Let's Not Grow Grevillea robusta As A Shrub!

Grevillea robusta as a shrub

A tree naturally 18-35 meters tall, (60-115 feet), someone in our neighborhood decided to try to grow it as a large shrub.  Okay, I'm joking.  It got too big (surprise!) and they topped it rather than taking it out.

Tree mutilation fascinates me. I've been meditating on it lately because I'm sorely tempted to plant a tree where I shouldn't and keep it trimmed as a shrub. Bad!  Bad!  For shame!  As bad as growing Grevillea robusta and then whacking the top 80 feet off. Yet I'm still sorely tempted. I have this extra Agonis flexuosa 'After Dark' that's been surviving in a 5 gallon pot for a couple of years.

I got it on sale, and couldn't resist a bargain so I deluded myself into thinking I had a spot for it. Finally it appeared to die there in its pot, so I cut it down to the base, in preparation for throwing it out. It was certainly dead. The wood was lifeless all the way through, dry.  It snapped off easily. Dead.  I got delayed in throwing it out, and before I could, it sprouted new growth.  Surprise!  Not dead!  There it's been ever since, needling me every time I walk by.

"I've survived," it says to me. "Now give me a spot in the ground."

So I've been thinking about this or that spot. I've got this place out front where a five or six foot shrub version of an Agonis flexuosa would look really spiffy. There's a day lily there now that I loathe. But an A. flexuosa isn't meant to be five or six feet any more than a Grevillea robusta is meant to be grown as a shrub. And no responsible plant lover replaces a day lily with a tree. There's obviously a size issue.

Besides the potted prisoner, I've got a couple of A. flexuosas already, in the ground.  I like this tree a lot, and I don't usually like trees.  People who grow a lot of roses don't have much use for trees.  However, Agonis flexuosa has a well behaved root system, low water needs, produces little litter, and it will never get too big. It's habit is slightly weeping and graceful.  The shade is not dense. 

Here's a mature green version of an Agonis I spied in my neighborhood:
Agonis flexuosa

Here's one of my dark-foliage versions, newly planted in 2007 from a 5 gallon container:
Agonis flexuosa 'After Dark'

Here's the same tree yesterday, looking from the other direction.  Now it's a gangly juvenile, but it's a lovely gangly juvenile.  I hope to see it mature, strong, and happy.  It has a spot it will not outgrow.  It has what it needs for a good long life.  Doesn't every living thing deserve that? 
Agonis flexuosa 'After Dark'

My potted one deserves better than to be whacked as a shrub. Or does it? Would it be happy as a shrub? I will investigate further, though I'm doubtful. 

I will continue meditating upon mutilated trees, as a warning to myself.  Do better than this, dear, please! 

Pollarded California Sycamore


  1. I love agonis flexuosa! I don't have one, but I love them. (There is a beautiful specimen at the Hortense Miller Garden.) I had never seen one of the dark ones that was bigger than a 5 gallon pot. There were three planted in a track entrance nearby, but they never seemed to grow and they took them out for some reason.


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