Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pereskia aculeata 'Godseffiana', a leaf cactus

Pereskia aculeata 'Godseffiana' Lemon-Vine, Ramo de Novia
One thing you don't expect from a member of the Cactus family is a climber with colourful leaves.The leaves at this time of year turn a coppery rose colour and develop purple undersides and just to remind you that this plant is a cactus, thorns lurk under the lush foliage. The plain green form of this plant is found naturally in the Florida Keys, most of the West Indies, through Brazil, Venezuela and into Paraguay but is not recommended for Australian gardens in the sub-tropics because of its weed potential. I grow mine in a large pot and take cuttings at this time of the year which strike readily though growth can be slow to start off with. During winter I give it a rest like other cactus and lay off the water and fertilizer. It is good against a hot western facing wall or can be trained to grow up a tree.
2017 update: I occasionally have plants available for sale.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

an espalier green wall

This 'green wall' has been created in a narrow planter box less than 30cm wide around the perimeter of a pool and includes a mixture of climbers such as Bougainvillea and Dipladenia; shrubs such as Alternanthera, Clerodendrum and Hibiscus; and a foreground planting of Cordyline, Daylilies and giant Bromeliads. On the top of the wall there is a wire trellis to provide extra height and to block out the view of neighbouring houses while retaining the outline of the distant green hills of the Wollongong escarpment.
Red flowers of Dipladenia 'Crimson Fantasy'

Vase shaped giant Bromeliad, Alcantarea imperialis 'Rubra'
This Bromeliad can withstand relatively cool nights as it is native to mountains near Rio de Janeiro at an elevation of about 1500m.

A fan shaped Hibiscus schizopetalis with variegated Bougainvillea 'Raspberry Ice' soon to cover the remaining wall on the opposite side garden.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Rosa 'Mudgee Red'

Rosa Hybrid Tea, 'Mudgee Red'

James May is the 'man of the moment' on our TV so far this year. He is a British bloke who, when not behind the wheel of a fantastic car, is on our screens touring the Californian Wine growing regions with his mate Oz Clarke. The Californian wine growing landscapes are certainly inspiring.

Now this rose is named for our wine growing town of Mudgee in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales. And always if you say you want a glass of Mudgee Red everyone will know what you mean. This rose does not have a special perfume but it is hardy and disease resistant and bred for local conditions.

The Big Wine Bottle
Pokolbin, Hunter Valley, New South Wales

photo by Charlotte Nash Mudgee, New South Wales
Arrive by train at Mudgee Railway Station

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tracelospermum 'Tricolor', Confederate Jasmine

Tracelospermum jasminoides 'Tricolor'

My photo does not do this plant justice. At the moment this hardy ground cover is sending up all its new growth which is a bright Flamingo pink. It is one of those plants which takes its time to get growing. One small plant seemingly puts on no growth in the first year and then suddenly takes off. It is excellent for covering embankments, spilling over rocks or filling in gaps between shrubs or under trees, and will grow without any special attention once established, though the best leaf colour will be developed in full sun. It is also cold hardy down to about minus 12C (10F). Flowers are rarely produced but it is one of the best foliage plants for any style of garden.
2017 update: I currently don't have any stock available.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Acalypha reptans 'Summer Love'

Acalypha reptans var. pygmaea 'Summer Love'

Someone phoned me recently and asked if I grew a plant called 'Summer Love' and as usual when I hear a common name, I have to pull some image from the back of my brain and try and fit it to a botanical name. 'Summer Love' is also the name for a fairly inane pop song which I started humming as soon as I put the phone down. In other parts of the world this plant goes by the name of Trailing Chenille plant, or Strawberry Fire-Tails and in Latin America as Cola de Gatito  or Kitten Tail.  Mainly it is grown as a dense weed smothering ground cover or hanging basket specimen. If kept in a basket in a cold climate it could be brought indoors over winter. It really is at home in a warm humid climate so does best in late summer especially after rain. During dry spells it becomes semi dormant but is difficult to kill through neglect. A friend found me some in his garden to use for propagation material. He had tipped it out of hanging basket and it was surviving smothered by weeds but none the worse for wear.
2017 update: I currently don't have any stock available.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Red Rose Blue Juniper

Sometimes you come across a combination of plants which have grown together by pure accident and the colour combination stops you in your tracks.This bright red rose which I think is a Polyantha variety was poking out from the middle of an ice blue Juniper and the two looked like a perfect match.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Spilanthes oleracea, Szechuan Buttons

