Here';s the full "flax"! Quintessentially Kiwi, the New Zealand Phormiums or Flaxes are an invaluable piece of our horticultural history. Highly valued by Maori for medicinal purposes and of course used by them for weaving many useful items, the most famous of which is the kete or basket.
Actually the word Phormium comes from the Greek "phormos" which relates to baskets. Flax was also one of New Zealand';s first exports. The fibre was used for making twine and rope and was highly valued by the British Navy. There are two species of New Zealand Flax - Phormium tenax or Harakeke which is the larger of the two and Phormium cookianum or Wharaiki.
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Flax plants are actually a large perennial herb though we tend to use them in landscaping as we would a shrub. They are incredibly hardy and adaptable and very easy to grow. The long leathery sword like foliage has an attractive arching habit and comes in a myriad of colour choices. The colour of the red varieties is more intense if the foliage is protected from afternoon sun.
The rigid flower stalks stand proudly above the foliage in summer and once mature (when they turn bronzy red) are a magnet for birds. The native Tui';s beak fits perfectly into the shape of the Phormium flower. It is great fun to watch them as they apear to gorge themselves into an almost drunken state on the nectar; definitely one of my favourite times in the gardening year. Phormiums also grow well in a container and there are some neat dwarf varieties which are well suited to this purpose. They must be well watered if container grown as Phormiums do not like to dry out completely. The only maintenance they need is the occasional tidy up of old foliage and flower heads.
If you have a tough, hard-to-develop site or a bank that needs retaining, then consider a mass planting of Phormium. They will do the job for you very well and in an undemanding fashion. Fabulous along stream banks or around ponds, perfect used amongst large rocks or simply use as a foliage feature in your border or shrubbery. Their form, texture, colour and graceful habit are guaranteed to please.
One of the recent compact and highly coloured cultivars of NZ
Flax. It is perhaps more upright than many, reaching 1.5m or so, yet retains a graceful, arching habit. Leaves are coloured centrally in grey-green, irregularly margined with clear butter yellow with a picotee edging of red. In good light, occasional streaks of pinky-red appear brushed through the entire leaf.
This is perhaps easier to accommodate in the mixed border where its bright multicolour appearance can be used to tone and contrast.
Phormium cookianum Purpurea is a smaller red foliage variety of mountain flax. Gracefully drooping long bronze leaves and in spring long flower spikes, loved by native birds. This all purpose plant adds colour and texture to your garden. Thrives in wet or dry soils and tolerates sunny, shady and exposed areas. Evergreen
Colour: Yellow Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt. 7/10 yrs: 100cm x 100cm
Native. A beautiful medium sized flax with the deepest wine coloured, sword shaped foliage. Imagine the effect of a large drift of these swaying in the breeze. Alternatively stunning in a container. Easy to grow in just about any condition. Evergreen.
Colour: Brown Habit: Arching Est. Hgt. 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1.5m
An award winning Flax valued because of the attractive variegated foliage and nice tidy, compact habit. The sword like leaves have a green centre and are edged with a soft creamy yellow. Will grow just about anywhere and is very hardy. Evergreen. RHS AGM.
Colour: Yellow / Red Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt. 7/10 yrs: 60cm x 60cm
Native. A striking Flax with gracefully arching leaves that are mainly toned a nice rich red outlined with a margin of darker red. Hardy and easy to grow in sun or part shade. Very effective when planted in groups. Evergreen.
Colour: Brown Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt. 7/10 yrs: 75cm x 75cm
Tall growing variety with stiff upright leaves which have creamy-yellow centres fading to gold with an occasional pinkish flush. These architectural plants can be grown in tubs and make excellent features on the patio. They prefer a hot dry site and are perfectly hardy if sheltered from strong winds. Evergreen
Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt. 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1.5m
Native. A neat and tidy little flax with fresh green upright foliage. Looks good planted in groups or can look quite striking in the right container. Hardy and easy to grow in sun or part shade. Yellow flower heads in spring-summer. Evergreen.
Colour: Yellow Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt. 7/10 yrs: 0.75m x 0.6m
Flax. Guardsman features bronzy burgundy leaves, bright red along the margins. The strong structural element and rich colour delivers an impact whether in container or in the landscape. Drought resistant. Evergreen
Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt. 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1m
Native Flax. Little 'Jack Spratt' will not get fat as it is a delightful dwarf flax with narrow upright bronze-red leaves. Looks particularly good group planted. Tough and hardy and quite well groomed. Plant in sun or part shade. Evergreen.
Colour: Brown Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt. 7/10 yrs: 0.3m x 0.3m
This is just a fabulous flax that has won much admiration both in NZ and world wide. The bright pink arching leaves are edged attractively in green. Looks stunning group planted or make a simple statement by planting in colour co-ordinated container. Easy to grow. Evergreen.
Colour: Brown Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt. 7/10 yrs: 60cm x 60cm