Australian Plants and Trees
Native Australian plants and trees are not difficult to grow and are becoming more and more popular in home gardens. One very attractive climber is the Hardenbergia. The genus Hardenbergia has three species. These leguminous vines are native to Australia and are found in all states bar the Northern Territory. The genus was named in 1837 by the English botanist, George Bentham, to honour Franziska, Countess von Hardenberg.
The three species are:
Hardenbergia violacea has a number of common names including false sarsaparilla, purple coral pea, happy wanderer, native lilac and, from the now forgotten Kattang language, waraburra. In south western USA it is commonly called lilac vine or Mexican lilac vine. It is recommended for US zones 9 to 11. The preferred pH range is 5.5 to 6.5 and a sandy to clay loam is best.
It is grown as a climber or dwarf shrub. It copes well with heat and wind and is now widely grown. It makes an excellent cover for walls, fences and anything else that needs to be hidden. It can also be trained as a ground cover. With the development of so many cultivars, specialisation has resulted in different varieties more suited for different purposes.
Hardenbergia is an evergreen, woody-stemmed climber with racemes of typical pea flowers, usually in late winter. These may be violet, white or pink. The eucalyptus-like leaves are dark green and leathery with prominent veins.
It is happiest in full sun or a semi-shaded position. It needs a well-drained soil, although the soil should be kept moist until the plant is established. Once settled and established it is drought tolerant. It will tolerate some frost. Like many evergreen climbers, it tends to climb rapidly then spread out and become leggy at the bottom with a great canopy of foliage on top. Although it isn't necessary to prune the plant, pruning after flowering will keep the bush more compact and ensure a more even coverage of its support.
In Western Australia, the local variety is Hardenbergia comptoniana, known also as native wisteria. This species is native to the coastal regions of the south west of the state, from Geraldton in the north to Albany. It will scramble up to 8 metres but is usually only 2 to 3 metres wide.
Some of the cultivars are very popular with kangaroos (!) as well as home gardeners and with good reason. There are a number available.
- Happy wanderer is a vigorous climber with purple flowers. It will grow to 3 metres tall and 1.5 metres wide. This variety is possibly the most widely grown in Australia.
- Rosea is an exquisite soft pink colour.
- Alba has pure white flowers.
- Pink Spray is a long flowering shrubby form
- Meema is a relatively new release and is a shrubby ground cover growing to 45cm high and 2 metres wide. It will stay looking crisp and fresh through very cold winters and hot dry periods.
- Purple Clusters grows about a metre tall with a similar width and has masses of flowers in winter and spring.
- White Out is a shrubby form to 2.5 metres tall with a similar width and masses of white flowers.
- Purple Spray forms a 1.5 metre tall shrub. The masses of flowers completely cover the leaves.
Hardenbergia does a great job of hiding a fence or other eyesore. Ours hides a huge tank and the kangaroos appreciate a nibble at the lower branches from time to time.