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Two hard-to-find flowering plants worth looking for

Gordonia trees have been flowering for months, and are still looking utterly beautiful. While not a terribly common tree, you can’t miss it if you see it while in bloom. This hardy small tree has elongated deep green, glossy leaves and masses of large single white flowers with bright yellow centres, very similar to Camellia sasanqua blooms. The new foliage has lovely bronzy red tones. The common name for Gordonia axillaris is Fried Egg Tree, because the flowers always fall to the ground face up, resembling fried eggs. They can grow 5m-8m, but can easily be kept smaller than that. They are drought and wind tolerant and are not bothered by pests and diseases. They make a great small shade tree for the suburban garden.

Gordonia axillaris

The ones in my garden flower profusely every year, from April through to August. Because the thousands of flowers all fall to the ground, it is best not to plant on overhanging paths or paved areas unless you really like sweeping; keep them well back from swimming pools for the same reason. But if you need a spectacular flowering small tree that will tolerate just about any conditions, then it’s hard to go past a Gordonia.

Another not-so-common plant that is worth looking for is the Hong Kong Rose, or Silk Rose (Rhodoleia championii). Native to China, Vietnam, Vietnam and Nepal, this is a lovely evergreen large shrub or small tree. The leaves are round and glossy and tend to be crowded together at the tips of the branches. The bright rosy pink/red flowers are pendulous, and also tend to cluster at the branch tips. The specimen I have kept in a pot for the last many years has lovely plump buds on it now, and these will start to open in a few weeks.
When I read about Hong Kong Rose, it seems that they will grow up to 12m tall. I suspect that this may be the case in their natural habitat, but here they are rarely larger than a tall shrub. They are quite slow growing and easily trimmed if required. Both of these attributes make them ideal for growing in a large pot. They tend to grow into a more shrubby shape than the Gordonia, which is more like the classic tree with a trunk and canopy.


Hong Kong Rose will grow best in rich, well-drained soil in a sunny or semi-shaded position, ideally with some protection from the hot afternoon sun in summer. A large pot with premium potting mix would also be suitable.

If you need to prune a flowering tree or shrub, the best time to do it is immediately after flowering. When you prune, also feed the plant with a complete fertiliser and keep it well-watered to support the new growth that will be stimulated by the pruning.

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