Skip to content

A row of birthday candles

banksia birthday candles

Timely, sort of. My birthday was this weekend, and we had a bunch of people over. Our friends rule.

So yeah, latest update in the garden: a brand new row of hedges along the driveway. Not just any hedges, but super fancy baby banksias. I’ve been wanting dwarf banksias for ages, and here they are. We had to prep the bed and condition the soil first, and so far they look like they’re settling in nicely.

Preparing the bed

sad old rose bed

This section along the driveway originally had rosebushes, a good seven or eight of ‘em, and we dug them out within a month of getting the keys. (Those roses are still in plant creche with Jamie’s sister Casey, who’s letting them grow big and lush before sending them off with family and friends.) For months, the bed was a pit of gravel, plastic weedmat and all the weeds that grew through it anyway. Not a good look.

First up was removing the gravel layer. Shovel gravel into wheelbarrow, dump in a pile behind the carport, repeat, repeat, repeat. The soil underneath it wasn’t looking too great, it was uneven and badly compacted. Time for the mattock.

mattock man

I mentioned that the wheelbarrow is our #1 MVP in the garden, and the mattock comes in a close second. Half backhoe, half axe, all guts. Jamie attacked that bed and broke that dirt up good. I followed up with a rake, leveling it out and breaking up all the large clods of clay. We did have to use caution since our water main runs along the driveway, but everything turned out alright.

clay breaker

Our soil is the clayey black stuff that’s typical in the foothills of Mt Wellington. It’s not impermeable, but it does tend to get soggy in winter and bake hard in summer. Conditioning it can’t hurt.

So we dumped on a generous layer of compost and a much thinner layer of gypsum clay breaker, and then raked it in to about a depth of 30cm. That should loosen up the clay and keep the soil workable for some time. The mulch layer on top will also break down and add to the soil over time. Ahhh, now the soil can breathe without the weedmat on there anymore.

The plants!

banksia birthday candles 2

I waited for the right plants to arrive at my local nurseries. As it turns out, they’re not ready to plant until late summer. But they’re here now, all six of them, and they are spectacular.

The full name is Banksia spinulosa var. spinulosa, and yes, this cultivar is called ‘Birthday Candles’. They’re Australian natives, albeit fancy hybridised cultivar plants with a cute name. Birthday candles! How adorable can you get?

Banksias like well-draining soil, and these lil’ guys are no exception. For even better drainage, I planted them in raised mounds. The soil should retain moisture and nutrients just fine, especially with a mulch layer on top, but the raised mounds will keep the plants from rotting in the ground when we get particularly wet weeks in winter.

banksia hedge row

These dwarf banksias are meant to grow to 45cm high x 60cm wide, so they’ll work nicely as a low driveway hedge. I placed about 50cm apart, with a larger gap in the spot where a future path will go. It’s pretty underwhelming now, but just wait until they fill in and they’re covered in big yellow cones. It’s gonna be stunning.

This bed – as well as the beds along the low white block wall – could definitely use some edging. I’m thinking about timber sleepers, dug in so they’re nearly flush with the adjacent beds. I’m not married to any one idea yet, but I am sure that edging will tidy up the overall look considerably. So will smashing out that janky little cinderblock wall, for that matter. One day!

Leave a Reply