Sunday, May 31, 2009

Joseph Haydn 1732-1809

The 18th Century Gardener
Joseph Haydn 1732-1809
Esterhaza Castle showing formal gardens

Today is the 200th anniversary of the death of Franz Joseph Haydn. Much of his life was spent as a court musician for the Esterhazy family whose summer palace is shown above. We remember him for all the wonderful music he gave us.

Friday, May 29, 2009

A Church of Herbs

A Herbal illustration of Carnation Pinks 1578Dioscorides de Materia Medica 15th Century edition

The blue flowered herb Borage on embroidered seat cover

All Saints' Church Brockhampton ,England

All Saints' Church in the village of Brockhampton is well worth visiting if you happen to be in the UK in Summer. It is in Herefordshire and lies between Hereford and the market town of Ross-on-Wye.. It was designed and built in 1902 by one of the leading Arts and Crafts architects William Lethaby. The Arts and Crafts Movement (approx 1880-1910) embraced nature as a design source, and took inspiration from the naive charm of 15th and 16th century illustrated Herbals. Also influential was the work of designer and architect W G Paulson Townsend who had published his book Plant and Floral Studies for Designers ,Art Students and Craftsmen in 1902.
When I visited this church, I made the following notes on the back of the postcard pictured above. All the hymn book covers, 72 in all, have been hand embroidered with a different herb.... very delicately done. The alter cloth has similar herbs ,each numbered so that you can refer to a book in the church about the uses of each quotes from Herbals such as that of Gerard etc. Also a feature are two excellent tapestries from the workshops of Pre Raphaelite artists Burne-Jones and Millais.
It is interesting that now in the 21st Century ,the Japanese are so enamoured by this church that they are building an exact replica on the 22nd floor of a tower block in Osaka.!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dahlia imperialis

Dahlia imperialis, white and lilac-pink forms
This spectacular 7metre tall growing perennial is native to Mexico ,Guatemala and south to Colombia. At this time of year the tall bamboo like stems are crowned with large bunches of nodding lilac-pink or white flowers.which are much loved by bees. It is easily grown but needs a spot sheltered from strong wind with reasonably fertile soil and good moisture. It will tolerate cold down to about minus 3C. After flowering the stems can be cut to ground level and if cut into 30cm pieces can be used as propagation material. These are best laid flat in a sandy soil mix just barely covered . New shoots will appear in Spring from the nodes after which they can be planted out.
2017 update: I currently don't have any plants of it for sale.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Echeveria secunda

Echeveria secunda
This ice blue succulent from South America surrounded here by the orange fallen leaves of an ornamental Prunus is one of the hardiest and most reliable to grow. Unlike other larger Echeveria it rarely suffers from fungal problems which cause the leaves to rot or from insect pests such as aphids or mealy bug. It forms a dense tight mat making it ideal for mass planting or for use as an edging plant along garden beds or in low flat pots by itself or surrounding larger specimens of a darker colour.
2017 update: I have limited stock available.

Cotyledon macrantha

Cotyledon macrantha
This is a popular hardy well rounded shrub succulent which grows to about 60cm. The flowers which start to appear around now are intense red bells held well above the concave rounded leaves. It is native to South Africa but extensively grown in gardens on the French Riviera.
2017 update: I always have plants available.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ocimum sanctum, Babui Tulsi

This basil which is called scared basil or holy basil is the only variety which is tolerant of cold weather/frost and continues to flower well into winter.The hairy leaves have a fragrance of cloves, cinnamon and camphor ,while the flowers have a pink or purple tinge and are much loved by bees. Masses of seeds are produced which when shed stick to the leaves below and eventually blow away from the parent plant and germinate the following summer. It is a great bee plant and when flowers are in short supply during the cold months this plant is very popular. Ocimum sanctum syn.Ocimum tenuiflorum is called babui tulsi in Hindi .In India,this basil plant is sacred to both Krishna and Vishnu and is cherished in every house as the protecting spirit of the family. Every good Hindu goes to his rest with a basil leaf on his breast. This is his passport to Paradise.There is a very small link here to mention the great soundtrack album from.....

In Australia to promote this single from Slumdog Millionare are the fabulous PussyCat Dolls
The opening sequence of the song has a clever use of Mozart's Symphony #40 in G minor

PussyCat Dolls in 2005

Monday, May 25, 2009


'A Young Lady' attributed to Piero del Pollaiuolo(1443-1496)
Berlin, Staatliche Museen
The leaves and flowers of the artichoke are used as a decorative motif on clothing.
Artichoke Wallpaper (1897) by John Henry Dearle
for William Morris & Co
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Cynara scolymus Globe Artichoke
The artichoke has been cultivated for centuries and is a decorative ornamental vegetable with arching silver leaves and a tall thistle like flower which is picked and eaten when at an immature stage. In Europe the main artichoke growing areas are in Brittany, France near Treguier ,where it has been grown since 1508 and in Italy on the coastal plain near Brindisi. In Australia, it was one of the first vegetables to be cultivated. Between 1803 -1812, Irish convict Sir Henry Browne Hayes grew it in his garden at Vaucluse in Sydney as artichokes had been included in the First Fleet seed list.
Artichokes are hardy over a range of climates and require moist well drained soil of moderate fertility.Even if you don't want to grow them as a vegetable they have a good strong form which warrants their inclusion as a decorative element in a flower garden. The purple headed variety 'Violetto' is worth seeking out for its vibrant colour. Propagation is usually from seed or by removing small plants or suckers from around a mature plant. The pests I have encountered in growing them are the root mealy bug which congregates just below the soil surface and from black aphids on the backs of leaves. The mealy bug will often weaken the plant until it appears wilted and in need of water.Leaf miner is also an occasional problem and shows up as dry blistered patches on the leaf surface. Pests can often be avoided when the plants are not put under any water stress and are supplied with a well balanced fertilizer during their growing season. I like to pick them at the "baby" stage when they are tender and require only steaming or boiling in water with some lemon slices added.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Echeveria carunculata x

