Nestled in the banksia hotspot of Mt Barker are a couple who claim to have the world’s only complete collection of banksia plants. Kevin and Kathy Collins once ran their business Banksia Farm as an operational cut-flower farm but now their focus is on maintaining their rare collection. Mr Collins said they had kept a complete collection of banksias since 1986, consisting of 80 species from across Australia. “We love our banksias so we continue to help with education and appreciation of the genus,” he said. “Within the banksias you get tiny little yellow flowers the size of a coin and you get the giant teddy bear banksia which is six inches across and 10 inches tall. “They have extremely varied shapes flowers and extremely variable foliage, and vary from ground-runner plants to a 30m tree.” The collection covers more than four hectares on their property. Mr Collins said Mt Barker had the richest natural abundance of banksias in Australia. “If you draw a circle around Plantagenet, we have 25 different banksias, which is higher than any other town in the world,” he said. “Banksias predominate in WA, which has about 65 of the species, and there are about 17 in all of eastern Australia. “It is the banksia hotspot, which is to do with the ancient landform and how plants have survived on our very impoverished soils. Some are very rare, living in the Stirlings (range) and nowhere else.” Banksia Farm was run as a tourism enterprise for 20 years, and has featured on several gardening TV shows. “Back in the early 2000s, we had about 400 Albany red scarlet banksia (banksia coccinea) plants growing which we grew and sold the flowers for floraculture,” Mr Collins said. “We got into our 70s and wanted to wind back but we kept the banksia garden going and maintain the collection. We still get involved with banksia enthusiasts and research students and projects.” The couple now work closely with Jeremy and Meredith Spencer from Albany who run a business which researches dieback. Together they are looking at the natural resistance of banksia coccinea to dieback. “This came about because they were concerned about how many of the scarlet red banskias, the Albany banksias, that were dying around Gull Rock and that area,” Mr Collins said. “Among all the dead ones were a few live ones that they considered there must be some natural resistance, and we set up a project to grow 1000 seedlings from plants in the wild, which were tested. Eventually, we came up with three plants that were totally resistant.” They are hosting a Banksia Farm open garden day at their property from 9.30am to 4.30pm on Saturday, May 22. Entry is $10, with funds going towards the Dieback Resistant Banksia Coccinea research project. The Banksia Farm is on Pearce Street in Mt Barker.