By John Gabriele – This article first appeared on Port Macquarie
Flowers tend to be the one element that people remember a garden by – the bigger more vibrant and bold the display, the more of an impact on the memory.
There are however those plants that hide in the wings, not concerned with flamboyant and ostentatious displays of big blowsy blooms to catch the attention of pollinators and gardeners alike.
Small flowers are just as significant in a garden as their larger extravagant counterparts. Small by nature but big in stature, a collection of small delicate flowers can produce displays to rival the large single blooms of magnolias, hibiscus and roses.
Many flowering plants in the garden produce small flowers but collectively on an inflorescence, which is an arrangement of flowers on a stem, they appear bold and command our attention.
The bottlebrush is a case in point, the flower spike is a collection of individual flowers, the beauty of the individual detail in each flower is only revealed on close inspection.
To appreciate the beauty of each individual flower on an inflorescence, we need to narrow our focus. Grevilleas also produce small individual flowers that collectively pack a punch ‘moonlight’, honey gem’ ‘superb’, ‘flamingo’ and ‘fire sprite’ to name a few would be rather drab if flowers were produced individually as opposed to being grouped on a spiked inflorescence.
Plants produce flowers for one reason: reproduction. To ensure the best chance for species survival, they have adapted their flowers to suite their environment and the pollinators they rely upon for fertilisation to ensure fruit set and seed dispersal.
Big flowers often rely on large pollinators such as birds, marsupials and large insects, whereas some plants such as herbs and many vegetables produce quite small flowers but in such profusion that they can’t be missed, albeit by much smaller insects which are just as important as the larger pollinators.
No matter what the size, shape, colour or number of flowers a plant produces, there will always be a pollinator to take advantage of the bounty on offer.
The currency of the floral kingdom comes in pollen and nectar, so insects, birds, marsupials and mammals of all shapes, sizes and description will be enticed to the treasure on offer, no matter how big or small.