Geraldton Waxflower

Geraldton waxflower (Chamelaucium uncinatum)

Geraldton waxflower (Chamelaucium uncinatum)

Imagine a six-foot shrub that blooms six months of the year in near-drought conditions. Its wiry stems, studded with white, pink or violet flowers, may be cut for mixed bouquets and vase arrangements where they keep their vitality for more than a week.
I am talking about Geraldine wax flower, native to southwest Australia. It is named after Charles Fitzgerald, at least the Gerald part of his last name, who was the first governor of that territory. It flowers from mid-winter until late summer.
Geraldine wax flower has a light and airy growth habit. Its shoots lengthen rapidly and, once the plant matures, may be cut back by one third on an annual basis. It is easily propagated from stem cuttings in fast-draining soil or potting mix. Flowers are bowl shaped with five petals and leaves are one and a half inch needles. Both flowers and needles have a lemon scent. Plant it in half to three-quarters of the day’s sun.
A drought-tolerant garden, or at least the tree and shrub bones of it, could be taken exclusively from plants in the myrtle family, to which the wax flower belongs. Myrtles are distinguished by aromatic leaves and, occasionally, scented flowers as well. In addition, myrtle bark is either smooth and exfoliating or rough and peeling.
Myrtles include Australian tea tree (Leptoscpermum laevigatum), with uniquely gnarled branches, New Zealand tea tree (Leptospermum scoparium), blooming now in scarlet, pink, or white, and narrow-leafed peppermint, eucalyptus (Eucalyptus nicholii), a medium- sized and extremely cold hardy tree, bottlebrush (Callistemon spp.), whose noteworthy flowers attract hummingbirds, Melaleuca species, with small bottlebrush or pompon flowers in a variety of colors, and the peppermint tree (Agonis flexuosa), with weeping foliage and big bicep limbs.
Q. I have a Maple Sugar Hibiscus (Hibiscus acetosella) about 2-1/2 to 3 feet tall, in a 12-inch diameter pot on the patio, under a lattice roof receiving a little morning and then afternoon sun. The foliage is a beautiful burgundy and green, and it bloomed last month showing deep burgundy flowers. With our recent week of rain, it got plenty of water, of course, but showed no signs of stress, until this last week. I live up Bouquet Canyon Road in Saugus, and the nights can get cooler than the rest of the Santa Clarita valley. It is protected under the lattice cover so I wasn’t worried about the recent colder evenings. But now, the leaves are shriveled. The soil is still damp, so I haven’t watered it since the rains. What happened? Should I prune it back? Is this the time to do that? And when should I fertilize it? I would hate to lose it.
Will appreciate your advice.
-Rochelle Querio,
Saugus
A. I would first check your container to make sure drainage holes are not plugged, in which case you could have a root rot problem. If drainage is good, the fact that the soil is damp from the rain suggests that your hibiscus, a tropical plant, may be too exposed to the elements, including cold. You might want to consider covering it during winter nights with burlap or an old blanket to keep it warm. In any case, you do not want to prune a cold damaged plant. Doing so could encourage new, succulent growth that would be highly susceptible to new cold damage.
Wait until the plant has significantly leafed out in the spring before cutting off dead shoots and leaves. I also would not fertilize until lots of new growth is evident. Your hibiscus acetosella goes by the name of African rose mallow since it is native to Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Congo, and is thus one of the more tropical hibiscuses. It is a compact, high impact shrub. Although you mention flowers, its deeply lobed foliage, which resembles that of a burgundy Japanese maple, is of primary interest.
Q. I have several camellia bushes, all of which are about six or seven years old.
The foliage looks fine and they are growing SLOWLY. But they bloom extremely sparingly. I fertilize them at Easter, 4th of July and Labor Day with an acidic fertilizer. One of my plants is the exception. It’s a tiny plant (one-foot high) but it actually blooms a lot. All of the plants are in shade. Any advice?
-Evelyn Feinberg,
Tarzana
A. My first thought is that you are over-fertilizing them. I would withhold all fertilizer for the time being. When plants are over-fertilized they put out a lot of leafy growth at the expense of the flowers. I have seen many camellias in the Valley flower heavily with no fertilizer and little water.
While I would not call them drought-tolerant, established camellias should never need to be soaked more than twice a week. The fact that your smallest plant is flowering would indicate that inhibition of leaf growth, perhaps due to inferior soil in its garden spot, has stimulated flower development. Although considered shade plants, make sure that your camellias are not growing in deep shade, which could also prevent them from flowering.
Calendula, so-called because it blooms at the beginning of the calendar year, is flowering now. Calendula blooms have a spicy fragrance. Also known as pot marigold, Calendula self-sows prolifically and will naturalize in almost any soil type. You can also collect seeds when flowers have faded and shriveled and disperse them in selected garden spots.
Tip of the week
Large pink oxalis is among the most underrated plants. It blooms gloriously at this time of year but may show flowers in all four seasons.
Pink wood sorrel can pop up almost anywhere, at any time, in sun or shade, and you barely have to water it. Two species with especially large leaves and flowers are Oxalis bowiei and Oxalis crassipes.

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