Australian fuchsia: Correa backhousiana

When it comes to describing winter flowers we usually get over excited in our descriptions, often making them sound far more splendid than they really are, partly because we are desperate for any colour or scent at this bleak time of year. But the shrubs often known as Australian fuchsias (correas) really are rather special and although not spectacular, they could hold their own against many summer-flowering shrubs. I suppose it is true that I have affection for them because they bloom in winter but they are genuinely attractive plants.

Correa backhousiana is a delightful combination of attractive flowers and foliage

Correa backhousiana is a delightful combination of attractive flowers and foliage

There are many species and hybrids and I have grown several. Although it is not the most showy, the most commonly available is Correa backhousiana, from Tasmania and South Australia. It is a small shrub that can reach about 2m high and across but because it will only tolerate light frosts and I have never managed to keep a plant for more than a few years before a hard winter kills it, I have never managed to get one to more than half that size. It is best planted against a warm wall, facing south or west or, even better, grown in a pot so that it can be protected against the worst winter weather. The leaves are attractive enough in this species, being nicely rounded and dark olive green above and rusty or grey below and around the edge which defines the shape of each leaf. The flower buds, which look like tiny acorns when they first appear in late summer, develop into pretty, creamy green blooms that open from November to March. If you need to prune your plant do it in spring after flowering.

 

Correa backhousiana was discovered in 1833 by the botanist and missionary James Backhouse at the mournful-sounding Cape Grim in Tasmania. It was named for him a year later.

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