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An Australian wildflower visionary

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Passers by the For Sale sign outside Lullfitz
Nursery on Great Northern Hwy just south
of Bindoon could conclude that the owner of
the iconic nursery, 72 year old George Lullfitz,
may be ready to retire.

In fact, nothing could be further from the
truth. While he admits he’s downsizing,
George has no intention of letting his vast
knowledge of Australian endemic plants go
to waste. His next ten-year plan involves
nothing less than making Perth the
wildflower city of the world!

George began his career in native plants
as a teenager when he left school to work
in his Uncle Fred’s nursery. He continued
under the tutelage of the late Charles
Gardiner, WA’s first Government botanist,
who allowed the young George to assist him
with his collection of unique West Australian
specimens. He shared the famed botanist’s
love of wildfl owers, but decided to pursue
cultivation rather than collection. George told
Mr Gardiner, “I’m interested in living plants
— not dead ones!”

After 10 years as a partner in Wanneroo
Wildflowers, George started his own
business, Lullfitz Nursery, concentrating
on propagating native plants for sale to the
public. At the same time he was a presenter
of the ABC gardening series Greenfi ngers —
spreading the word about planting endemic,
water-wise plants that cope naturally with
our climate.

George has published several books on the
subject, including Grow Native: The West’s
Best Plants and, more recently, A New Image
for West Australian Plants, where he contests
the myths that native plants (or as he prefers
to call them, Australian Plants) ‘Don’t give
colour’, ‘Only flower in spring’ and ‘Can’t be
pruned’.

The book contains beautiful photographs of
local plants clustered by season. In his plan to
create a world-class wildflower display in the
streets of Perth and throughout WA, George
proposes using a selection from each season
in each group planting to give colour and
structure all year round.

“Consider gardening like interior design,”
he says. “In a loungeroom you start with the
carpet, you build from the ground up. Your
carpet is a theme, your lounge chairs are a
theme, your curtains are a theme – they
match. It doesn’t matter what you do then –
it’s organised. Paintings, cushions do what
you like with the pretty bits! It’s the same in
a garden, too many people want to put one of
everything!”
More recently George has concentrated on
carefully cultivating a selection of low shrubs
and ground covers that are in demand for
verges and roundabouts.
“Now its all about sight lines,” he says. “I’ve
gone back to bush and selected the best plants
and bred them down and down in size so we
have prostrate versions.”

Just like his aptly named Gingin Gem, a
flowering shrub he developed, George is
indeed a local living treasure – one whose
ideas we should be cultivating.