Sunday, October 26, 2014

Verbena 'La France'

 Verbena 'La France' (Verbeniaceae)
As mentioned previously we are having our Northern Hemisphere summer days right now and plants which originate from those cooler climes are looking their best. This Verbena came to my attention through the Beth Chatto gravel garden book where she included in her list of drought busting continuous hot sunny day loving plants. Plants which thrive without additional summer watering or special treatment are always welcome and this certainly fits the bill.
It started to flower in late winter having sent out metre long trailing stems each topped with clusters of these pretty though scentless mauve flowers. This week I cut it back quite hard and used all the stem pieces for cuttings as you do. Vive la France!
soft wood tip cuttings

Ledebouria petiolata

Ledebouria petiolata syn. Drimiopsis maculata
The good folk at Larkman's Nursery in Victoria bought this to my attention recently as they market it as an 'African Hosta'. Unlike the Japanese Hosta this plant thrives in poor soil, low water IE "neglect" but is equally loved by snails and slugs which generally spoil its appearance as soon as your back is turned. At this time of year it produces masses of short stemmed white flowers which resemble miniature Hyacinth but without the perfume. It grows from a series of fleshy bulbs which protrude slightly above the ground.These can be easily divided to form new clumps of plants. I am in two minds about this plant; one could consider it as a "novelty" item or as a serious contender for a difficult garden site of dry shade under trees where not much would grow and where it would be quite at home. Otherwise it makes a terrific pot plant which can be brought indoors when in flower or if you like things a bit dotty/spotty.

Senecio radicans

 Senecio radicans (Asteraceae)
'String of Bananas'
  I am growing this popular succulent for use in vertical gardens and this specimen has already grown down 1.5 metres, with little red spur-like roots protruding from the stems along the way which are obviously in search of a some soil.
 There are two forms of this succulent ground-cover from South Africa ,one with grey leaves (glauca) and a plain green form. Leaf form can also vary from banana or fish-hook shape to globe shaped. Tiny shaving-brush like flowers appeared a month or so ago and these were attended by some beneficial insects which is a bonus when you are growing any plant these days.
In cool climates this plant is grown indoors and it adapts well to shady or low light conditions.

Geranium molle, Dove's Foot Cranesbill

Geranium molle (Geraniaceae)
 Dove's Foot Cranesbill
The appearance of this weed had me fooled into thinking it was a seedling G. sanguineum as the leaves are remarkably similar to that species. It came up first in a hanging basket which had contained one and also in the garden. For a moment I thought I was on to a sure fire winner with possibly a new and different flower colour.However as soon as it flowered I knew it was a weed species and a quick check of an ID book confirmed it as this species of European origin which is said to only make a rare appearance in gardens and is of no significance. It gets my vote as the most clever weed of the year looking as it does like a respectable garden perennial and able to grow cherished until maturity when its true identity was revealed.
Like many weeds it has an ancient and useful herbal remedy past. The famous astrologer-physician of the early 17th Century, Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654) probably had it in his medical practice in Red Lion Street , Spitalfields in London in 1640 where he recommended it be applied directly to 'green wounds' ulcers and sores as it 'healeth them quickly'; and for use in a 'decoction in wine' for internal hurts and bruises or to relieve joint-ache.
Published by W Foulsham & Co., LTD
Slough, Bucks, England

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Penstemon digitalis

 Penstemon digitalis (Plantaginaceae)
This is from Canada and the eastern United States and is doing its Northern Hemisphere summer thing by flowering in our spring, like a lot of other similar perennials do. I suspect by January the leaves may be a bit crispy and it may have gone into shock at the temperature.
For those who like that black and white colour scheme in a garden this is a good addition as the leaves emerge after winter a near black colour. The 30cm burgundy coloured flower stems are topped with white, pink blushed, foxglove like flowers. Penstemon are generally fairly hardy and do well across a range of climates. The cultivar name 'Husker Red' is applied to this plant in the UK.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

R.I.P. Gough

Remembering the achievements of Gough Whitlam (1916-2014)
1972 Portrait by Clifton Pugh
Parliament House, Canberra

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Martha My Dear

 Miniature Regal Pelargonium or 'Martha Washington'
Regal Pelargoniums are a classic "impulse buy" plant at a Nursery or Garden Centre and if you wait a few weeks as they finish the peak of their flowering there will be lots of discounted ones on offer.I picked up this miniature one last year and I have to admit it was fairly neglected, even kicked over on its side with snapped branches a few months back. I prefer these smaller compact varieties as the larger sorts often become quite straggly in the garden. Amongst the larger ones there are some fabulous colours available including near black and pure white as well as lots of rich purples, pinks, red and mauve. They make good seaside garden plants and grow happily in sandy soils with low water availability. Pruning by a third after flowering is recommended. If you prune them too hard into old wood they may not recover and re-shoot.
 The miniature varieties are also sometimes called 'Angel' or 'Pansy' Pelargoniums and the small crinkled leaves resemble P. crispum,from which they are thought to be derived in the early 19th Century; later re-developed in London in the 1930's and 1940's by a Mr Langley Smith. Unfortunately, without a proper label I can't be sure of the correct name for this little beauty.