Echeveria carunuculata hybrid
Echeverias start to produce brilliant coloured leaves during the cooler months. Red leaves become more intense in colour, purple leaves get quite iridescent and the pink ones take on a metallic sheen. This hybrid shows the somewhat grotesque knobbly growths called carunculations on top of the leaf. It is not for everyones taste and it usually gets the comment that it looks a bit "warty".It makes a good pot plant and requires some frost protection over winter.
2017 update: I have limited stock of these.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Phragmites australis, Common Reed

Dusky Moorhen at home in swamps, makes a harsh 'kerk' sound when disturbed

Phragmites australis
In the local wetlands where I walk the common reed is in flower at this time of year. It has graceful plumes at the end of tall stems. They capture the light and move in the slightest breeze. Many waterbirds make their home in this plant .

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dividing Iris

Dividing and potting Louisiana Iris 
2017 update: I no longer grow Iris.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Rotheca myricoides syn. Clerodendrum ugandense, Blue Butterfly Bush

Rotheca myricoides syn. Clerodendrum ugandense
 Blue Butterfly Bush
The porcelain blue flowers of this 2.5 metre shrub need to be seen up close to admire the detail of its mimicry of a blue butterfly. This Uganda native flowers for most of the year and is still producing open sprays at the end of branches. It is not a fantastic looking shrub, being open and twiggy so it needs a solid dark green background or wall to set off the flowers. In really cold weather or in frosty areas, it may become deciduous but recovers quickly once the warm days return.
2017 update: I am currently out of stock

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

3 New Roses

New roses soaking in Seasol before planting

The new bagged/ bare rooted roses for the year are just starting to appear in the markets so here are my 3 picks for the season . The big seller, and deservedly so, will be the pink flowering Floribunda, 'Jane McGrath' with a percentage of sales going towards breast cancer research through the McGrath Foundation
The other new release of note is the red Hybrid Tea 'Fire Fighter'. This is a rose with some perfume. What I am looking forward to growing also is the cerise pink//mauve Floribunda 'Flemington Racecourse' bred by rosarian Dr Bruce Chapman from Melbourne. It is not new and has been around since 1998 but was the Grand Champion winner at the New South Wales Rose Show in April this year.

Taxodium distichum, Swamp Cypress

Taxodium distichum
 Swamp Cypress
The strange root formations from this tree are sometimes called gardeners' knees

The Swamp Cypress is a tall pyramid shaped tree native to the southern USA and Mexico with soft lacy foliage resembling a yew, hence the Latin name taxus and eidos meaning resemblance. One of my reference books refers to this tree as being the tallest in the Royal Botanic Gardens of Melbourne at 37 metres. That was in 1975 so it may be taller still by now.The tree is hardy over a range of climates but needs plenty of space to develop to its full potential as well as a good supply of water.
2017 update: I do not have plants of this tree for sale.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Rockhampton post

The tropical parts of Australia were once known as the torrid zone and the rest of the country was temperate The gracious homestead of Belmont Station near Rockhampton, Queensland
The photograph above was taken by Frank Hurley(1885-1962) in the middle of last century and shows a magnificent floral border in the English style.

  A Belmont Red :placid, heat loving and tick resistant .

a few Tassie native flora pics

Aristotelia peduncularis, Heartberry
Cyathodes hirtella, Pink Mountain Berry

Billardiera longiflora, Climbing Blueberry

Coprosma hirteila ,Coffee Berry

Tasmanian autumn flora from S Dean of Evandale

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Salvia gauranitica

Salvia gauranitica
I photographed this Salvia growing in a large country garden where it had plenty of space to grow. Growing up to 2 metres, it is very decorative and flowers well into the cooler months. Each spring it is best pruned back really hard almost to ground level . It makes rapid regrowth once the weather warms up.
2017 update: I usually have stock of this or one of the cultivar forms such as 'Black and Blue'

Agave geminiflora

Agave geminiflora
This is one of the smaller (45cm) Agaves I grow and it is unusual in that the leaves closely resemble a grass rather than a broad blade shape of other species. The leaves are tubular, a dark forest green in colour and have a small spine at the tip.They are very flexible and reasonably easy to move aside if you have to weed around it. 
2017 update:I am currently out of stock.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

John Keats 'Ode to Autumn'

John Keats ,English poet (1795-1821)
Painted in Rome by Joseph Severn
On the France2 News broadcast this morning came a report from the Cannes Film Festival and an interview with New Zealand/Australian film director Jane Campion on her new film Bright Star about the last three years of the life of poet John Keats. Bright Star features English actor Ben Whishaw as Keats and Australian Abbie Cornish as his muse Fanny.
When I think of Keats, I always remember his words about this time of year from his poem Ode to Autumn :( 'Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness! Close bosom friend of the maturing sun') Keats wrote about autumn in 1819 "How beautiful the season is now. How fine the air. A temperate sharpness about it. Aye better than the chilly green of spring. Somehow a stubble-field looks warm ,in the same way some pictures look warm'.
Keats was finely gifted in raising the mind to the pitch of expectation
I like this stanza from Ode to a Nightingale
'I cannot see what flowers are at my feet
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs
But in embalmed darkness,guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket,and the fruit-tree wild'