Friday, October 7, 2011

Hedge Saltbush

Rhagodia spinescens
We caught this cockatoo, the other day, picking pieces off our saltbushes, and flying away to comfortable perch to nibble at the leaves.
Saltbushes are some of the very best plants for a wildlife garden. Their leaves are so very edible by all kinds of animals, (even by humans), and the fruits are popular with small birds.
Hedge saltbush make a very dense ground cover to about 50cm high, if grown in full sun. It excludes weeds very effectively, as well as providing shelter for small creatures.

This saltbush species tends to spread, as the branches lie down and take root, a process which makes them useful for retaining banks.

In this case where they’re being allowed to creep up the slope. New plants are easy to make, and some blanket planting would have the bank covered in a shorter time.
As its name suggests, it also makes a good hedge, with a once-a year trim (in late autumn) needed to keep it to the desired width.

The blue-grey leaves are attractive year-round, but the plant is particularly pretty from February to autumn, when it is in fruit.

When used in landscaping, this plant sometimes pruned a little more than is really necessary and the pretty, bird-attracting fruits never appear! For a good show of fruits, it should be pruned once a year only, in early winter.
Notice the shape of the leaves. In southern forms of the plant the leaves tend to be hastate or triangular. Our local form, with its grey-green oval leaves is a good contrast plant where other saltbushes such as Einadia hastata or Rhagodia parabolica are grown.
See Feb 2010 for more on this versatile plant.

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