Grevillea "Robyn Gordon" and Similar Cultivars

Distribution Map
Family: Proteaceae
Distribution: Not applicable.
Common Name: Grevillea
Derivation of Name: Grevillea...after Charles Francis Greville, co-founder of the Royal Horticultural Society
Conservation Status: Not applicable.

General Description:

Grevillea "Robyn Gordon" is one of several similar hybrids. It is a chance hybrid that arose in the garden of the late David Gordon of Myall Park, Glenmorgan, Queensland. David Gordon was a plant collector with an extensive collection of Grevillea species which (according to legend) he planted in alphabetical order by species. This meant that the Queensland species, Grevillea banksii, was planted in close proximity to the Western Australian species, G. bipinnatifida. A plant that was later to become the cultivar "Robyn Gordon" (named after David and Dorothy Gordon's daughter) arose by chance near these two parent species.

Grevillea 'Robyn Gordon'
Grevillea "Robyn Gordon"
Photo: Brian Walters

Once released into wider cultivation, G. "Robyn Gordon" quickly established itself as one of the most popular of all Australian plant cultivars due to its attractive foliage, spectacular deep red flowers and moderate size of about 1.5 metres high by a similar width. Its year-round flowering habit in many districts also added to its popularity, which continues today despite the subsequent appearance in cultivation of several other cultivars which have a similar parentage. These include:

  • Grevillea "Superb": Shrub which can reach about 1.5 metres in height by 2 metres wide. Large apricot-orange racemes of flowers. G. "Superb" differs from most other similar hybrids in that it was a deliberate cross rather than a chance seedling. The cross was carried out by well known Australian plant enthusiast and Grevillea grower, Merv Hodge (sadly deceased). G."Superb" used the white form of G.banksii rather than the more common red form.

  • Grevillea "Ned Kelly" - Shrub which can reach about 2 metres in height by 3 metres wide. Large orange-red racemes of flowers. This cultivar is also known as "Mason's Hybrid" and "Kentlyn" and it originated at the Kentlyn, New South Wales Australian Plant nursery in the 1970s. It was heavily promoted as G. "Ned Kelly" and it is now best known by that name.

  • Grevillea "Coconut Ice" - Shrub which can reach about 2 metres in height by 2 metres wide. Large pink and red racemes of flowers. This cultivar was also raised by Merv Hodge (but not named by him) and has the white flowered form of G.banksii as one parent. The name has lead to some confusion with other hybrids such as G.'Misty Pink' as many people expect G. 'Coconut Ice' to be pink and white, which it isn't.

  • Grevillea "Peaches and Cream" - Shrub to 1.5 metres by a similar width. Inflorescences open yellow and develop shades of pink and orange. This cultivar has a white-flowered form of G. banksii as one parent and arose as a seedling in a Brisbane garden.

  • Grevillea "Judith Anne" - Shrub to about 1.5 metres by 1.5 metres. Large deep pink racemes of flowers.
Grevillea 'Superb'

Grevillea 'Coconut Ice'

Grevillea 'Peaches and Cream'

Grevillea 'Ned Kelly'
From the Top: Grevillea 'Superb'
Grevillea 'Coconut Ice'
Grevillea 'Peaches and Cream'
Grevillea 'Ned Kelly', showing the flowering habit

Photos: Brian Walters

All of these cultivars are bushy shrubs with attractive lobed foliage. The older cultivars ("Robyn Gordon", "Superb", "Ned Kelly" and "Coconut Ice" have proven to be reliable in a wide range of climates and soils and there is every reason to expect the newer forms to be equally hardy. Pruning is usually not required but plants can tolerate moderate to heavy pruning if necessary. A sunny, well drained position is preferable in the garden and plants are tolerant of at least moderate frost. Fertilisers containing phosphorus are best avoided. The flowers attract honeyeating birds.

It is worth noting that the foliage of several grevilleas is known to cause skin irritations to individuals who are sensitive to compounds contained in the leaves and the group of grevilleas most commonly impiclated in causing this contact dermatitis is the "Robyn Gordon" group of cultivars. Accordingly, care should be exercised in locating these plants in the garden - it would be best to avoid locating them where people would need to regularly brush past the plants and it would also be best to avoid planting them in school playgrounds.

Further information can be found in the article "Grevilleas as Plant Allergens".

Propagation of all of these cultivars is fairly easy from cuttings. Because of the hybrid origin of these plants, seedlings will not come true to type and must not be given the original cultivar name. Seed, however, seems to be set very rarely with these plants.

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