Australian garden standouts in late June

Friends from Australia are visiting so what do I do? I take them to the Australian Collection in the UC Davis Arboretum! It felt both wrong and right at the same time. But they enjoyed seeing plants they’re familiar with growing so far away from home.

I hadn’t been to the Australian Collection in a few months, and I was very surprised to see that the grevilleas that had been in bloom in the winter were still going strong. In a spot they like, these beautiful down-under shrubs bloom almost year round.



Grevillea ‘Mason’s Hybrid’


Grevillea ‘Mason’s Hybrid’


Grevillea ‘Mason’s Hybrid’


Spider net grevillea (Grevillea thelemanniana)


Spider net grevillea (Grevillea thelemanniana)

But the real standouts were the kangaroo paws (Anigozanthos). I've lost track of how many kangaroo paws I've killed in our garden, both straight species and hybrids (the latter supposedly less finicky). Based on what our Australian friends said—and the growing conditions at the UC Davis Arboretum—perfect drainage seems to be the key. At the Arboretum, the kangaroo paws are planted along Putah Creek, i.e. on a slope. And as you can see from the photos below, they’re as happy as can be.


Orange kangaroo paws (not sure which species or hybrid) on this side of the creek, evergreen kangaroo paws (Anigozanthos flavidus) on the other side


Same constellation, but reversed, as seen from the other side of Putah Creek (the boy sniffing the orange KPs was icing on the cake)


Close-up of the orange KPs

I was particularly impressed by the evergreen KPs (Anigozanthos flavidus). This species is tall and stately and looks great when massed. It comes in a variety of colors, typically yellow, pink or red. Many of the Anigozanthos flavidus at Arboretum where a very pale cream—not a particularly showy color per se but quite attractive against the green backdrop of the creek (the annual infestation of duckweed).




160624_UCDA_AustralianCollection_026 160624_UCDA_AustralianCollection_027

White and yellow KPs

But there is much more to see in the Australian Collection beyond grevilleas and kangaroo paws. Here are just a few snaps:



New Zealand wind grass (Anemanthele lessoniana)


Coast banksia (Banksia integrifolia)


Coast banksia (Banksia integrifolia)


Weeping bottlebrush (Callistemon viminalis)


Coastal woollybush (Adenanthos sericeus)

Leaving the Australian Collection and heading back to the Davis Commons parking lot, I snapped a couple of photos of the new Arboretum GATEway Garden. This area was an eyesore not all that long ago but now it’s a stunning showcase of native sedges and grasses.


I realize this is not everybody’s cup of tea, but I love the soft textures and the constant movement of the grasses. I should do a dedicated post on this section of the Arboretum.


California gray rush (Juncus patens), naked sedge (Carex nudata) and purple needle grass (Stipa pulchra)


  1. I like the low-key, chartreusy flavidus. It seems to be one of the sturdiest paws in my garden. That shrub behind the lomandra is incredible. I found it amazing to learn from the Crumbs blog that native plants in Oz have as difficult a time gaining mainstream acceptance in their homeland as CA natives do here.

  2. The UC Davis Arboretum seems to have a nice collection. On the basis of your photos it looks as though it was more thoughtfully designed than the Australian section of the Huntington.

  3. Gorgeous! Next time we find ourselves in your part of the world (no plans at the present) I hope to have time to visit the Arboretum.

  4. I love the grasses...of course ;-)

  5. Beautiful lot! If only Kangaroo Paws were a bit hardier....

  6. Imagine a few monster Agaves giving contrast in that meadow of grasses! Oooooh!

    The drainage is perfect here, but the Anigozanthos still died.

  7. I've always loved Kangaroo Paw and always killed them. I had thought it was my watering habits, but obviously was drainage! Loved the UCD entrance gardens, so simple and bold.


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