Update: please see this comprehensive post about growing Albany Woolly Bush.
My house wasn’t sustainably designed. It faces east west, which you want to avoid when designing with passive solar principles in mind. The back of my house was once a verandah, but whoever enclosed it didn’t bring their brain to work that day. Glass walls facing west aren’t a good idea. Every summer afternoon my back room bakes, lightly toasting the rest of the house. It’s a nice place to pass the time on a sunny winter afternoon, but during summer the blinds are permanently closed and still my house cooks.
The solution was a hedge of woolly bushes, not against the windows, but against the back fence a couple of metres from the house. Although I should have done this five years ago, a hedge is now growing to shade my wall of windows. It’s not quite hedge-like at the moment, more a row of foot high plants, but in a few years it’ll be up to 4m high and in need of regular pruning into the hedgely shape I desire.
There is a problem with woolly bushes – their shallow root systems. My friends at Nuts about Natives have a planting of Albany woolly bushes which are all about 4m high and last winter one was uprooted in a high wind. It didn’t cause any damage because it landed among its neighbours. In the last weekend of June this winter the very high winds caused a lot of damage in Perth. The gusts of up to 72km/h uprooted two of a neighbour’s pencil pines which knocked down part of his fence. I hope this doesn’t happen with any of the woolly bushes as my new hedge grows. During the winds of that weekend my tuart was severely buffeted but the flexibility of its young trunk meant it survived without damage. As it grows taller it’s more likely to lose branches and cause damage, but I hope this won’t happen. The tuarts and other gum trees (particularly illyarrie) in the park where I walk Sheeba the dog lost a few branches that weekend.
There are two options for a woolly bush hedge: the Albany woolly bush (Adenanthos sericeus) or Adenanthos cygnorum endemic to Perth. Both grow to 4m, but the Albany woolly bush is more widely available from nurseries. It’s easier to propagate and looks “prettier.” They both have insignificant flowers, but the orange flowers of the Albany woolly bush are more noticeable. I wanted the Perth woolly bush to keep with my aim of a garden of mostly plants endemic to Perth and I got them from Lullfitz Nursery in Wanneroo.
My back area is paved and my dad and I removed a strip of paving against the back fence for the new garden. During the excavation I dug up a tiny plastic doll and she has taken up residence in a woolly bush. While the woolly bushes are small I’ve planted everlasting daisies (Rhodanthe chlorocephala ssp. rosea), Rottnest Island daisies (Trachymene coerulea) and Swan River daisies (Brachyscome iberidifolia) to fill the spaces with spring and summer colour. They’re annuals and self seed, so they’ll return every spring, but when the woolly bushes get to a certain height they’ll crowd them out. Snails and caterpillars find everlastings particularly tasty, so I’ve been killing them* left, right and centre. A couple of years ago I planted snakebush (Hemiandra pungens) further down the fence. Bobtail lizards (Tiliqua rugosa) love the flowers of snakebush, which I hope will entice them into my garden. Bobtails live in the empty block two doors down** and perhaps this summer they’ll visit my garden for some tasty treats of snakebush flowers and snails.
** I hope this block never gets developed. Apart from bobtails and assorted dumped rubbish, it has the brick fireplace of the house, when the rest was demolished, and a beautiful (and huge) green stinkwood (Jacksonia sternbergiana).
If you want to ask a question about growing woolly bush please comment on this more recent post Albany Woolly Bush.