Acmella oleracea syn Spilanthes oleracea syn Spilanthes acmella
This edible perennial plant from the Brazilian State of Para (agriao do Para) is given lots of common names including Toothache plant, Alphabet plant, Hide-n-seek, or just Spilanthes, while the flowers are referred to as Szechuan buttons, electric buttons, or buzz buttons. In France it is known as Cresson du Bresil and in Japan as Hoko So where it is used to put the 'electric' back into eel sushi.
I grew it from seed this summer after reading about it in The Washington Post in an article headed 'Taste Test: Buttons Up' 'Like a taste that tingles, then this buds for you'. The Washington Post has a funny video related to this on their website in which staff writers are given the flower buds to try and have their reactions recorded. So what does it taste like? I'll use the description from the Post: "It feels like licking a nine-volt battery" The tingling and slightly anesthetic effect on eating the leaves or flowers is due to the presence of a compound known as spinanthol. According to one of my food plant books, experiments are underway to include extracts of this in soft drinks to create a tingling effect similar to sorbet. In Brazilian cooking it has a particular affinity in cooked meals in association with garlic and chilli. It stimulates the flow of saliva and perhaps allays some of the heat from the chilli by numbing the throat. I will have to experiment further. Up until now, I have tried the leaves in salads to give a bit of extra zing. It is well known as a salad plant in the Mascarene Islands (Mauritius, Reunion etc).
As for cultivation, it needs lots of water and wilts quickly when dry. It is frost tender.There is also a purple leafed form and a variety with a maroon tipped flower.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dyckia fosteriana 'Bronze'

Dyckia fosteriana 'Bronze'

I have grown this decorative spiky Bromeliad for a number of years but really don't enjoy getting to close to it. All the leaves are barbed with lethal spines, so to divide it or weed around it is no fun. This species originates from the State of Parana in South Brazil and is quite tolerant of both dry conditions; it is often included in cactus and succulent gardens, or highland gardens, as it will tolerate cold down to minus 8C. In full sun the rosette of leaves (15-25cm) take on a rich burgundy colour and this contrasts well with the silvery glow the leaves have on their undersides. A tall spike of orange flowers which appears in Summer is an added bonus and is very decorative.Hardy and easy to grow it makes a great container plant as long as you are protected with a suit of armor when you go near it.
2017 update: I have plants available.

Dyckia fosteriana 'Bronze' with silver Puyas and perennials

Saturday, February 20, 2010

As Hydrangeas a Constance Spry

As Hydrangea flowers come to the end of their season, they take on a wonderful mix of colours, from apple green to murky purple and everything in between. I believe these colours can be preserved by using glycerin in the vase water and then drying the flower after a time but I would need an expert to tell me the exact method to do this.
The great British florist Constance Spry who died in 1960 aged 73 was probably the first to discover the beauty of faded Hydrangea blooms. The phrase 'to do a Constance Spry' which still gets used today, was coined by Beverley Nichols in the foreword to Spry's book How to do the Flowers from 1953. Spry was a woman who did everything with great panache and style and bought much colour and glamour to post-war Britain. Nichols goes on to say ...'Of all her innovations I think the use of the withered Hydrangea is perhaps the most significant; today it is almost a decorative commonplace; in the days of our grandparents it would not have been tolerated for a moment. Bells would have peeled, housemaids would have scurried and the lovely, fragile, crinkly blossoms would have been pushed into the dustbin.'
'To do a Constance Spry means standing before a bed of Hydrangeas, when summer has fled and seeing beauty in their pallid, parchment blooms'

Friday, February 19, 2010

Angelonia angustifolia, Angel Face

Angelonia angustifolia, Angel Face
Driving to Sydney this morning I saw pots of these late summer flowers lined up outside a Nursery. This perennial is sometimes given the common name of Angel Face or even Summer Snapdragon. I have grown it in the past but because of its tropical origin it can be difficult to keep going over winter in the cold and damp. It is native to Mexico, South America and the West Indies and has been much hybridized by plant breeders to produce a range of colour forms in blue, pink, purple and white as well as bi-colours. Because it has a long flowering season it is a good container plant on a sunny balcony or in a decorative pot in a courtyard. Growing to about 35cm, it can be used as a centre-piece to lower growing Petunias or Phlox. I file it under instant colour makeover plant as it will provide instant cheer if you want to do the garden for a party. It is hardy with low water requirements as well.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bromeliad flowers with woven cloth

Bromeliads are great to bring indoors when they are in flower and their texture and form works well with heavy woven fabrics in rustic colours.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Artemisia ludoviciana 'Valerie Finnis'

Silver foliage from Artemisia ludoviciana 'Valerie Finnis', growing with a raspberry coloured black Dahlia, Salvia 'Indigo Spires', cerise pink Salvia chiapensis, Helioptrope and pale yellow Cape Fuchsia.

Artemisia ludoviciana 'Silver King' with double Sunflowers

Artemisia 'Silver King' and bronze Fennel

Golden Pineapple Sage with Amaranthus 'Velvet Curtains', In the background ,gauzy Artemisia 'Silver King' seen through Bronze Fennel.
I have written about Artemisias before in a post called "Some perennial Artemisias" but here are some recent photos of the perennial A ludoviiciana.
2017 update: I am currently out of stock.

Bamboo in the garden.

