The Occasional Gardener: Ideas + Aesthetics + Inspiration from the Garden

False Rue


As I often complain, I'm in ownership of a quite a few plants that remain unidentified as that's how plants are sold here- without any kind of label. Occasionally the seller might be knowledgeable enough to identify the plant- sometimes it even helps just to know the local name. Otherwise its a google search that might take a while to track down. Let me just say though, it is astonishing what google can do with a few keywords.

I now also have about three textbooks written by local authors and make it a morning habit to flip through them, cup of coffee in hand. This is the other method that occasionally yields a good result when I make the connection between a photo in the book and something I just bought. Its amazing what slips through though as I discover something only on the 20th reading.

And then there's the more random situation where you are looking for something else on the internet and you identify something quite different altogether. That's how I discovered False Rue, Baeckea frutescens. I was looking for information about 'tropical pines' and there it was - an image of its slender branches of pine like needles that droop in downward elegant curves. All the vendor could tell me when I bought it is that it is very slow growing.

Its not a Pine but in the Myrtle family, and while 70 of the 75 species are endemic to Australia, this one is native to South East Asia. Turns out, it also has a host of medicinal qualities and I write this while enjoying a very pleasant scented herbal tea made from it. I can't help thinking of it as the kind of 'comforting beverage doubling as medicine' that those Septagenarians on the Greek Island of Ikaria are nourishing themselves with. In fact its whole vibe is mediterranean both woody and herbal not unlike something growing wild in Greece or Spain you might run into on a hike. It enjoys similar conditions here, the poor soils of rocky hill slopes and sandy coasts.

The branches' arched lines and interesting shades of color - quite limey when the growth is new, make it a regular choice of foliage for a friend who practises Ikebana and has a larger more mature specimen growing in her garden in full sun. So thats where I put mine, in the White Corner where its hot and sunny, and its doing just fine.

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