Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Agonis flexuosa and Eucalyptus diversicolour

Eucalyptus diversicolour
  Karri Tree of Western Australia
I have just finished reading the bitter sweet novel Breath by Tim Winton. The book was published in 2009 and has won a swag of literary awards, deservedly so. The main character, 'Pikelet' is very much aware of his environment, on both land and sea, and even spends a bit of time in the library reading books on plants when not distracted by conquering the surf. Two trees form part of the narrative and each represents a different aspect of his growing up in that southern region of Western Australia. The majestic Karri tree, one of the giants of the plant world is held in awe and the forest of these trees is a place of loneliness and fear, shunned by others in his community. Pikelet spends time amongst these trees to overcome his fear of some of the dangerous surf breaks he is yet to experience and to have alone time to contemplate and work out why his friends act the way they do.
The other tree is the coastal Peppermint or 'Willow Myrtle', Agonis flexuosa. In the book this tree is all sweetness and light, alive with honey eating birds while releasing an invigorating fragrance from its leaves in the hot sun to make the surf even more inviting for Pikelet and his friends.
Of all the wonderful trees from Western Australia, this is one which grows well on the east coast especially on coastal sands but also on difficult sites away from the coast in humid sub-tropic regions. It needs room however to reach its full potential and can reach 8 metres in height with a dense spreading crown of weeping willow type branches.The dwarf form A.f. 'Nana' only grows to 2.5 metres and makes an excellent windbreak or low hedge in coastal sands but has largely fallen out of favour since the rise and rise of the Lilly Pilly hedge of recent years. The coloured leaf forms, 'Variegata' and 'Fairy Foliage' are handsome small trees/large shrubs with dainty open habit and leaves tinged creamy yellow in the former and blush pink in the latter. Some shade is needed to stop the foliage from burning. Both are not easy to come by in the nursery trade perhaps due to their difficulty in propagation and slow growth habit. The cultivar 'After Dark' is more readily available and it fits the bill perfectly for the burgundy/black foliage colour mania which has been popular in recent years. It makes a decorative container specimen for even a tiny balcony garden.
Whenever I come across these trees in the future I will think of Tim Winton's terrific novel Breath

Willow Peppermint, Agonis flexuosa in the blinding white sand of WA
Photo:K.C. Richardson

Agonis flexuosa 'After Dark'
Breath is published by Penguin books

1 comment:

  1. That's one big TREE! oh lalala!^^ Anyway I also know that book but I didn't read it well maybe this time I'll try thanks for sharing.