They began a few weeks back, the correas, sharing the light with the changing autumn leaves, brightening the understorey of woodland gardens or catching my eye in the dunes.

The first one I noticed was the white stars of Correa alba in a native garden beside the bluestone chapel nearby the Mechanism studio. The white four tipped stars stretching out from the olive green foliage. Correa alba, like many of the genus, clips well and is useful in the garden for its form alone.  Repeated as domes or in organic cloud formations, the foliage grows tightly and thickly, no doubt a key to its survival as it grows right along the coast, often shorn by the wind.

Correa alba, loosely clipped

Another member of the genus that enjoy’s life by the sea, is a yellow form of Correa reflexa known by the Warrnambool beach where it originated. C. ‘Granny’s Grave’ is a lively selection, with yellow green flowers that grow in profusion. The genus has some of the best yellow and green flowers. Another reflexa variety C.r. nummarifolia is a strong ground cover with dusty yellow flowers. Correa bauerlinii or the chef’s cap is a wonderful bright green flowering species with the distinctive toque-shaped flower, much more widely used these days and again clips well into a hedge, its reddish stems contrasting nicely wit the green leaves and light green flowers. But my favourite green flower belongs to the giant of the family. Growing beside upland streams, Correa lawrenceana can reach giddy heights. I like it in the garden as a screening shrub, that doesn’t mind some shade. It always seems to have some flowers hanging mysteriously amongst the foliage, sharing the green and russet highlights of the leaves and stems.

Correa ‘Granny’s Grave’ growing in the dunes of Warrnambool

Its all very well to admire the good taste of the subtle flowers, but the child like joy of the stereotypical red and green correa is impressive. I have such a Correa reflexa flowering now in a patch beneath a blackwood tree and while the autumn colour lasts it is competing with the orange of a Cotinus.  The most spectacular correa in my garden at the moment though is the cultivar ‘Bett’s Red’ that grows amongst the dry stems of the poa tussocks. Only a small shrub at this stage, it is striking, enlivening the space with this seasonal warmth.

Correa reflexa cultivar

All of them flowering now and feeding the honeyeaters and spinebills. Their long arching beaks designed for the job of accessing the nectar within the tubular flowers. The other genera of the Australian branch of the family Rutaceae: namely Boronia, Phyloteca and Crowea are all flowering over the winter months and have similar tolerances.