Plant Guide

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Coastal

kunzea-ericoides

Kunzea ericoides

kanuka, white tea tree, white manuka, burgan, tree manuka

Fast growing, evergreen shrub or small erect tree, occurring naturally in Australia and throughout New Zealand. Bright green, linear leaves, 1-2 cm long, releasing volatile oils when crushed. Small white flowers, 0.5-1 cm across, during summer. Similar to Leptospermum scoparium (manuka), but leaves are soft, whereas manuka leaves are prickly. Manuka flowers and seed capsules are larger, and the plant itself is smaller than kanuka. 

Synonyms: Leptospermum ericoides, Kunzea peduncularis.

Prefers a sunny position in any well-draining soil. Tolerates partial shade, drought, wind, poor soils, moderate frosts, and coastal conditions. Does not like wet feet. Frost-hardy throughout New Zealand. Usually free from pests and diseases. Difficult to transplant. Best planted in autumn with minimum root disturbance.

Used in revegetation projects as nurse plants, colonising open areas prior to the introduction of other plants. Under-utilised in gardens, but worth considering as a shelter tree or a specimen, planted as a solitary tree or in groups for its attractive branching pattern, vigorous growth, and profusion of flowers in summer.

lagunaria-patersonii

Lagunaria patersonii

Norfolk Island hibiscus, pyramid tree, Queensland white oak, itch tree, cow itch tree

Australian, evergreen tree or shrub with a columnar to pyramidal shape, endemic to Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island, and parts of Queensland. Oval, olive to grey green leaves, 5-10 cm long. Flowering in summer and early autumn with hibiscus-like, 4-8 cm wide flowers, pale pink, fading to white. Stamens are arranged in a single, central column, typical for members of the Malvaceae (mallow family). Flowers are followed by furry seed capsules, filled with tiny hairs which are like fiber-glass splinters and cause itching and skin inflammation. Lagunaria patersonii 'Royal Purple' has crimson flowers.

Prefers a sunny position in well-draining soil. Does not like wet feet. Not suitable for heavy clay soils. Can handle considerable drought and copes well in poor soils. Ideal for coastal gardens and windy locations. Tolerates light frosts. 

Versatile plant for flower display during late summer. Suitable for screening and hedging purposes. Tends to have branches and foliage all the way along the stem from ground level, but can be grown as a clear-stemmed specimen by regularly removing new growth from the main trunk. The canopy is relatively narrow, so even though Lagunaria patersonii can grow quite tall, it is suitable for smaller spaces. Plant this tree in areas where the seed pods cannot pose problems (i.e. away from pools and public spaces, in particular those frequented by children). 

laurus-nobilis-standard

Laurus nobilis

bay laurel, bay tree, sweet bay, true laurel

Evergreen broadly conical tree or large shrub from the Mediterranean region. Glossy, leathery leaves, highly aromatic when crushed and useful in cooking. Small, star-shaped yellowish flowers in spring, followed on female plants by green egg-shaped fruits that ripen to purplish black in autumn.

Prefers a sunny or part-shady position in well-drained soil. Leaves are darker green when grown in the shade. Remove any suckers that may be formed at the base of the plant. Hardy to -12oC. 

Laurus nobilis lends itself perfectly for clipping and shaping. It is a popular hedge and topiary plant. You can create your own topiary specimen by selecting a plant with a good, straight central leader (as opposed to a bushy plant that has its tip removed to encourage branching).  Gradually remove side branches that are forming too low on the main stem, untill the plant has reached the height from which you wish the canopy to be formed. Now allow the side branches to grow, and, once or twice a year, trim the canopy to a ball-shape or any other shape that takes your fancy.

lavandula-dentata

Lavandula dentata

toothed lavender, French lavender, fringed lavender

Strongly aromatic evergreen shrub, woody at the base, with upright branches, grey-green leaves and lilac flowers for most of the year. Native to the Mediterranean region, the Cape Verde Islands and Madeira. Leaves are sticky, linear, 3-4 cm long, 0.5 cm wide. Easy to distinguish from other lavender species by the bluntly toothed leaf margins. Flowers are arranged in tight spikes, topped with pale purple bracts, to about 5 cm long on stems held above the foliage. Attracts bees and butterflies. Lavandula dentata does not have the typical lavender fragrance. Its smell is more aromatic than "flowery", rather like a blend of rosemary and lavender scents. 

Prefers a hot and sunny position in well-drained neutral to alkaline soil, not too fertile, but adapts well to a range of situations. It is tougher and less fussy in terms of growing conditions than most other lavender species. Susceptible to root rot in poorly drained soils. Very drought-tolerant once established. Tolerates light to medium frosts (to about -7oC). Prune after flowering to keep compact and remove spent flowers.

