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.
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 “Coconut Ice”; “Grevillea “Judith Anne”; Grevillea “Ned Kelly”; Grevillea “Peaches and Cream”; and Grevillea “Superb”.
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 honey eating 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 implicated 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.
Grevillea “Robyn Gordon”
Photo: Brian Walters