Autumn is banksia season, and a banksia that belongs to the Melbourne region is the Silver Banksia.
Banksia marginata is a small, though variable, tree and is a wonderful landscape planting for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s a great habitat plant that provides nectar producing flowers for honey eaters and protection for small birds. It’s also a tree of great interest and character. The flower spikes develop from a curious lemony yellow structure and age into honey brown brushes. Eventually they turn into the knobbly seed cones that inspired May Gibbs’ ‘Banksia Men’. The Silver in the name refers to the colour of the underside of the stiff ornate leaves.
Silver Banksias are not only indigenous to the Melbourne area but extend to most parts of Victoria and into Tasmania, South Australia and NSW. They are commonly seen as a tree of 3 to 5m, but are quite variable in that they may be a bush to 1m to a larger tree over 12m.
As a landscape planting they make effective and interesting screens planted in groups or just as a single specimen. While they are perfect for native gardens, they also work very well in a more formal Mediterranean style garden, perhaps complementing or even substituting for olive trees.
They are drought and frost tolerant, though don’t like poorly drained soil. You can prune them to desired shape – as a more bushy shrub or as an ornamental tree, but be aware that the flowers grow on older wood.
Silver Banksia is a bit of a must have for an indigenous garden landscape but is also a good addition for a garden design that requires low water and maintenance needs.