By GEOFF MIERS
Native fuchsias or Eremophilas are tough, drought hardy, bird attracting, have great blooms and there is a variety that will accommodate any condition or situation in your garden.
Eremophilas have increasingly become popular over the past decade. Eremophila come from the Greek word eremophilos, meaning “desert lover.” They generally grow in the arid zones of Australia with several hundred different varieties.
While a popular plant species in Central Australia for the past two decades the eremophilas were largely unknown throughout Australia generally.
Now however there are wholesale growers in the southern states able to supply plants Australia wide as their value as a drought hardy plant species is now being appreciated.
Eremophilas come in all forms from low ground covers to small, medium and large shrubs and there are even small tree forms.
Eremophila Winter Gold
This species generally love a free draining soil, resent over-watering and can tolerate scorching hot conditions through to sub-zero temperatures. There are some that grow well in heavy clay soils.
By selecting the right varieties you can have eremophilas flowering in your garden through late winter, spring, summer and early autumn.
For example Eremophila polyclada, commonly referred to as Twiggy Emu Bush, can flower for nine to 10 months of the year with flowering peaking in mid summer when most other native plant species have shut down.
Eremophilas love a full sun location although will still thrive with six hours of full sun a day. There are also some varieties that will tolerate light shade or part shade for several hours a day.
With a few exceptions where some varieties will tolerate heavy soil generally they prefer light free draining soils. A sunny spot, free draining soils and no over watering and your eremophilas will thrive.
Generally eremophilas also prefer sand, gravel and rock mulch as against organic wood chip, pine bark and organic other alternatives.
The toughest eremophilas that do tolerate reasonably heavy soils are Eremophila polyclada (white flowers), its cousin Eremophila Summertime Blue (bluish blooms) and Eremophila maculata subsp. brevifolia with its magenta flowers.
There are numerous varieties of Eremophila maculata that come with orange, red, pink and purple blooms and they come in differing sizes from 50 cms to two metres.
The small varieties that I love are Erem. deciphens growing to one metre with delicate red blooms, Erem. Augusta Storm growing 75 cms with lilac blooms and Erem. ovata and obovata growing 50 to 75 cms high with bright purplish/blue flowers.
Eremophila ovata and E. obovata are local native varieties coming from Central Australia.
Most of the Eremophila maculata varieties grow from one metre to 1.5 to 2 metres. There are white, purple, pink, red and orange varieties.
One of my absolute favorites is Eremophila maculata aurea a long flowering yellow form that once established will thrive even when not being irrigated.
I have a 20 year old plant that hasn’t been irrigated for 15 years and while the grasshoppers gave it a belting two years in a row it still looks good in my garden.
Another popular yellow form growing to one metre is Eremophila maculata Winter Gold which is really E. maculata aurea under another name. It has a slightly different form.
Eremophila Summertime Blue.
There are also a number of grey/whitish foliage forms that provide great foliage contrast in the garden.
Erem. Kalbarri Carpet and Erem. Blue Horizon are two great ground cover plants while Eremophila nivea and Eremophila nivea x drummondii are two shrubs that respectively grow 1.5 metres and one metre in height. Both have stunning foliage and bright purple blooms.
As a general rule the grey foliage forms resent heavy soils so plant them into free draining soils for best results and irrigate them less often once established. Sometimes only five good drinks a year at the right times is sufficient to meet their needs and see them thrive.
I need to stress however that they will need irrigating when first planted. I like to water daily for the first two weeks for one hour with a four litre per hour dripper.
Then I’ll cut this back to once every three days increasing the watering time to one and a half hours or two hours if the soil is sandy and free draining.
After several months the watering regime is cut back to once every four days, the aim being to gradually increase the duration between watering until they only need a drink around five times a year.
There are so many eremophilas that can be found in your local nursery it’s simply a matter of keeping your eye out when new varieties become available as often there are plenty one week and none the next.
By planting a mix of varieties you can literally be rewarded with blooms in parts of your garden any time of the year.
Eremophilas flower prolifically bringing in masses of birds throughout the year bringing great joy to the home gardener.
Eremophila maculata var. brevifolia.
There is only one down side: Often birds moving from one bush to another can introduce scale insects and mealy bug, a common problem with a lot of eremophilas.
The solution to scale and mealy bug is to tip prune your eremophilas once flowering has abated. By pruning to remove spent flowers and seeds and pruning to improve the shrubs shape you will also be pruning off any small insect introduced by the birds.
By pruning once flowering has finished you will remove any small populations of invasive pests preventing a build-up in numbers where they start to dominate the plant.
Pruning, squirting with sharp jets of water and over the cooler months spraying with water and white oil should keep both scale insects and mealy bug under control.
PHOTO at top: Eremophila Maculata variety brevifolia, up close.