Friday, May 14, 2010

Shrubby Deeringia

Deeringia amaranthoides 

A friend sent me this photo of some pretty Deeringia growing in Redwood Park (near Toowoomba) this week. She was full of enthusiasm about the pretty berries, which were filling the understorey with a show of bright pink.

She is quite right that these perennial sub-shrubs would be useful in gardens, as fillers under shrubs. They are fairly uninteresting for half of the year, but produce copious quantities of these decorative, finger-staining berries for two to three months in autumn and early winter. Their bright colour, and little black seeds (double click on photo for a closer look) suggest that they would be attractive to birds, but I haven’t actually noticed any making use of them as food. Perhaps other readers have?
Rarely found in horticulture, Deeringia is probably the victim of unreasonable prejudice. Its leaves look rather like those of the weedy amaranth which is familiar to gardeners in this area. We are in the habit of pulling the amaranth out as soon as we notice its leaves because it goes to seed so quickly and produces such huge numbers of seedlings. This rather puts us off the look of the leaves of the Deeringia, a related but non-weedy plant. Yet they are really quite attractive in themselves, and are interesting once the frosty weather begins, as they turn bright red.
Deeringia is native to Eastern Australia and South-east Asia. It is a variable plant, growing in some places as a scrambling climber - but here it restricts itself to a shrubby habit.
It is found on the edges of moist and dry rainforests, usually on hillside sites. It is happiest in at least half shade, but has proved hardy in my garden where it grows in an exposed sunny position. It is hardy to droughts and to mild frosts.
It is quite easy to grow from seed, but appreciates a little watering to get established

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