Friday, August 28, 2015

The Business of Banksia

There’s only one spot in the world where all 79 species of Banksia in existence grow and that’s in Kevin and Cathy Collins’ delightful five-hectare garden in Mount Barker, Western Australia. Kevin, who is also known as the ‘Banksia Man’, owns and runs The Banksia Farm in this sleepy wine-growing region of Australia. Kevin claims, “This was never a planned business, it’s a hobby gone mad.”

Kevin educates everyone from visiting school kids to botanists. “I don’t have a day’s botanical training,” he says. “I was just over in America lecturing on it.” He is the co-author of books on botany and is valued as an expert on Western Australia’s wildflowers in particular. As well as holding the most recently found banksia, the garden also has many of the world’s species of dryandra, which are closely related.

Kevin says the climate of Mount Barker has helped them grow all 79 species of banksia. The other thing that assisted them is the huge variety of soils. “We have everything from pH 4.5 to 6.5, and by moving them around we were able to mix and match and grow them all.”

Bronze Menziesii 

Oak Leaved Banksia 




Coastal Banksia 

Kevin is quite animated as he explains why he loves banksias. “Many are killed by fire, and yet they’ve been around for 50-70 million years, he says. “They’re so diverse. Some need fire and follow-up rains to release seeds. And historically they’ve been used for so much.”

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