Rare to be different with tricky plants

Bloomin' beautiful: A guide to growing rare or hard-to-grow plants


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RARE FIND: Maureen hides among some Chilean or giant rhubarb (Gunnera manicata) in the Royal Horticultural Society Garden at Wisley, England. This inedible rhubarb makes an amazing plant in the right growing conditions (damp, boggy areas).

RARE FIND: Maureen hides among some Chilean or giant rhubarb (Gunnera manicata) in the Royal Horticultural Society Garden at Wisley, England. This inedible rhubarb makes an amazing plant in the right growing conditions (damp, boggy areas).

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Searching out rare or hard-to-grow plants can be an adventure in itself.

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HUMAN nature being what it is, we all hunger after something desirable that we don't have. Being gardeners, it is often the rare, unusual or hard-to-grow plant that we simply must have.

Searching out rare plants can be an adventure in itself. You may find one in an old garden, via mail order catalogues, on the internet, at a street stall or at a "rare plant" event.

What do we mean by a rare plant? Some are hard to propagate (their seeds may not be viable); they don't strike easily from cuttings; they don't look good on nursery shelves and so don't sell enough for a quick profit to be made; they don't travel well, so there's a lot of wastage; or perhaps they originate from a small area in the world where there are very few specimens.

What do we mean by a hard-to-grow plant? Some people have a "green thumb" and seem to be able to grow anything with ease.

For the rest of us, we have our failures. It could just be your local climate or the particular micro-climate in various parts of your garden.

Plants that are hard to grow for some people may be easy for others. I can't grow azaleas and rhododendrons in my garden in Melbourne but my friend in the Dandenong Ranges grows them like weeds.

Is she a better gardener than I am? Perhaps, but I suspect it is because she gets a lot more rain than I do and has soil that is more conducive to these plants' growing requirements.

Weeds come into the category of easy-to-grow plants because they are plants which have found their perfect growing environment. A weed in one place can be a threatened plant in another.

The Cootamundra wattle is spreading itself quite happily around the country, so even natives can be weeds.

One or two scarce plants are manageable in any garden as long as the majority are easy to grow and care for. Good luck with finding the one you are hankering after.

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