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.
Native. A very attractive Flax with arching, broad, sword like leaves in tones of bronze-green with pink margins that gradually fade to cream. Overall has a pink tone so nice to combine with grey or burgundy foliage. Plant in sun or semi-shade. Hardy, vigorous and evergreen. RHS AGM.
Colour: Brown / Yellow Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1m
Native. A well behaved little Flax with interesting, twisting, fine foliage in over tones of bronze with hints of green, red and yellow in the under tones. Great for mass planting and generally hardy and easy care. Plant in sun or part shade. Evergreen.
Colour: Brown Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 60cm x 60cm
A dwarf compact clumping variety of flax that forms many fans. The bronze leaves are upright and become twisted. They have a darker bronze on a pronounced margin. Full sun. Frost hardy Coastal and wind tolerant. Evergreen
Colour: Yellow Habit: Clumping upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 50cm x 40cm
A new must have for the garden. Its beautiful bronze colour makes it an excellent choice for colour contrast against green. Very tolerant of frost, wind and coastal conditions, Phormium 'Sweet Mist' will come up trumps. Grows to 35 to 40 cm tall.
Colour: Brown Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 40cm x 40cm
Native flax. A very handsome flax that will provide year round colour with it's brilliant gold, cream and green striped leaves. Looks great in semi-shaded areas. Tolerant and hardy, withstanding most conditions. Evergreen.
Colour: Assorted Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1m x 1m
Native Flax. Vigorous grower with gracefully drooping foliage heavily variegated yellow with increasing green zone as the leaves mature. Will grow in any reasonable soil. Looks its best in semi-shade. Excellent for accenting in the landscape. H1-2m
Colour: Assorted Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: cm x cm