Kangaroo Paws

kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos 'Bush Pearl')

kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos ‘Bush Pearl’)

kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos sp.)

kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos sp.) at Natural History Museum, Los Angeles

When browsing nursery perennials and studying their labels, I have noticed there is one vital piece of information that is never included: life expectancy.
I do not know if this tidbit of data would influence buying decisions but it would certainly remove anxiety when, two years down the road, that gorgeous nursery specimen goes into sudden decline.
In truth, longevity is secondary to years of garden beauty since a plant can cling to life for many years, long after its attractiveness – which may be evident for only a year or two – is gone.
Kangaroo paw is one such case. Over the years, I have found kangaroo paw (Anigozanthus spp.) to be an enormous disappointment.
Perhaps I have only myself to blame. Sometimes I get lazy and, unless labor is invested – to create perfectly drained soil, continuously prune out spent flower stalks and old foliage, keep away snails, and fertilize steadily with micronutrients – disease problems and nutrient deficiencies take hold and rapid decline of kangaroo paw ensues.
At the same time, you must go lightly with your phosphorus fertilizer where kangaroo paw, grevillea and other Australian natives are concerned. If given too much phosphorus, Australian natives flounder and die.
With so much maintenance required and still no guarantee of success, I wondered if growing kangaroo paw was worth the effort. But just the other day, in Calabasas, I had the most wonderful encounter with a pink kangaroo paw that was several years old and had expanded into a large clump. Kangaroo paws have rhizomes, which means that they want to spread out like flag irises, lily-of-the-Nile (Agapanthus), calla lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) and Peruvian lily (Alstroemeria).
I learned that this particular kangaroo paw is a hybrid known as ‘Little Joey’ or ‘Bush Pearl’ and that it has a reputation for toughness. It was surrounded by the common yellow kangaroo paw (Anigozanthus flavidus), which is supposedly a sturdy species but, based on my experience, is quite delicate.
As for truly sturdy species, Santa Barbara daisy (which is actually native to Mexico) should definitely be high on the list. It is one of the easiest, most trouble-free flowering perennials for full to partial sun exposure. Along the coast, it flowers nearly all the time, but in the Valley, hot summer weather interrupts its floral display.
When in bloom, Santa Barbara daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus) probably has more flowers per square inch than any other perennial on Earth. Pinkish white daisies by the hundreds cover a single mounding plant.
Low-growing, mounding perennials are dear to the heart of just about any gardener. They are of low stature and low maintenance, giving tremendous bang for the buck.
Here, two trumpet-shaped and blue-flowered species also come to mind: ground morning glory (Convolvulus mauritanicus) and blue daze (Evolvulus glomeratus). Of similar growth habit is the white-flowered, silver-leafed bush morning glory (Convolvulus cneorum) and the very low-mounding rosy flowered bush germander (Teucrium cossonii majoricum).
If the idea of a soft-textured, lacy-leafed silvery mound (albeit without interesting flowers) strikes your fancy, then you will want to plant a variety of wormwood known as Artemisia ‘Powis Castle.’ Two heavily flowering vines are currently in bloom. Catch them now because they only flower once a year and, after a month or so of heavy bloom, will become invisible until next march.
Lady Banks rose (Rosa banksiae) and pink or climbing jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum) are ideal candidates for covering any sort of fence. While the classic Lady Banks rose is yellow, ‘Alba,’ a white variety, is also widely planted. Occasionally, Lady Banks roses are planted as shrubs and may be trained and pruned to adhere to a spherical shape.
When growing Lady Banks roses as globes, be prepared to keep your pruning shears handy since their rocketing shoots will need to be cut back several times a year.
Climbing jasmine yields giant clusters of flowers with petals that are pink on the outside and white on the inside.
Climbing jasmine is most attractive during its first several years in the garden. After that, it accumulates unsightly dead growth. You can spend hours removing brown leaves and stems or simply cut the plant back to within a foot or two of the ground, where it will make a fresh start.
If, in the course of your daily commute, you traverse the 101 Freeway on your journey from the Valley to downtown Los Angeles, look to the south between the Lankershim Boulevard and Barham Boulevard exits. You draped over a fence running parallel to the freeway.
Climbing jasmine has no fear of heights, growing up to 20 feet where it has a tall fence or tree trunk to twist around.
I have seen it planted at the base of those sky-high, beanpole, mop-headed Mexican fan palms (Washingtonia robusta), where it obligingly covers their naked trunks with a layer of deep green, followed at winter’s end by a dense floral.
Climbing jasmine’s strong fragrance is an added bonus.
will see an exquisite blanket of white with pink highlights
Tip of the week
I received the following testimonial from Anne Marie Darrach of Valencia regarding the efficacy of fava beans in inducing flowering of apple trees:
“I had written to you in the fall regarding my two apple trees that were not producing very well even though they had been in the ground for a number of years. Well, this winter they put on the best show of blossoms I had ever seen. I think part of their vigor was due to the fava beans which were growing nearby and which were in bloom starting mid-January and haven’t stopped. Did they ever attract the bees. If people want bees in their garden I would suggest planting two packets of fava bean seeds. Now I am harvesting fava beans, which I have never eaten before. Hope they’re good.”
Fava beans, also known as broad beans, are legumes and, as such, increase soil nitrogen content. When soil is nitrogen deficient, plants do not bloom well. Yet, when nitrogen is applied excessively, leaf growth may be so vigorous that there is a loss of resources where flower production is concerned.
Bee attraction is important if you have apple or other fruit trees since their flowers’ pollination and subsequent fruit depend on bees.
You should enjoy partaking of your fava beans, which are widely considered to have the richest flavor of all beans. They are tasty whether eaten raw or cooked.
Warning: Some people experience an allergic reaction upon consuming uncooked fava beans.

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