Sunday, 22 April 2012

Try growing: native climbers

Climbers are an important element in many ecosystems in the Illawarra, from the heavy vines of various types of rainforest to the elegant twiners found in eucalypt forest and woodlands. They are great in gardens - you can grow climbers up lattice, up larger plants or trees, or wire placed against a wall, and you can even grow some 'free-standing' in your garden where they will form a clump.

Unfortunately if you go to your local nursery you are unlikely to see many native Illawarra climbers for sale. But the Wollongong Greenplan scheme offers a range of local climbers in tubes and small pots, perfect for planting out into a new or established garden. Here are a few that grow locally.

Old man's beard (Clematis aristata) is a widespread species that grows in along the eastern seaboard from southern Queensland to eastern South Australia. It's a very pretty plant with masses of creamy white four-petalled flowers in spring. You can grow it up a trellis, or up trees, or even free-standing on the ground. It does like a bit of shade. More information on growing old man's beard can be found here. A related clematis, headache vine (Clematis glycinoides), also grows in the Illawarra. 
Two very young self-sown clematis
(probably headache vine)
Wombat berry (Eustrephus latifolius) is a handsome climber with edible orange berries. It is not as vigorous as a clematis, and will twine gracefully up almost any plant in the garden without swamping it. You can also eat the roots. More information on growing wombat berry is here.
A young wombat berry vine next to some future support 
Scrambling lily (Geitonoplesium cymosum) is related to wombat berry, but with elegant narrow leaves; it's good for attracting bowerbirds to your garden, as they like to eat its tender new stems.
Self-sown scrambling lily getting
established by climbing another plant
Also edible are the berries from sweet sarsaparilla (Smilax glyciphylla). This is a fine-stemmed twiner that will weave in and out of other plants without gettting in the way. It prefers to grow in a shady spot. Photo soon!

For now, here's a challenge. What's this vine? I've heard people call it wonga wonga but I haven't been able to confirm it yet.
Thanks for any ideas!

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