Alpine Garden Society

Ulster Group

Plant of the Month, February 2015
 Grevillea victoriae  - by Conrad McCormick

Not an alpine by any means but, in my garden the Australian Royal or Mountain Grevillea is an important source of interest at a lean time of the year.

Endemic to south eastern New South Wales and mountainous areas of Victoria, it can be found both in forests in association with Eucalyptus pauciflora as well as in an open heath habitat.

Formally described by Ferdinand von Mueller, who discovered it growing on Mount Buffalo in 1853, giving it the specific epithet victoriae in honour of Queen Victoria.

The evergreen broadly linear ovate leaves have a silvery cast and easily shrug off the worst of the winter weather unmarked. The rust tinted flower buds form in late summer, slowly enlarge throughout autumn and open to spidery, pendulous, vivid orange-red flowers during an extended period over winter, from October to March. The blooms seem to be completely unaffected by frost. The nectar rich flowers provide an important food source to birds such as Spinebills and Honey eaters, and with Humming birds when grown in America, I haven't yet witnessed any insects visiting them. 

Purportedly hardy to around -18c, the mild Irish climate presents it with no difficulties.

Eventually it forms a large shrub between 6 - 10 ft, but can be pruned to keep it within bounds .

A position in sun and well drained soil that is not too rich is ideal, though mine seems unconcerned with some shade. Being a member of Proteaceae family fertilisers containing phosphates should be avoided, though it is not as sensitive in this respect as some of its relatives.