Mainly grown for its silvery grey foliage and subtle flowers. Suitable for topiary and hedging purposes. May also be grown in containers. Excellent choice for coastal gardens and for hot and dry areas.

lavandula-stoechas-patleigh

Lavandula stoechas 'Patleigh'

Vigorous, upright and compact, evergreen shrub with purple flowers and showy pale yellow bracts in spring. The flowers themselves are tiny, but are tightly arranged in a spike-like inflorescence to about 4 cm long, or to 6 cm long including the terminal bracts. Opposite pairs of linear, aromatic, yelow-green leaves (approximately 4 cm x 0.5 cm). May self-seed, but seedlings do not necessarily have the exactly same appearance as the parents. Flowers attract bees and butterflies.

Lavandula stoechas 'Patleigh' originated in New Zealand from a cross between two unnamed Lavandula stoechas parents.

Grows best in full sun and any soil type as long as it is well-draining. Tolerates wind, drought, and coastal conditions. Remove spent flowers to encourage additional flower production. Lightly prune in autumn to keep the plant compact. Tolerates moderate frosts only (zones 8-9).

I love the colour combination of the flowers. Lavandula stoechas 'Patleigh' seems a particular tough plant. This would make a gorgeous low hedge. The leaves are aromatic (a rosemary-like scent rather than the fragrance of English lavender flowers)

leonotis-leonurus

Leonotis leonurus

lion's ear, lion's tail, wild dagga, red dagga, wild hemp, cape hemp, minaret flower

Evergreen shrub in the mint family (Lamiaceae), native to southern Africa. Flowering in late summer and autumn with bright orange, tubular flowers arranged in whorls along upright, four-angled stems. Becomes woody at the base and herbaceous elsewhere, so is more accurately specified as a sub-shrub. Opposite, densely hairy, linear leaves to 10 cm long by 2 cm wide. Is reported to have hallucinogenic and medicinal properties. Naturalised in various parts of the world, including Western Australia and New South Wales in Australia, Hawaii and California.

Prefers a position in full sun, but tolerates semi-shade. Can be grown in any soil type as long as it is well-draining. Drought-tolerant once established. Cut back to near ground level in winter to maintain a tidy habit. Tolerates moderate frosts (zones 9-11). Suitable for coastal gardens.

Striking plant when flowering with brilliant orange flowers. Good for the back of borders or sunny hot banks.

liatris-spicata

Liatris spicata

(dense or marsh) blazing star, (Kansas, prairie, or spike) gay feather, button snake root, button snakewort

Clump-forming herbaceous perennial, native to moist habitats in eastern USA and parts of Canada. Long flower spikes with rosy purple, fluffy flower heads. From early summer, flowers open gradually from the top of the spike downwards. Grass-like leaves, mid green, 10-30 cm long, becoming progressively shorter along the flowering stems. Several cultivars are available, including white flowering, and dwarf forms. Attracts butterflies, bees, moths and hummingbirds.

Liatris spicata has numerous synonyms, including Kuhnia spicata, Lacinaria spicata, Suprago spicata, and Serratula spicata.

Prefers a sunny position in any moist, but well-drained soil. Also grows well in partial shade, and, except in sandy soils, is able to cope with some drought. Cut back to near ground level after flowering. Can be propagated by dividing the tuberous roots in early spring. Frost hardy.

Looks best when planted in groups in the middle of borders, in particular when combined with plants that have different flower shapes, such as daisies, Echinacea, and dahlias. Suitable for coastal gardens. Long-lasting cut flower, and can be dried too.

libertia-peregrinans

Libertia peregrinans

mikoikoi; New Zealand iris; creeping iris

Evergreen herbaceous perennial, endemic to New Zealand, named after Dutch botanist Madame Libert. The specific epithet 'peregrinans' is derived from the Latin word for 'to wander', and alludes to the fact that Libertia peregrinans spreads via rhizomes from which new leaves emerge. Stiff, upright foliage, arranged in fans. In full sun, the leaves are predominantly orange in colour, intensifying during the colder months. In partial shade they are olive green with shades of orange or copper, and in full shade the foliage is green. Flowering in spring with panicles of white flowers, 1-3 cm across, followed by green barrel-shaped capsules, gradually turning orange, yellow or black.

Libertia peregrinans used to be widespread in New Zealand along the coast and margins of swamps, but has declined due to changes in (and/or loss of) its natural habitat. Is is however very common in cultivation.

