Raising rarity at home

By Hui-Anne Tan

With biodiversity declining at an unprecedented scale, the prospect of making any positive difference can be simply overwhelming.  But rest assured, there’s a lot we can do – right here at home. The collective efforts of our “small” actions in our home gardens will ultimately make a big difference.

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with the Raising Rarity project – which seeks to develop and raise awareness of the horticultural potential of our relatively unknown, rare and threatened Victorian wildflower species.

Volunteers measuring plant traits at the research plots in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Cranbourne. Photo: Kushmanda Jeetun

The aim of this novel approach is to give people the opportunity to grow these at-risk wildflowers in their own home gardens, and in turn, contribute to the conservation of these species.

Over two years, the project assessed 22 rare and threatened Victorian wildflower species for germination and performance in container and outdoor garden bed trials. We needed to find out how these species perform – are they easy to produce (high and quick germination), visually attractive (for example, long flowering display), suitable to containers, tough and resistant to pests and diseases?

Stand-out species from the trials included Craspedia canens (Grey Billy-buttons), Stylidium armeria subsp. pilosifolium (Hairy-leaved Trigger Plant) and Brachyscome tadgellii (Creeping Daisy). In October 2019, we sold some of the promising species at the Cranbourne Friends plant sale to gauge public interest. It was a great success!

Further research is still needed, but in the long-term, we hope one day to introduce suitable species into broader-scale horticultural production…and eventually your garden!

Led by Dr. Meg Hirst, the Raising Rarity project is a collaboration between the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria and the University of Melbourne. Raising Rarity won the Keep Victoria Beautiful (Protection of the Environment) Award in 2019. Hui-Anne Tan is an Urban Horticulturist and volunteer for both the City of Melbourne and the City of Whitehorse Gardens for Wildlife programs.

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