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People have been asking me what to plant to attract birds so in an earlier post, Trees are Restaurants, https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/05/27/trees-are-restaurants/ I said I would write about plants &

a gorgeous golden flower from a small Grevillea tree

trees that provide food for birds & other native animals.

This post is about the Grevillea, an Australian native. They are sometimes spelt Grevilliea.

There are about 360 varieties of Grevilleas. They range from ground covers to tallish trees. I’m no expert & others may say something different, but I think if you want birds into your garden quick smart, plant a Grevillea or 2 or 5.

Grevilleas are fast growing, look lovely, respond well to pruning by producing more flowers so they can be kept neat if that is a concern.  Many varieties flower for most of the year with peak periods in both winter & summer months.

The flowers of Grevilleas range from vibrant pinks, reds & oranges to subtle creams & yellows, so if you have a colour scheme in your garden, you can choose to suit.  The flowers themselves can be as tiny as a finger nail or 10 cm or longer & most are long lasting.  One Grevillea shrub or small tree can have a hundred or more flowers during the peak flowering period.

Because their roots are shallow they are not invasive to pipes, nor will they uplift cement or disturb kerbing.  They do not like having their roots disturbed & if this happens, they are likely to drop dead on you. I have not been able to successfully transplant a Grevillea & would recommend you choose your site well. Because their roots are shallow, they appreciate a cover of mulch to protect their roots from drying out.

Smaller Grevilleas are excellent in troughs & roof gardens where there is not too much soil. They grow well in all sorts of soils, including sandy soils, but don’t like to be too wet. They prefer an acidic soil in full sun. They are a great plant for low water requirements.

Robyn Gordon Grevillea - a small shrub

Bankstown City Council are running a program to bring the birds back by encouraging residents to plant bird-feeding plants. Grevilleas are one of those recommended.  230 different species of birds have been sighted in the Bankstown LGA. 16 of these are listed as endangered or vulnerable species in NSW, which is very sad.  Once these birds are gone, they are gone forever.  Pittwater Council has also decided that all properties should have an area at the back that is less cultivated & includes a variety of native plants to provide food sources & habitat for urban wildlife. They also recommend not removing dead trees & leaving hollow logs to provide homes.

There is no reason why we cannot do something similar, if modified somewhat to suit the higher density in some areas of Marrickville LGA. However, many of our gardens have sufficient space for planting many trees & shrubs.  One of my neighbours transformed their ¼ acre block from a lawn with a lemon tree to a spectacular haven for wildlife.  They used a mix of exotics & natives to stunning effect. Grevilleas make excellent trees or shrubs for small front gardens.

pink flowering Grevillea - small shrub

Many Grevilleas are hybrids now, which also ensures they grow well & flower prolifically. Grevilleas from Western Australia don’t do well on the east coast & visa-versa unless they are a hybrid.  Nurseries tend to stock plants that suit the local area, so unsuitability is rarely an issue.

I have read that hybrid Grevilleas are not so good for the birds as they are not used to having so much food.  I admit to ignoring this in an inner city environment, as I truly believe there is a shortage of food for wildlife rather than a glut.  They are competing with cement & plants that do not provide food. I highly doubt they will have obesity problems if we provide some more food sources for them.

I had suspected that possums eat Grevillea flowers & a Google search has confirmed my suspicion. Those who read this blog may remember that I have mentioned that a baby Ring-Tail Possum moved into a nearby street tree last year.  Well, of course he/she would.  There are palm seeds & Grevillea flowers galore at our place so he/she is probably stuffed.  The good news is there is no damage, no poo, & all our gardens are left alone.  Even the ice-berg roses (which possums apparently adore) in a front garden are untouched, proving that if there is sufficient food, the exotics are left alone.

There is only one small problem with Grevilleas that I am aware of.  Some people find the foliage irritating & bare skin contact with them makes their skin itchy. This is something to take into consideration if you have small children.

Which Grevillea to plant? Well that’s personal taste. The nursery will advise you on what grows to what height & the colour of the flowers. There is a Burke’s Backyard Factsheet that lists & describes Don Burke’s choice of the 13 best Grevilleas – http://www.burkesbackyard.com.au/factsheets/Flowering-Plants-and-Shrubs/Dons-Bakers-Dozen:-13-Best-Grevilleas/2102

Basically, if you plant a Grevillea, the birds will come & this can only be a good thing.

golden flowering Grevillea

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