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 special little dwarf flax with attractive, jet black, fine foliage that is highlighted with a lime green margin. An ideal accent plant for borders or for mass planting. Looks good in container too. Hardy and easy to grow in sun or part shade. Evergreen.
Colour: Yellow / Red Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 0.3m x 0.3m
Native. This Flax is far more attractive than its name suggests. The arching swords of foliage are a very attractive smoky black shade with hints of moody blue. Prefers a sunny open position in soil that is not too wet. Feed regularly to maintain colour. Hardy, evergreen.
Colour: Assorted Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 100cm x 100cm
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/Wdth in 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/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1.5m
An excellent small green Flax with bold erect lime green foliage. Suitable for mass planting in smaller gardens or equally quite fabulous as a container plant. Easy to grow in just about any garden conditions. Evergreen.
Colour: Yellow / Red Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 0.75m x 0.6m
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/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 0.75m x 0.6m
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/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 0.3m x 0.3m
Native. A very attractive dwarf flax with arching, strap like foliage that has tones of bronze and pink outlined with a deep red edge. Nice to group plant or pop one in a matching red container to add some oomph on the patio. Easy to grow in sun or part shade. Tough, hardy and evergreen.
Colour: Brown Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 80cm x 80cm
Native. A beautiful Flax with luxuriant, unfading rich purple-black swords of foliage that form a neat clump. Equally fabulous in the garden or a container and so easy to grow. Sun to part shade and soil that does not completely dry out in summer will keep this Flax looking good. Evergreen.
Colour: Yellow / Red Habit: Clump forming Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 100cm x 100cm