Bambusa vulgaris 'Vitatta'
 Giant Golden Bamboo
Gardeners in the wet tropics and sub tropics of this country who have have been growing the huge clump forming Bamboos in their gardens for years are often the envy of city folk who may like to experience the joy of having that giant grass bamboo in their backyard. Many people shudder at the thought of using bamboo however especially if they have had to deal with that noxious weed of 'running' bamboo and have seen how destructive it can be. 'Clumping' bamboos are helping restore the image problem bamboos were having and there are now lots of specialist growers where you can get great advice on the types suitable for smaller gardens. Many species survive sub zero temperatures, make great hedges and are adaptable to most situations . They are prone to salt burn in sea wind particularly during late Winter. Their main growing time is from mid December when the main flush of new canes appear. These take several months to open out from a pole appearance to a stem of new leaves.The one pictured above grows to 25metres and is not suitable for a small garden. The giant stems arch over and move with the wind so cannot be recommended where power lines occur. It has beautiful green striped gold canes and a feathery appearance at the top when mature. It is useful for erosion control and embankment stabilization. It is a sustainable plant and harvested poles have many uses . As a child, the best fun a boy could have was to make a raft out of bamboo poles and ride it down a flooded creek.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

more chilli peppers

Some Chilli Peppers I picked today

This Friday the place to be is Laredo, Texas for the 2 day (19th-20th February) Jalapeno Festival which is regarded as one of the top ten United States Food Festivals. It is an event which is part of the month long Washington's Birthday Celebrations. Having just this evening roasted the first of my Jalapeno crop, I think I would like to participate in the La Costina Jalapeno Eating Contest, one of the special events at the Festival. The current champion is Patrick 'Deep Dish' Bertoletti from Chicago who last year consumed 266 jalapenos in 15 minutes. Phew !...
Jalapeno peppers are named after the Mexican city of Jalapa de Enriquez the capital of the State of Veracruz.

Jalapeno Chilli illustration from Medizinal Pflanzen by Franz Kohler ,1887.

Zingiber spectabile, Bee Hive Ginger

Flowers of Zingiber spectabile, Bee Hive Ginger

This ginger is from the so called 'cool tropics', the hill country of Thailand and thus it will grow as far south as Sydney but getting it to flower is another story. It flowers well in Brisbane and down as far as Coff's Harbour but I have not seen it do so locally. It likes a spot in semi shade with rich soil containing plenty of organic matter. Planting it close to a path means you can admire the unusual flowers up close. Cut flowers have a long vase life and look very exotic in a modern arrangement.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hedychium hybrid, Yellow Butterfly Ginger

Hedychium hybrid 
Yellow Butterfly Ginger
Hedychium (pronounced he-DIK-ee-um) gingers can be a bit difficult to identify as there is some confusion about the species flavum and flavescens , both of which get called yellow ginger but neither of which look like this one. The big selling point of these plants is that they have a strong perfume which is like a cross between honeysuckle and gardenia . They also have a reasonable tolerance of cold as they can act like a perennial and go dormant over winter. (US zones 7-11). I like to admire them in other peoples gardens but no longer grow them because of the stem borer which seems to affect all but our native species. The plant above shows signs of stem borer by the distorted and weak top leaves. The borer will often work its way from the centre of the plant causing the tips to be starved of moisture . Badly affected plants may flower poorly or not at all. Providing gingers with a good rich soil and plenty of soil moisture over summer is a way of ensuring that damage caused by this pest is kept to a minimum for those who wish to have a go at growing them.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Aechmea fasciata

Aechmea fasciata

The Bromeliads are loving this weather. Days on end of rain where it goes from torrential downpour one moment to drizzle and fine mist the next is not great for other plants which like a hot dry summer such as Western Australian natives , Mediterranean plants and succulents. These can succumb to root rot diseases during this weather. The misty rain swirls around the hills then become low cloud and fog.
Aechmea fasciata needs no special introduction as it has been grown by the millions for use as a long blooming house plant since the early part of the 19th century. It was brought to Europe from its homeland Rio de Janeiro in 1826. It has the classic vase shape of the Bromeliad family with attractive silver banding and a striking shocking pink flower head made up of bracts containing iridescent blue flowers.This flower head is often held on a stem of about 15cm which makes it ideal for picking as shown in the top photo.In the garden it prefers a spot in dappled shade under trees. It is a good container plant in a cool climate and can be taken inside before the first frost. I use a bark based orchid mix for potting Bromeliads and slow release fertilizer.

Derwentia perfoliata, Digger's Speedwell

Derwentia perfoliata syn Parahebe perfoliata
  Digger's Speedwell
This small native shrub from the inland and highland regions of New South Wales and Victoria has pretty mauve flowers even though they are a little on the small side for my liking. It usually gets tagged with names such as lax and floppy to describe the way the stems sprawl about. At first I thought it was an exotic plant as the leaves looked very lush and bright green, atypical of most of our flora. It is a good shrub for front of border planting in a casual native or cottage garden especially in cool temperate regions. It is available from the Growing Friends' Nursery at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney but is not common in the commercial Nursery scene, probably because it doesn't look perky enough in a pot.
2017 update: I no longer grow this plant.

Happy Valentine's Day

Australian Flowers

Hope everyone has a happy Valentine's Day.......