Fuchsias, the luscious flowers of hybridists are a long way from the spring flowers of the native fuchsia. Fuchsia excorticata, the tree fuchsia or Kotukutuku, has the distinction of being the largest fuchsia in the world. It is also one of our few deciduous native trees. Older specimens found in bush or in farmland are a remarkable sight. Full-grown specimens are remarkable for their pinkish-cinnamon coloured, peeling bark. The flowers are small with deep red-maroon outer petals and emerge over a long season from spring to summer. The juicy berries are desirable bird-food. Good, moist soils with partial shade, at least while young.
Manuka or Tea tree (Leptospermum scoparium) flowers over an extremely long season. In the wild it bears white flowers blushed with pink, covering the bush from spring through summer. The hybridists have brought us many more cultivars from the deep 'Red Damask' to pure white as well as dwarf forms.
Manuka likes a moist soil, so make sure that you water well, and don't leave a new plant sitting about waiting for planting as they resent disturbance and you increase the potential for a fatal drought. Manuka can be attacked by blight, actually the secretion of a scale insect, you can treat it or accept it.
Rangiora (Brachyglottis repanda) has wonderful, huge green leaves with felted undersides that children adore to 'write' on. There is also a magnificent purple cultivar that is dramatic even without flowers. In spring Rangiora has large heads of creamy flowers that cover the bush from spring inot summer. A coastal plant it needs a warm, reasonably frost-free environment and prefers some protection from the winds that can tear those magnificent leaves. Tough enough for coastal gardens it can be frustrating to establish, in humid areas plant in a dry position and ensure that it has plenty of air circulation to counter moulds. Drought tolerant once established.
Whau, (Entelea arborescens) is a small tree or large shrub with large, glossy green heart-shaped leaves. In spring sweet scented white flowers appear, and the seed heads resemble a fuzzy ball. Whau is only for warmer gardens as it is quite frost tender. Fastgrowing to around 3.0-4.0m (10-12ft) it is often found as an understory tree or in gaps in the bush, and the fast growth and tropical appearance make it great for exotic gardens. Give it a good, rich loam for best results, although it will tolerant poorer soils.
Hibiscus diversifolius, now extremely rare in the wild, and opens its lemon yellow flowers with a deep maroon blotch in the centre in spring. Quite striking, although it does not always open fully. Growing in coastal regions of the North Island and found in other areas of the Pacific, H. diversifolius has bright green leaves with serrated margins that are stems and midribs of the leaves are covered with 'bristles'. It will grow to around 1.0-2.0m (3-6ft).
Olearias are not as widely grown as they could be, these small well-clothed shrubs are great shelter and boundary plants. In spring Olearia arborescens and O. cheesemannii both cover themselves with bright white flowers, showing up clearly in coastal bush. Both need moist but well drained soils, and a worthy garden plants although O. arborescens can be a difficult customer.
The Kaka beak, Clianthus puncieus, brings an exotic touch to many northern hemisphere gardens and is well loved here. The red flowers appear from late winter and look quite dramatic, especially in the selected form sold as 'Kaka King'. There is a white form seen as either 'Albus' or White Heron' and the pink 'Roseus', also sold as 'Flamingo'. Try espaliering this rather lax shrub, or giving it some support, as you'll see the flowers so much better. Somewhat frost hardy, the foliage and new shoots are burnt by heavy frost, and not long-lived but very garden-worthy.
There is a hebe in flower in almost every season. Hebe anomala has white flowers that appear amidst the dark leaves in spring and summer. H. anomala needs well-drained soil and full sun, emulating its Canterbury riverbed origins. Hebe diosmifolia is a typical rounded hebe with deep green, glossy leaves. Small white flowers with a hint of lilac cover the plant in spring, an added bonus to a valuable structural plant, that is as tough as any hebe.
Heliohebe hulkeana is a gorgeous plant, the flowers stand out even among it's showy hebe relatives and it is sometimes called the New Zealand lilac. Long stems of soft lilac flowers appear from the bronzy foliage in spring, unique in New Zealand natives. To keep the habit neat pinch out the growing tips after flowering and it will stay compact. Good drainage and protection from frosts is essential. H. raoulii is a low sprawling plant that is covered with pinkish-lilac flowers in spring. It also needs good drainage - planting in a raised bed or the top of a wall is ideal - and full sun.
Parahebe lyallii is a variable plant, found in many parts of New Zealand. Normally P. lyallii carries white or white tinged pink flowers, but P. l. 'Blue boy' is a charmer with small blue bell-like flowers held over the reddish-green leaves in spring.
The native brooms, to many rather dull and scraggly looking, are an explosion of colour when they flower. Carmichaelia odorata found from Lake Waikaremoana south is one of the most desirable. It is more compact, with drooping, twig like branches that carry lilac flowers in spring.
Carmichaelia williamsii has pale yellow flowers in spring and again in autumn, coming from East Cape it prefers dry, sunny positions with well-drained soils. Carmichaelia kirkii with large flowers in spring. C. kirkii is a sprawling, spreading plant growing into a dense mat and, toleratant very dry exposed conditions, suitable for planting on banks and coastal gardens.
Manuka, simple, single white flowers
Manuka, deep red flowers on 'Red Damask'
Rangiora 'Purpurea', grown for it's fantastic leaves
Whau, large glosssy leaves and spring flowers
Hibiscus trionum bears lemon flowers with a dramatic central blotch
Exotic Kakabeak flowers
White Kaka beak, Clianthus puniceus 'Albus'
Kaka beak is a fairly lax shrub
Hebe diosmifolia has glossy green leaves
Delicate flowers from Heliohebe hulkeana
Parahebe lyallii 'Blue Boy'