A position in full sun is best for the brightest foliage colour, but will also grow happily in partial shade. Any well-draining soil. Tolerates wind and dry conditions. Suitable for coastal gardens. Very easy to propagate by means of division. Frost-hardy to about -12 deg Celsius (Zones 8-10).

Looks great when planted in groups, making a bold, bright statement, in particular during winter. Libertia peregrinans spreads easily by itself, so if you wish to contain it in a particular area in your garden, make sure you remove the new tufts of leaves (including their roots)  that spring up at various distances from the mother plant.

liriope-muscari

Liriope muscari

lilyturf, big blue lilyturf, border grass, monkey grass

Evergreen, clump-forming, herbaceous perennial, native to East Asia, where it occurs as an under-story plant in forests. Glossy, dark green, grass-like, arching leaves. Flowering in summer and autumn with small purple flowers, tightly packed in erect spikes. They resemble the flowers of the grape hyacinth, Muscari, hence the specific epithet. Fibrous roots, often with small tubers. Several cultivars are available, including a white flowering form and a variegated cultivar.

Liriope muscari prefers a sheltered position in partial or full shade, and any well-draining soil. Tolerates sun, drought, and coastal conditions. If leaves turn brown in winter, they can be cut back (or mowed) before the new foliage appears. To propagate, divide the plant and replant straight away. Generally disease-free. Hardy to about -15 deg C.

Excellent choice for under-planting en masse. Neat edging and ground cover plant. Suitable for containers. Combine e.g. with lime-green foliage plants, ferns, spring-flowering bulbs, or hostas.

lobelia-erinus-lucia-dark-blue

Lobelia erinus

edging lobelia, garden lobelia, trailing lobelia, bedding lobelia, annual lobelia

Dainty herbaceous perennial, native to South Africa, flowering from spring to autumn with small blue to violet, pale-centered flowers in loose panicles, fine stems and tiny leaves.  Flowers are 1-2 cm across, and have five-lobed corollas with three larger and two smaller lobes. Lower leaves are oval in shape, 1-3 cm long, often flushed with a reddish-purple tinge, and have toothed margins. Leaves on flowering stems are linear, and usually have an entire margin. Many cultivars are available, with a trailing or upright habit, and flower colours ranging from shades of purple and blue, to pink, cerise, and white. Pictured here is Lobelia erinus 'Lucia Dark Blue', a trailing variety with gorgeous sky-blue flowers.

Prefers a sunny position (partially shaded in areas with hot summers) in well-draining soil. Looks best when the weather is cool, but usually stops flowering during summer when temperatures become too high. If that happens to your plants, you can cut them back to encourage another flush of flowers later in the season. Lobelia erinus 'Lucia Dark Blue' is more heat tolerant than many other varieties. For best performance, apply compost and fertiliser once a year. Fertilise container plants once a month. Suitable for coastal areas. Tolerates light frosts, and in colder climates Lobelia erinus is generally grown as an annual.

Trailing varieties are particularly attractive when allowed to spill over the edges of containers, window boxes and hanging baskets. Upright varieties make great edging plants and colourful additions to rock gardens.

Macropiper-excelsum

Macropiper excelsum

kawakawa, pepper tree

Bushy shrub or small tree with rounded to heart-shaped, 5-10 cm wide, aromatic leaves with prominent veins. Dark green foliage in shade, lighter green in more open positions. Leaves often covered with holes caused by the kawakawa looper moth caterpillar. Zigzagging branches, swollen at the nodes. Minute, inconspicuous female and male flowers on separate, 4-8 cm long spikes, usually on separate plants. Female flowers are followed by tiny tightly packed berries, green at first, turning orange later, providing food for birds. Occurs naturally in forests and other shady areas throughout the North Island and northern parts of the South Island of New Zealand. Leaves, bark, fruit and roots have medicinal properties.


Tolerates light frost. Prefers moist, well draining soil, but in warm humid areas, a more exposed position and relatively dry soil is best to prevent fungal diseases. Can be pruned to shape.

Excellent filler for shady areas. Also suitable as a container plant.

melia-azedarach

Melia azedarach

Persian lilac, Indian lilac, Cape lilac, bead tree, chinaberry tree, syringa berrytree, white cedar, Ceylon cedar, Texas umbrella, umbrella tree

Deciduous tree with a rounded canopy and glossy foliage, native to northern and eastern parts of Australia, and South East Asia. Belongs to the Mahogany family (Meliaceae). Leaves are 2-3 times odd-pinnately compound, to 50 cm long, and consist of 3-8 cm long leaflets with entire or lobed and/or toothed margins. Foliage is mid green, turning yellow in autumn. Small, pale purple to mauve and white, fragrant flowers in loose panicles during spring after the new leaves have emerged. Flowers are followed in autumn by 1.5 cm wide bead-like fruit, smooth and green initially, wrinkled and yellow when mature, remaining on the tree for a long time during winter. Has become invasive in some parts of the world. Poisonous fruits and foliage.

