April in the Wonder Garden

Ovens Waddle

 Photo-Mark Kuestner

The genus Acacia has a bad rap for being noxious, invasive, thorny & altogether irredeemable outside of its native Australia. No argument here. Travel the world and you’ll see the trees gobbling up continents by muscling in on undefended native flora. A horrid sight.

But there is one species of acacia that we grow without apology: Acacia pravissima. The Aussies call it Ovens Waddle.  In our climate, it’s a big, sculptural blue-green shrub growing quickly to 10’x10′ (and more, if happy). Surprisingly elegant with a slight weeping habit, the plant on closer inspection has a further riveting charm: triangular leaf-like paddles called phyllodes in place of true leaves. So cool!

Time was when visitors to the WG mostly asked the name of a yellow flowering perennial (‘Moonshine’ yarrow), sometimes seconded by wanting to know about a long-flowering blue one (‘Walker’s Low’ catmint).  But last summer, once it started putting on heft and waving its long arms in the breeze, visitors increasingly stopped and marveled at the waddle even when NOT in bloom.

So wait till you see our Acacia pravissima this month. Look for the tree-like shrub lit up like an electric yellow puffball bouquet!