You may have noticed bright splashes of purple bursting out of gardens around Sydney lately. A bit like Mazda's 121 'bubble' car, the Tibouchina always makes me smile when I see it. Also known as Lasiandra, it was very popular during the 60's and 70's so now there are plenty of mature ones around.
It is available as a groundcover, shrub or small tree but it's as a small tree that it is most commonly seen. When trained into a single main trunk, a nicely domed canopy develops and produces an eye-catching effect - making it a good year round feature tree. The canopy also provides useful shade.
The leaves are a darker green with five main veins and they are covered with short, stiff hairs giving them a grainy texture. The darker green also means they can be blended in with other trees or shrubs but then the purple flowers burst out in late summer saying, 'look at me, look at me!'
It's a pretty tough tree but doesn't mind an annual fertilize particularly after a light prune in late winter to encourage even denser flowering in late summer.
Tibouchina is sometimes regarded as being a bit old fashioned but given its stunning flowers, smaller size as a tree and general resilience - I reckon this is one to consider, even if just to make you smile!