Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ray's Garden

Ray is a retired school teacher who lives just around the corner He has created a garden of biodiversity and of great delight. There are no manicured lawns ,just a wonderful jumble of native plants and roses. The roses he has favoured are mainly those bred by David Austin. I took some photos on an early morning visit this week.


Tess of the d'Ubervilles

Souvenir de St Anne's

Rugosa rose Rugspin

Radio Times


Pat Austin

Early Morning Light

Mayor of Casterbridge

Kangaroo Paws

Gertrude Jekyll


Belle Story

Abraham Darby

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Lathyrus odoratus, Sweet Peas

Sweet Peas climbing on an Acanthus mollis flower
Sweet Peas are at their best during November on the coast while in more temperate climates the season can be extended into summer .They like it cool with no extremes of temperature.
Picking them regularly also extends the season but the stems get shorter especially if there are some hot days. I just wish the season was longer here so as to keep enjoying the delicious scent .
The Italian- southern European sweet pea was introduced into cultivation during the early 18th century. They were celebrated by the great Italian American film director Martin Scorsese in his 1993 film The Age of Innocence. A huge bowl of sweet peas, the centrepiece of a table in a vast conservatory held our attention and were privy to a conversation of gossip and intrigue. The camera slowly circled the table while billowing curtains carried the sweet pea fragrance on the breeze straight to the viewer.

Xanthosoma atrovirens 'Variegata Monstrosa'

Xanthosoma atrovirens 
'Variegata Monstrosa'

This Aroid from Ecuador is most unusual because at the end of the leaf is a small pouch with an attached tail. In the definitive book on the subject of Aroids by Deni Bown (Aroids :Plants of the Arum Family. Timber Press 2000) it is called "a would-be carnivorous Aroid" because this pouch is thought to have served the purpose of catching food not unlike the "pitchers" of insectivorous plants.
In the garden it is winter dormant but makes quick growth once the weather warms up unfurling leaves with wonderful colouring of blue grey green with bands of white and grey.

2017 update: I no longer have this plant and would love to get it again. I have found that many of the aroids rot during cold wet winter conditions.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Tropaeolum majus, Nasturtium

Nasturtium 'Alaska'

Tropaeolum majus 

This charming annual , a native to Peru and the West Indies, is at its best during Spring when, if given a spot in not too rich soil and a partly shaded position .it produces masses of flowers in a huge array of bright colours ranging from cherry rose, gold, tangerine, apricot and blacky red, plus some delicate creamy colours as well, such as the form 'Milkmaid' which is as close to white as you can get. There are also some different leaf colours such as the variegated 'Alaska" and the ruby tinted 'Empress of India'
The double flowered forms were originally developed in Italy in the mid 18th century and the Gleam Hybrids of the mid 20th century from California were the first with a scent . The perfume is subtle ,sweet and peppery at the same time .
Dwarf and non trailing forms have been introduced including the 'Jewel' mixed and 'Whirlybird'
Nasturtium flowers and leaves are edible and if you can stand the hot taste which may bring tears to your eyes ,they make a colourful addition to the salad bowl and are full of vitamin C Hence the common name of Indian Cress, though the German is more expressive....Kapuzinerkresse. Nasturtiums are a great gardening plant for children as the seeds are large and easy to plant and reliable in any conditions . When the flowers start to fade, it can be quite a bit of work to remove the masses of trailing stems left behind . The large quantity of seed which have dropped ensure its return in the following season .A second flush of flowers often occurs after autumn rain and that is always welcome. The colour Nasturtium Red has been in use in the paint and textile trades since the end of the 18th century and is pictured below.

Zieria granulata, llawarra Zieria

Zieria granulata 
 Illawarra Zieria
This native plant is listed as one of the threatened plants of the Illawarra and occurs in a small area of local government managed sites in Shellharbour and Kiama.
It is worth growing in the home garden because it is a great texture plant . The foliage is covered in small raised dots which release an intensely aromatic citrus smell when crushed or bruised.
It grows to be an attractive rounded shrub to about 2.5 metres and is smothered in tiny white flowers during Spring.
2017 update: I no longer have any plants for sale.

Dianthera nodosa, syn Justicia nodosa

Dianthera nodosa
This small shrub which grows to about a metre is almost continually in flower .The flowers appear in the leaf axils and cascade down along the branches (not upright as shown in this photo)
It has been given a couple of cultivar names including "Brazil" after its country of origin and "Lady in Pink" . It should be more widely grown in a frost free climate as it tolerates shade and will thrive in spots under trees where there is some root competition.
In sun the foliage can turn a bleached or yellow colour.
Given a light pune after flowering will encourage a more compact shape from what is normally an open weeping shrub.
2017 update: I have some plants for sale.