Synonyms (among many others): Melia australis, Melia japonica, Melia sempervirens.

Prefers a sunny position in well-draining soil. Copes well with partial shade. Adaptable to a wide range of conditions, but sensitive to waterlogged soils. Can handle considerable drought. Prune for shape to encourage a good branching structure. Suitable for coastal areas. Melia azedarach has a shallow root system and is best planted at some distance from hard surfaces. Tolerates moderate frosts (zones 8-12).

Attractive shade or specimen tree with graceful foliage, perfumed spring flowers, and a lovely display of yellow fruit in winter. When in flower, the canopy has a beautiful soft, smokey mauve appearance. Also suitable for erosion control and timber production.

metrosideros-carminea

Metrosideros carminea

akakura, carmine rata, crimson rata

Evergreen climber, endemic to New Zealand, but only occasionally found in its natural habitat of coastal and lowland forests in the northern half of the North Island. Climbs by adhering to tree trunks and other rough surfaces with aerial, adventitious roots. When the juvenile plant eventually reaches the light, it gradually transforms into the shrubby, non-climbing, flowering, adult form. Cuttings from an adult plant will result in a small spreading shrub rather than a climber. Shaded parts of an adult shrub may produce juvenile climbing or creeping stems. Glossy, dark green, rounded leaves, 1-2 cm long on juvenile plants and 2-4 cm long on adult plants. Bright crimson flowers in dense clusters from mid winter to mid spring.

Synonym: Metrosideros diffusa

Prefers a position in well-draining soil. If you intend to use Metrosideros carminea as a climber, then find a spot in the shade, preferably where it can grow towards the light. If you want to grow it as a shrub, then a sunny position is best. Suitable for coastal gardens. Once established, the crimson rata tolerates drought, and light to moderate frosts (USDA zones 8-11). The adult form copes well with exposed, windy conditions. Generally trouble free.

Very tough, but slow growing plant. Spectacular when in flower. Worth the wait!

metrosideros-excelsa

Metrosideros excelsa

pohutukawa, New Zealand pohutukawa, New Zealand Christmas tree

Evergreen, usually multi-stemmed tree, often developing a spreading canopy, endemic to New Zealand. Occurs mainly in coastal regions of the northern part of the North Island. Leaves of mature trees are covered with a fine tomentum, lightly on the upper surface and densely on the lower surface, giving the foliage a grey-green appearance. Leaves are elliptic to oblong, to 10 cm long and 5 cm wide, arranged in pairs. Bright red flowers begin to appear in November, and continue to open during December and January (New Zealand summer). Individual trees may vary in flowering time, and in flower colour shade and intensity. Flowers attract nectar-feeding birds. Grey, deeply furrowed bark. Metrosideros excelsa trees often develop clusters of aerial roots from the trunk and the lower branches, some of which may reach the ground.

Prefers a position in full sun and well-draining soil. Does not like wet feet. Very wind-tolerant. Good for coastal areas with poor soils. Tolerates dry conditions. Copes well with moderate frosts once established, but is frost tender when young. No major pests and diseases. Root system can become invasive, so it is best not to plant Metrosideros excelsa close to buildings or near drainage systems. Use drought-tolerant plants for under-planting.

Magnificent tree, smothered with flowers around Christmas time in the Southern Hemisphere. Use as a specimen tree in large gardens. If you have insufficient space, select one of the smaller growing selections, such as 'Scarlet Pimpernel' or 'Vibrance'.

muehlenbeckia-astonii

Muehlenbeckia astonii

Fine, dark, densely interlaced branches. The minute round to heart-shaped green leaves fall in winter in colder climates, giving the shrub a brown to purple colour. Small white flowers, followed by tiny, translucent white fruits with black seeds inside. Occurs naturally in coastal areas in the south of the North Island of New Zealand and the north-east of the South Island.

Forms a great contrast with larger-leafed shrubs such as Griselinia littoralis or with flaxes and grasses or grass-like plants such as Chionochloa flavicans.

Muehlenbeckia astonii prefers dry conditions, but will cope with wet soils as long as the plant has a cool root run. Can be pruned to shape. Hardy to -12oC