Just when you think the plant world has no more surprises in store for you (a silly thing to suppose anyway), along comes a plant which you can’t believe you’ve never encountered before. In this case it’s Grevillea victoriae, the royal grevillea, which is endemic to Australia’s New South Wales and Victoria states. It was first described by botanist Ferdinand von Mueller in 1855 and was duly named after Australia’s Empress of the day, Queen Victoria.
My first discovery of this lovely, silver-leaved shrub was yesterday at Trebah Gardens in Cornwall. Here it forms part of the planting around the restaurant area, growing in a raised bed alongside Gaura lindheimeri, Erigeron karvinskianus, Schizostylis coccinea and agapanthus. It could easily be mistaken for Elaeagnus ‘Quicksilver’, which has similar, willowy leaves and branches, but for the grevillea’s flowers which mark it out as something quite special. From pendent clusters of velvety-brown buds, resembling little bunches of rusty tacks, emerge coral-orange blooms. These are full of nectar to attract pollinating birds and insects. As you can see from my photographs, they are borne in plentiful numbers, all the better for being at different stages of development at the same time.
Grevillea victoriae is considered to be hardy in southern parts of the UK, especially in coastal areas. Forming a shrub up to 2m high it requires a well-drained spot with plenty of exposure to the sun. The shrub’s mountain origins mean it is tolerant of frost and snow, although I suspect its hardiness is incumbent on the sharp drainage it prefers. Mature plants benefit from regular pruning to maintain a compact shape and make an excellent screen or hedge. I imagine it planted with other sun-worshippers such as rosemary, kniphofia, and salvias in a Mediterranean-style border. A happy plant in a very favoured spot may flower all year round, otherwise you can expect those fire-cracker racemes throughout the summer and autumn months.
Quite why a shrub with so many garden-worthy attributes is not better known I don’t know, but as soon as I have the space to grow it, I’ll be sending off for seeds or plants. Do let me know if you grow Grevillea victoriae in your garden and how you get on with it.
Grevillea victoriae can be purchased from Burncoose Nurseries in Cornwall.
More on Trebah Gardens coming soon.
Categories: Daily Flower Candy, Flowers, Foliage, Trees and Shrubs
15 comments On "Daily Flower Candy: Grevillea victoriae"
Hi Dan, how many do you want????????
The grevillea is one of the most flavoured plants in Southern Australia. Most gardens created in the past 20 years would have at least one or more. They are very hardy and drought resistant but really need pruning every year or they get very ‘naked’ at the base, and look very ugly if they aren’t cared for in the way exotics are. Unfortunately most take the view that they will look after themselves because they are indigenous, which means many get neglected. You also need to take a bit of care as some people have a on allergic reaction to the plant, called grevillea poisoning. Wear gloves when planting and pruning.
There are some really lovely specimens. Kings Park is David’s favourite. I like a prostrate variety called Robyn Gordon. Whilst the red varieties are very popular, there are also some lovely lemon and white varieties available too.
So, I look forward to seeing a little touch of Aussie in your garden on the next visit!!!!
Thanks Helen. I was expecting your comment, in the nicest possible way, as I suspected you’d know lots about Grevilleas. I have just bought a prostrate one called Mount Tamboritha to try in London, so will let you know how I get on!
Hello there Dan – don’t know a lot, just a little. Will be interested to see how your prostrate one goes. They are really good ground covers and you only need a few for a beautiful display, so very economical. As I mentioned, in Australia the key to having them look good is the ‘pruning,’ otherwise they can really look dreadful. Not sure how they will perform in much wetter conditions. They might not grow as fast as they do here or ‘dry’ out in the same way and end up looking like a ‘wind swept’ neglected beach tea tree.
This is a beauty. I wonder how hardy it would be here in Suffolk. I used to have Grevillea ‘ Canberra Gem’ in a previous garden. I tried so many times to take cuttings but never had any success. I don’ t know whether this is a problem with Grevilleas or if it was just my bad luck.