Rothmannia globosa ,Tree Gardenia

Rothmannia globossa 
the tree Gardenia
This Spring flowering shrub can grow to tree like proportions (about 7 metres) and is a familiar sight in old gardens . It produces masses of creamy perfumed flowers followed by large round black seed pods which persist on the branches for many years. If you don't want it as a tree ,it should be pruned well after flowering so as to retain a compact shape. It is tough and drought hardy and is useful for difficult spots such as narrow spaces between buildings which receive low winter light and are sunny and hot in Summer.
2017 update: I no longer have any plants for sale. It is usually available from the Growing Friends Nursery at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Iris pseudacorus, Yellow Flag Iris

Iris pseudacorus 
 Yellow Flag Iris

The yellow flag Iris is said to been the plant chosen by French King Louis VII for the royal emblem during the Crusades ,when it was called after him, Fleur de Louis ,then fleur-de-luce or fleur-de-lis.
Although considered a water garden plant,it is happy to grow in any good garden soil as long as it does not get too dry. It forms a handsome clump of sword shaped leaves and in Spring produces a succession of sunshine yellow flowers .The large pods which follow the flowers contain seeds which have been know to be roasted and used as a coffee substitute.

Euphorbia lambii, La Gomera Tree Spurge

Euphorbia lambii 
 La Gomera (Canary Islands) Tree Spurge
This shrub Euphorbia grows to about 2 metres and has quite a thick trunk. It is spectacular in Spring for the large greenish yellow circular flowers (bracts). The leaves have an attractive bluish grey bloom on them. It requires no special growing conditions preferring the soil to be on the dry side.
2017 update: It does self seed and small plants appear from time to time though they never become a nuisance in the garden.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Viburnum x burkwoodii

Viburnum x burkwoodii (V. carlesii x V.utile )
This is one spring flowering shrub with an exceptional sweet perfume . It is very hardy and grows to about 2.5 metres and can take quite hard pruning to keep it in a good compact shape. The dark green leaves which follow the flowers are glossy and have a toothed margin and a slightly quilted appearance.
2017 update: I currently don't have any plants for sale.

Kerria japonica 'Pleniflora'

Kerria japonica 'Pleniflora' 
 in a shady garden with blue forget-me-nots
This hardy spring flowering shrub is found naturally in woodland and thickets in China and Japan but it has been cultivated in gardens for hundreds of years as well. The bare wiry stems carry small canary yellow double flowers at this time of year and later are clothed in attractive apple green leaves. Sometimes it is given the common name of Japanese Rose and in China it is known as the Ditang flower. It grows to about 1.5 metres and naturally suckers but is very easily managed and can be pruned to a rounded shape after flowering.
2017 update: I currently don't have any plants for sale.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Echeveria agavoides,"Moulded Wax"

Echeveria agavoides  
a cultivar with pink foliage
Echeveria agavoides ,a rosette succulent which is sometimes given the common name "moulded wax" because of the translucent waxy leaves is native to Estado de San Luis Potosi , a central State of Mexico. The pointed boat shaped leaves are quite tough and much more resistant to damage by insects, snails or hail which can pit and distort the leaves of many soft foliaged succulents. Unlike many of the other Echeverias it does not grow up on a stalk but slowly increases its circumference and sends out a few "babies" crowded under the tight rosette of leaves. The variety E.a corderoyi is the most hardy form and the leaves develop brilliant red margins from late winter through spring. The colours are also stronger if fertiliser is limited and the plants are grown "hard".This is a great pot or garden specimen.
2017 update: Always have plenty of stock available of the variety 'Cordroyii' in various pot sizes.

Cercis siliquastrum,The Judas Tree

Cercis siliquastrum  
The Judas Tree in Wollongong Botanic Gardens
This spectacular spring flowering tree which has masses of rosy-purple pea flowers crowding the bare branches is native of the eastern Mediterranean and is a familiar sight on the dry sunny hillsides throughout the French Riviera. With age it develops an attractive gnarled appearance ,a bit like a giant bonsai. The branches are in fact quite pliable so it can be trained to grow over a pergola or similar structure. In the Cote d'Azur garden Villa Noailles at Grasse it has been trained in this way and has been combined with the white flowering form C.s.'Alba' to great effect.
The rounded leaves which appear later are similar to a Bauhinia. After flowering, purple tinged flattened seed pods appear which last on the tree well into summer. They are also very decorative.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Stachyurus praecox, Early Spiketail

Stachyurus praecox
 Early Spiketail

This is one of those forgotten deciduous shrubs which is rarely grown now . It is from Japan ,grows to about 2 metres in an open vase shape and at the moment the greenish yellow drooping bell shaped flowers are starting to open from the shiny red branches. The leaves are an interesting shade of copper green and there is a cultivar called 'Magpie' with cream edged leaves. Cut stems are excellent for floral work.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pandorea pandorana 'Snowbells' Wonga Vine

Pandorea pandorana 'Snowbells'
This is a fairly familiar native garden climber and it is one which is both reliable  never failing to put on an extravagant display of flowers at this time of year. It grows over such a broad range of habitats from Tasmania to far north Queensland and can be either a slender plant in dry places or develop a massive trunk in moist rainforest gullies. I like to see it growing up a tree and, even though you miss the up close view of the flowers ,you know it is in flower by the wonderful carpet of blossom on the ground.

