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.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Euphorbia enopla

 Euphorbia enopla (Euphorbiaceae)
Cactus for indoors? Certainly and this would be a good candidate as it only grows to about 1 metre. This is frost hardy species which originates from South Africa has very attractive long reddish spines which turn to black as they age. When I look at this specimen I can see that the side branches could be removed and used as propagation material to grow new plants thus changing the shape to a more central column. For the moment however it makes a great little indoor plant just like those seen in En Otra Piel.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Hippeastrum papilio

Hippeastrum papilio (Amaryllidaceae)
Living up to its epiphytic origins ,think Brazilian rainforest growing on rocks or trees, this one has flowered this week in a tiny 4 inch pot with virtually no soil. The tricky thing about growing them in pots is in getting the soil mix right. They love perfect drainage and a light bark/orchid mix. Many of my plants succumb to root rot at the drop of a hat if they are in a largish pot. Snails and slugs adore the leaves and can strip the foliage overnight and as I don't get around to looking at the batch I have on a regular basis this is a common occurrence for me.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Calibanus hookeri, Mexican Boulder

 Calibanus hookeri (Asparagaceae)
This scruffy, wiry stemmed clump of leaves emerge from a round "boulder" like base at ground level. The base is covered in rough corky bark, hence the common name. Clipped Buxus it ain't, so a plant as untidy looking as this may not have huge appeal. However the leaves have a pleasing blue grey appearance and the plant seldom needs extra water to keep it looking healthy. The leaves can be trimmed back to expose the boulder or caudex base and this may eventually reach 30cm across. I am still waiting for the appearance of flowers which are said to be tiny and white and are carried on a rigidly stiff panicle 10 to 20cm long. Flowers means seed so I may eventually have some plants for sale.
All things Mexican are hugely popular right now and I have been enjoying En Otra Piel (Titled In her Skin here and buried on late night TV) It is the kind of drama which has one gripped to your seat while shouting at the screen in Spanish. My money is on Pacho to save the day especially since Selma has been less than believing of the protagonist "Monica"
Ex Argentinean baseball player turned actor David Chocarra is the Calibanus hookeri of the series...a bit untidy but with lots of appeal.
The theme song is one of those songs which you find yourself humming during the day. annoying?

Salvia canariensis

 Salvia canariensis (Lamiaceae)
'The violet-mauve flowers emerge from large reddish calyces, underpinned by long coloured bracts which remain on the plant for a long time after flowering'; a description of this 1.5 metre shrub according to Oliver Filippi in his book The Dry Gardening Handbook.
I am having a crack at growing this Canary Island beauty but I suspect it may be short lived if we experience a rainy humid summer.The leaves have quite an acrid smell when crushed and remind me of turpentine mixed with fish oil. Flowers are large and prominent and this shrub would look good as a background plant to a Mediterranean herb border or mixed with succulents and grasses.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

National Hat-Day

 The 'Piping Hot' straw
October 10th is National Hat Day and is an initiative to raise awareness of mental health issues affecting one in four Australians.
The word hat originates from the Old English word haett which is linked to the Norse for 'hood' or 'cowl'.
A hat which has a dark colour under the brim, such as my favourite straw, will absorb a little more reflected UV light. A brim width of 80mm protects neck, chin, ears and face.

 A chin strap is essential if you don't want it too blow away in the slightest breeze. Rain or water is the enemy of the straw, though in general, a shelf life of a few years is the best you can hope for.Great for the garden or beach.
 The SPF50 Legionnaire
Practical, machine  washable but very daggy looking so best as work-wear or for fishing not really street-wear.

 The Akubra
Australian classic with iconic status but not for city slickers.
 The Drizabone Sou'wester
Wet weather oil-skin essential with ear protection and chin strap.