Oh, my goodness me! If you haven’t noticed the bursts of purple around your neighbourhoods you must be getting about with your eyes closed. Open them up! The Tibouchinas are in flower and they are letting those that take notice know that this is their year. They are truly exceptional at the moment and I want one, please!
I don’t remember a time in Sydney since I have lived here (9 years… and counting) when they have been as vibrant and full of flower, even the straggly ones are contributing their fair share of purple to our landscape and I just love it.
The Tibouchina sp. (Melastomateae family) is native to south-east Brazil which demonstrates their ability to grow in a wide range of climatic environments in the Australian landscape. During the 60’s in Alstonville, northern New South Wales Tibouchina ‘Alstonville’ was selected by plants man Ken Dunstan as an ideal garden specimen, it was successfully marketed and is possibly still one of the most popular Tibouchinas available along with ‘Jules’ a compact variety.
You can be forgiven for mistaking Tibouchina as an Australian native given it’s history and familiar name. During my childhood growing up in Northern New South Wales I too thought it originated from the rolling hills and dense rainforests surrounding Alstonville, especially since the village once celebrated this lovely tree with the Tibouchina Festival. Sadly the festival is no longer run but hopefully it will make a resurgence now that the town is bypassed and streets can be shut off for a day. But just because there is no festival doesn’t mean you can’t have your own little piece of Tibouchina and celebrate its magical show of Autumn flowers with your very own. A little bit more about Tibouchina’s…
Now is the ideal time to get to your local garden centre to pick out a Tibouchina for your garden. They are in flower so you’ll know exactly what your getting and the vibrancy of the purple in the flowers.
Tibouchinas ‘Alstonville’ is a large shrub or small tree and grows to 5 meters – depending on how it is maintained and pruned. It is ideal as a specimen or feature tree, or as a street tree (thank you Alstonville village for the gorgeousness that is your tree lined streets and pops of purple emerging from back gardens). If only I had a ‘real’ garden!
Tibouchina ‘Jules’ is a dwarf variety that grows to 1m. Jules is ideal for small gardens, planted in a border or used in pots (yes please, I’ll have some of that!) There are other varieties of Tibouchina available so ask when you get to your garden center.
Tibouchina are suited to most areas of Australia, however, they do not like frosts or cold mountain areas. Tibouchina like warm, sunny positions, just make sure you protect them from hash winds.
Plant your Tibouchina in acidic well drained soil. If the soil is not acid enough the leaves of your Tibouchina will burn and eventually die. To increase the acidity of the soil where you want to plant your Tibouchina or to correct soil where a Tibouchina already exists add sulphure and compost to the soil. The levels will change over time so be sure to check back to make sure that an ideal pH level has been reached.
Don’t forget to prune your Tibouchina… Ideally you are striving for a compact canopy of foliage and flowers with a nice habit. To achieve this, prune your Tibouchina back once after flowering and tip prune once in spring when the growing season starts. If you maintain this routine you will have a tree or shrub with dense, bushy growth.
Watering, yep you guessed it, one must participate in their garden if one would like their garden to flourish. Water your Tibouchina well during the growing season to promote healthy new growth and a spectacular show of Autumn flowers.
So, have you decided… Will it be a tree or a shrub for your garden? Either way I hope you enjoy the gorgeous spectacle that is the Tibouchina in flower.
Until next time.