Meet Andrew Harvie, Plant collector

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28 Mar 2018

If you like rare and unusual plants, make your way to Andy’s Rare Plants stall at Collectors’ this year, where Andrew Harvie and his mates will have things you’ve never seen before.

Interview: Robin Powell

How did Andy’s Rare Plants start as a specialist nursery?

The three of us - Keith Tollis, Colin Hunt and myself - met doing horticulture at university 20-odd years ago. We’d been mad keen plant swappers and collectors ever since and about five years ago we realised we just had too many plants and we really needed to clear a few things. We thought we’d take a stall at Collectors’ Plant Fair. It was just going to be a one-off and our plan was simply to make enough money selling our excess plants to fund the new plants we wanted at the Fair and to pay for being there. It turned out to be a bit more successful that that, and we’ve been there every year since!

What plants do you specialise in?

South African bulbs are a real focus, though Colin also has a quite a few aroids, around 50 different species I think, including quite a few with very stinky flowers, which fascinate people. We are able to have a wide variety of things to sell as we all live in such different climates - I’m at Richmond, Keith is on the Central Coast and Colin is in the lower Blue Mountains at Hazelbrook.

What’s new for Collectors’ 2018?

We’ll have more South American bulbs. I have Eucrosia mirabilis, from Ecuador. It’s very rare, existing in only one location in the wild. I managed to get some seed, and will have those at flowering size for Collectors’ this year. It has large flowers that look like frilled lampshades on tall stems. The flowers appear before the leaves. I grow it in full sun through spring and summer then move it under a tree for frost protection through winter, and stop watering it to force it into dormancy.

What are the big sellers for you at the Fair?

Keith’s orange Ornithagalum dubium always sell-out at Kariong in the spring, when they are in flower. At Collectors’ last year, the native Australian orchids were very popular.

Anything else?

Keith has developed a new red lily that’s a cross between Brunsvigia marginata, which is commonly called a Josephine lily, and Amaryllis belladonna. It’s an absolute breakthrough - possibly the world's first red amaryllis. It has a very dark -pinky-red flower that looks like the old-fashioned ‘naked ladies’ in shape. The registered  name for it is Amarygia Bozandycol, being a mash-up of all our names - Andrew, Colin and Keith, Keith being fondly known as Boris.

Andy’s Rare Plants is one of more than 70 specialist nurseries offering rare and hard-to-find treasures to garden and plant lovers at Collectors’ Plant Fair, Hawkesbury Racecourse, Clarendon, April 7-8. Book tickets online to avoid the queues, www.collectorsplantfair.com.au