New Zealand plants abroad.

New Zealand plants have a long history of cultivation overseas. In the UK one of the most well known New Zealand plants is the ‘Torquay palm’, which we know as the cabbage tree (Cordyline australis).

Torquay palm (cabbage tree; Cordyline australis) planted along the Torquay waterfront. Photo credit: Lara Shepherd.

Torquay palm (cabbage tree; Cordyline australis) planted along the Torquay waterfront. Photo credit: Lara Shepherd.

Cabbage trees, which botanically-speaking are not palms, were first grown in the UK in the early nineteenth century. This species grows particularly well in the mild climate along the southern coast. Their exotic look, which is quite unlike any native UK plants, has been used extensively in advertising Torquay as the English Riviera (such as these historic and contemporary Torquay adverts). Even the local radio station is called Palm FM.

Torquay palm (cabbage tree; Cordyline australis) in front of the Torquay Big Wheel, which was previously a feature of the 2012 London Olympics. The cabbage trees were flowering profusely when I visited in June. Photo credit: Lara Shepherd.

Torquay palm (cabbage tree; Cordyline australis) in front of the Torquay Big Wheel, which was previously a feature of the 2012 London Olympics. The cabbage trees were flowering profusely when I visited in June. Photo credit: Lara Shepherd.

Although I knew Torquay palms and other plants like hebes were popular in British gardens I had no idea just how ubiquitous New Zealand plants would be. Many UK gardens, particularly in the mild south-west, would not look out of place in New Zealand. New Zealand plants seem to thrive there and often look healthier than they do in New Zealand. It has been suggested that this may be a result of the absence of many of the pests and diseases that plague them back home in New Zealand, e.g. the cabbage tree moth.

Like cabbage trees, hebes (Veronica spp.) have a long history of cultivation in the UK and some cultivars have even been bred there. I saw many different hebe cultivars but it was those with white-flowers that seemed particularly popular, at least in Bristol where I was based.

White flowered hebe in a town planting in the Bristol town centre. Photo credit: Lara Shepherd.

White flowered hebe in a town planting in the Bristol town centre. Photo credit: Lara Shepherd.

Other New Zealand species I saw included flax (Phormium tenax), broadleaf (Griselinia littoralis) and kohukohu (Pittosporum tenuifolium). From my limited observations it appears that most New Zealand plants are planted for their foliage, rather than their flowers. Variegated and coloured forms of flax and cabbage tree were especially popular.

Flaxes (Phormium tenax), hebes and kohukohu in a suburban garden in Bristol, UK. Photo credit: Lara Shepherd.

Flaxes (Phormium tenax), hebes and kohukohu in a suburban garden in Bristol, UK. Photo credit: Lara Shepherd.

A broadleaf (Griselinia littoralis) hedge by a row of terrace houses, Bristol, UK. Photo credit: Lara Shepherd.

A broadleaf (Griselinia littoralis) hedge by a row of terrace houses, Bristol, UK. Photo credit: Lara Shepherd.

Kohukohu (Pittosporum tenuifolium) in a front garden in Bristol, UK. Photo credit: Lara Shepherd.

Kohukohu (Pittosporum tenuifolium) in a front garden in Bristol, UK. Photo credit: Lara Shepherd.

Some plants which I thought might be popular with UK gardeners, but was surprised not to see during my brief trip, are kowhai (especially the more compact Cook Strait kowhai or Sophora molloyi), crimson rata, kakabeak, Chatham Island forget-me-not, rengarenga lily, nikau and lancewood.

2 Responses

  1. Lara Shepherd

    Here is Joanna’s original comment which seems to have been deleted:

    I am just trying to identify which sort of pseudopanax I have growing in my Bristol (!) garden and came across you. I have three pittisporum in my front garden too and a plant with white flowers that I was told was an Ausralian mint. I was trying to find out about pruning the pseudopanax as it is getting a bit big. Would you know when is a good time to do this? I believe lots of my plants came from Trevenna Cross Nursery.

    Reply
  2. Lara Shepherd

    Hi Joanna,

    It sounds like you have an interesting variety of plants in your garden! Here is a website with photos and descriptions of the species of Pseudopanax that might help you to identify your plant.

    http://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora_search.aspx?scfSubmit=1&scfLatin_Common_Na me=pseudopanax

    However if your one doesn’t look like any of the species on the website then it could be a hybrid as the different Psuedopanax species hybridise like crazy (and many horticultural cultivars are hybrids).

    I’m no expert on pruning (and a quick search online hasn’t helped me much) but pruning shrubs in winter is usual. I believe Pseudopanax can handle pruning quite well and will sprout back.

    Thanks, Lara

    Reply

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