The New Zealand cabbage tree, known as Cordyline australis, is ideal for warmer gardens, and has become a kind of unofficial emblem of Torquay, where it is known as the “Torbay palm”, despite having no relation to true palms.
Its cousin, the mountain cabbage tree (C. indivisa) is far more interesting, however.
It features broad, blue-grey leaves atop a trunk that can grow up to 8m tall. It is much more striking than its common cousin, and is ideal for a “tropical” style garden.
While the mountain cabbage tree has been known to die suddenly and unexpectedly, especially when young, is is surprisingly hardy.
Give it plenty of water, a humus-rich soil, some shelter and a bit of light shade, and it should thrive.
The other candidate is the fuchsia, which is already commonly grown, albeit mostly species that originate from South and Central America.
New Zealand has three species of its own, and F. excorticata is the biggest in the whole genus.
Fuchsias are commonly thought of as shrubs, but F. excorticata is a proper small tree that can grow up to 12m in size in the wild.
If you look up when you find yourself walking on a carpet of fallen red flowers, you might find yourself standing underneath one.
The plant also produces sweet, aromatic berries, which are prized by the Maoris and were made into jam by early European settles.
They are worth trying in a sheltered spot almost anywhere, and are fast-growing.