I live in the Pacific Northwest. My Grevillea is blooming for the first time after 3 yrs. I moved it last fall from Pt shade to full son. The soil is mostly sand, hard pan). Hopefully, my hummingbirds enjoy it as much as I do.
I expect they will Linda. Lucky you getting it to flower, such a beautiful plant. Enjoy 🙂
I have had this grevillea for a couple of months but the nursery i ordered it from sent it in a state of chlorosis, all the leaves were bright yellow.
It hasnt recovered yet but i read this is a common problem with grevillea’s as they are sensitive to alkaline soils as apparently it stops iron uptake which results in the yellowing. Some (but not all) other grevillea’s ive seen in nurseries have also had some yellowing towards the ends of the branches and i can only guess they might not like the limey hard water in thanet .
I imagine they would not. It is so very chalky here. That said, I am very happy working with chalk, even if it does rule grevilleas out.
Did you complain about the condition of the plant you were sent? I wonder if it’s because they were watering with hard tap water.
i did say to the seller that i wasnt confident it would survive but he said it was grown in their own compost which he claimed was mainly horticultural bark and was probably starved. It came from a nursery in cornwall where the water is soft so im not sure what the had done to the plant but ive got it back in normal compost and the new leaves look greener, but its still along way from silver though.
I think grevillea’s are still worth a trying to grow here, someone near me in beltinge has a healthy 5 foot tall one that looks like it might be ‘Canberra Gem’.
By the way, if youre looking for victoriae, the potted garden in maidstone has some good looking ones last time i was there about a month ago.
When I build my new garden, which could be a little while off, I am considering creating one raised bed which is filled with acid soil. I don’t usually like to fight against my chalk, but there are one or two things I’d quite like to grow which would appreciate a lower PH. When that time comes it will be useful to know there is somewhere nearby that could be a good source.
I hope you soon get to enjoy that lovely silver foliage and those stunning flowers.
I am a new gardener, don’t know what I am doing and purchase plants I like the shape or colour or structure of. I have just bought a grevillea victoriae to replace an old rosemary bush. It will be in a narrow shallow bed above clay (previous owner made) any soil or other suggestions would be appreciated.It will be in full sun but some wind a mile from the sea here in Dorset. I thought the funny brown things were dead flowers! Perhaps it hasn’t flowered yet.
Thanks for any suggestions….Oz
Ive tried growing this twice now and killed it both times, probably because it spent too long in the pot before i got round to finding a space in theground for it. The last one was ok for quite a few months in the pot then for some reason it went in to decline, turning brown over seveal weeks for no apparent reason.Its been a fickle plant for me and i suspect its because of our hard water or it needs very good drainage. My suggestion is to get it in the ground quickly, preferably in a dry, fast draining position, then give it minimal or no watering.
If it makes it through 6 months then itll probably survive, if not, then i wouldnt perservere with another one but try something different.
100% agree Tim. I have to confess I just killed one, and it’s because I kept it in a pot. It needs very sharp drainage and a place in the border. Anything else appears to be a death sentence.
Hi there. The flowers are red, so these may be spent flowers or buds. They like full sun, very sharp drainage and will cope with coastal conditions. If the clay means the drainage isn’t good, you will need to add a lot of grit, not just to the planting hole, but to the whole bed (otherwise you’ll create a sump). If you have chalky soil a Grevillea will not like that. If possible add in some ericaceous compost and if you are feeding use a feed for acid-loving plants. Hope this helps. Dan
Yes, ive killed quite a few euphorbia’s in pots in exactly the same way…the silver lining is at least its keeping someone in a job who’s propegating all the plants we kill ☺
A suggestion for an alternative silver leaf evergreen plant is Leptospermum grandiflorum, it doesnt have the winter flowers but its been completely problem free, fast growing and likes the same sort of growing conditions.