While it is an oxymoron, nothing could be so close to the truth to Australian plants than this. We have become accustomed to expect the different or unusual almost to the point of indifference. The striking contrast of the green and gold (wattles in flower against green leaves) we instantly recognise as ‘our’ sporting colours with pride during the Olympics. The strangeness of Kangaroo Paws in full bloom is like nothing else on the planet.

Two plants I’d like to draw your attention to are both easy to grow and are quite starling in their own way.

Lomandra effusa or cockies bootlace is such an innocuous little plant that you could trip over it in a patch of our local vegetation and not give it a second look. Fine, tough leaves to make up a small tussock less than 30cm high. The unexpected part is now. The tiny cream flowers during late winter and spring appear to arise straight from the ground or the centre of the plant and the sweet pleasant fragrance can be detected many metres away. Often you will smell a plant well before you will see them. They grow on a range of soils and will grow well on natural rainfall. As a garden plant they are well behaved and dotted here and there will give an added dimension to your garden while they are in flower. They will require no maintenance once established after the first year.

Hardenbergia violacea Happy Wanderer is a purple flowering climber known well to many gardeners for its masses of miniature purple pea flowers in clusters late winter and early spring. It will easily cover a fence, water tank or whatever else is in the way.

The unexpected and less well known is its ‘parent plant’ Hardenbergia violacea alba (white), H. violacea Rosea (pink) and H. violacea (purple). These still have the gum tree like leaves (albeit softer) and the same shaped flowers of the ‘Happy Wanderer’ , and still flower just as profusely but without the strong climbing trait. While they do need a little more water than natural rainfall offers – they are looking for about double our rainfall or a good soak monthly, they are very hardy plants in all other respects. The white form planted in shaded areas in groups will brighten it up considerably. Upon closer inspection, they have a splash of lime green in the centre of the flower making them look even fresher. The pink form is probably the prettiest, again with the lime green, while the purple has the same flower as the ‘Happy Wanderer’. These ‘non-climbing’ Hardenbergia violacea forms look great in large groups of the same colour or even randomly mixed. They rarely grow to more than 1m in height. A light prune after flowering is about all they will need to keep them tidy.

So for some unexpected late winter / spring fragrance and colour consider Lomandra effusa and Hardenbergia violacea in while, pink and purple.

This article first published in the Riverland Weekly © August 9, 2012.