Dawsonia superba, Giant Moss

Dawsonia superba ,Giant Moss
This giant moss which is native to the east coast of Australia resembles a ground cover of minature pine trees. It changes colour from bright green to blue depending on how much water it receives.
Given shade and a spot in moist leaf mulch or around rocks it is easy to grow.
2017 update: Disappeared from my garden long ago though possibly available from specialist native nurseries

Monday, September 15, 2008

Tagetes lemmonii, Mexican Marigold

Tagetes lemmonii ,Mexican Marigold
This small shrubby Marigold which grows to about 1 metre is noted for the strong scent emitted from the foliage when it is brushed against or crushed. Anyone who has been on an "army bivouac" through Lantana scrub and encountered the wild passionfruit (Passiflora foetida) would recognise the smell . It is the combination odour of the stinking passionfruit and the Lantana. This may not sound inviting but it is certainly memorable and a talking point in the garden.if you plant one near a walkway or stairs. It is a fairly hardy shrub, tolerates light frost and begins to flower in late winter through spring, with odd flowers throughout the year.
2017 update: I usually have plants available for sale.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Crithmum maritimum, Rock Samphire

Crithmum maritimum, Samphire  
growing out of a rock wall in Sydney
This aromatic succulent herb is a maritime plant found on sea cliffs in England and southern Ireland as well as in Europe and the mediterranean. The spicy tasting leaves are rich in iodine and are added to salads and or can be pickled in vinegar. The name samphire is a phonetic corruption of the French herbe de St. Pierre. In Spain it is know as hinojo marino.
It is mentioned in Shakespeare's King Lear "Halfway down hangs one that gathers samphire:dreadful trade" Perhaps this is a reference to those who fell to their deaths while gathering samphire for the London markets .The market cry in Shakespeare's day was for "crest marine" as it was a popular salad and pickled item. Another common name for it was pierce stone and that is how it grows ,sending long roots down through rock crevices and growing in what seems impossible stony ground. The foliage is an attractive bluish grey colour and the jagged pattern of these leaves make it a great foliage contrast plant with rosette succulents or with Senecio serpens ,the blue chalk sticks. The flowers are interesting umbells of pale yellowish green though they do seem to attract flies to do the pollination.
2017 update: Still not widely known or used. I have a stock plant and can propagate on request.

Rose,Tea Rose General Gallieni,1899

Tea Rose General Gallieni 1899
This is another one of those free blooming roses which looks great in spring when the normal strawberry pink flower colour takes on more of a copper and cream colour. Later flowers become darker with more of a raspberry and crimson look to them. The flowers are also quartered and have a bit of a square look to them. I find the bush a bit angular in its growth form with some branches almost horizontal to the ground . However the Tea roses are the best to grow in warm temperate and sub tropical climates as they form quite large shrubs and show good disease resistance and just never stop flowering.
2017 update: One of the best 'Teas' and available from specialist rose nurseries

Trachystemon orientalis,

Trachystemon orientalis
This is the first time I have seen this perennial in flower. These dainty blue flowers with the white flash are just starting to emerge and will eventually grow to about 15cm. Later will come large coarse textured leaves which look a bit like Comfrey and grow to about 30cm. I cut down these leaves just before winter as they were looking a bit tatty. It is certainly a plant well suited to growing under trees in a woodland style garden.
The flowers are a bit similar to the herb Borage to which it related. I am not sure however that it is a plant for the coast as it is native to Turkey, Bulgaria and Georgia. Apparently in Turkey it is used as a vegetable called "aci hodan" or "dogu hodani".The flower stems, young leaves and the rhizome are all cooked and eaten.
2017 update: I no longer grow this as it prefers a cool temperate climate.

Diosma alba syn Coleonema album

Diosma alba grown as a low hedge edged with sun hardy Bromeliads
Diosma, a lovely soft aromatic shrub from South Africa is sometimes called by the botanical name Coleonema album and the common name "Breath -of-Heaven". It makes an ideal low hedge to just over a metre in height and it will even tolerate a bit of shade. It is a naturally compact shrub but benefits from shearing during which the warm scent from the leaves is released. Because of its low water requirements it can be grown with spiky or rigid formed plants such as succulents or bromeliads which contrast well with its soft foliage.

Rose ,Veilchenblau,1909 a Rambler

Rose 'Veilchenblau' a Rambler from 1909

This is the kind of rose you can grow over an old shed or chook house or even down an embankment. The colour is bright and difficult to describe .It's a sort of violet,lilac blue mix, made more telling by the white centre to the flower. The bunches of flowers are on short stems emerging from the long cane like growth. It is mainly spring flowering but small bunches of flowers appear at other times of the year. It is very hardy and reliable. Plants available from specialist rose nurseries.