Acacia longifolia: long-leaved wattle, acacia trinervis, aroma doble, golden wattle, coast wattle, sallow wattle, Sydney golden wattle
Winter has returned for its last hurrah this week, bestowing cold gales, hail and sleet upon us poor gardeners. As I set off across London’s Hanover Square yesterday, umbrella clenched in hand, I spotted, between the spokes, a handsome, informal-looking small tree smothered in bright yellow flowers, tossed by the wind.
Having persuaded a colleague to dodge a stream of black cabs in order to admire the tree up close, I was mildly bemused. It appeared to be a mimosa, with willow-like tendencies. Rather than get us any wetter I took photographs before going in search of shelter and a positive identification.
Back at home I consulted volume 1 of The Botanical Gardener by Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix. Turning directly to the double page spread devoted to the genus Acacia, there it was, in glorious Technicolor, Acacia longifolia, the golden wattle. My conundrum was solved more quickly than I could have crossed Regent Street.
Acacia longifolia is a fast-growing bushy shrub or small tree about twenty feet tall and just as wide. It hails from South Eastern Australia, where it’s probably considered about as exciting and unusual as hawthorn or elder in England. Long, light-green leaves line branches smothered in fragrant, golden-yellow flowers at the end of winter. Acacia longifolia is salt tolerant, making it useful for seaside conditions. It is frost and drought resistant; hardy to about -5ºC, and presumably good with pollution too. The plant was originally collected by Joseph Banks, the botanist on Captain James Cook’s exploration of Australia in 1770. It was offered by nurseries in England as early as 1788.
Acacia longifolia ought to be perfectly suited to our seaside garden, although it’s a little large for the spaces I have left to plant. The leaves and flowers do not possess the feathery prettiness of Acacia dealbata, but are much more elegant and architectural. If and when I decide to scrap our greenhouse to open out the garden, Acacia longifolia could make a magnificent specimen for the sheltered space that this would create. Alas, I can find no UK nurseries offering plants, but seeds could another option. Either way, the golden wattle strikes me as an ideal tree for our ever warmer, more turbulent climate and one that would give a colourful, contemporary edge to small suburban and city gardens.
If you’re one of my beloved Antipodean followers, please do leave a comment to let us Northern Hemisphere folk know about your experiences of the golden wattle.