was less demand for Australian plants, and many of the species once so valued went out of cultivation, and probably no attempt has ever been made to obtain plants from the cold uplands for cultivation in this country. The present time, however, seems very favourable for making the attempt. There is now an enormous demand in this country for new and beautiful forms of hardy plants for outdoor culture, while the extension of railways to all the mining districts of Australia, and the settlement of many of the higher plateaux for dairy farming, render it comparatively easy to obtain seeds and plants from suitable localities. In the south-eastern corner of Australia there is a tract of mountainous country covering about 15,000 square miles, all at an elevation of more than 3000 feet above the sea level. In a central position is the mining town of Kiandra, 4640 feet above the sea, and surrounded by mountains from 5000 feet to 7000 feet elevation. At Kiandra snow often lies on the ground for weeks, and the thermometer not unfrequently falls below zero (Fahrenheit), so that there can be little doubt that the plants growing in the country around it, and at still greater elevations, would be quite hardy. In Tasmania nearly one-third of the whole area is above 3000 feet elevation, while there are extensive plains and mountain slopes up to 4000 feet where the climate is still more severe than at Kiandra.

    Now the peculiar vegetation of Australia is sure to be represented at these altitudes by alpine and sub-alpine species or varieties, and our gardens might thus be adorned by species of the numerous genera which have so long been favourites in our greenhouses, as well as by many others which are altogether peculiar to the sub-alpine and alpine regions. Collectors might no doubt be obtained in Australia itself, and these lines are written in the hope of inducing either one of our nurserymen or some wealthy amateur to obtain their services for the purpose of stocking English gardens with hardy Australian plants.


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