GREEN THUMB | Native enjoys a purple patch

Driving in the countryside recently you may have seen flashes of purple in the bush which are the hardy, evergreen climbing plant Hardenbergia violacea.

Commonly known as False Sarsaparilla or Purple Coral Pea, these plants are a delightful and colourful Australian native plant, occurring in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. 

Named for Franziska, Countess of Hardenberg, it grows from coastal areas to forests and woodlands and is as happy as can be in Albury Wodonga.  

SHOWOFF: A patch of purple on the side of a road or in the bush is a sign that Hardenbergia is putting on a show. It is a hardy climber, growing in all areas from coast to forest and is well-suited to Albury Wodonga.

SHOWOFF: A patch of purple on the side of a road or in the bush is a sign that Hardenbergia is putting on a show. It is a hardy climber, growing in all areas from coast to forest and is well-suited to Albury Wodonga.

There are quite a few varieties:

‘Mini Haha’ – a compact version which also has purple flowers.

‘Alba’ – a white flowering form.

‘Bushy Blue’ – a more shrubby form with blue/purple flowers

‘Blushing Princess’ – shrubby with mauve/pink flowers.

‘Rosea’ – a pink flowering form.

‘Purple Falls’ – a trailing form with purple flowers. Great for rockeries.

When choosing a spot for this plant look for a well-drained position in full sun. It will grow with a bit of shade, but it prefers a sunny location, ideally with something to climb or spill over.

This plant flowers during winter and spring and can add a great splash of colour to a dreary winter garden. It does have a habit of getting leggy, so be prepared to prune regularly but only after flowering. 

Be wary about how much water you give this plant – it grows quite happily in the scrub with no maintenance or care, so planted in a garden with regular water is not what it wants. 

It will respond to too much water by looking half dead and the lower leaves will die and brown off. If you see this then you need to back off with the watering.

Propagation is easy. Seed is simple to grow once you’ve treated it. 

Hardenbergia has a physical dormancy (a hard seed coat) which needs to be dealt with before the plant can grow. Soaking the seed in hot water for a few hours will do the trick. 

This plant also grows well from cuttings taken from firm material. Late summer is a perfect time, though cuttings taken at other times of the year will also be OK. These plants don’t transplant well so leave the ones growing naturally in the bush alone.

Winter flowering plants are gems, and this climbing Australian native with its mass of pea-shaped flowers is one of the best and recommended for most styles of garden.

Diary

Friends of the Botanic Gardens in Albury hold plant sales Tuesday and Thursday 9.30am to noon near the curator’s house in the gardens.