Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Stipa tenuissima, Mexican Feather Grass

Nassella tenuissima syn Stipa tenuissima

Mexican Feather grass made a brief appearance in gardens and nurseries here over ten years ago, until it was discovered that it had enormous weed potential. It was withdrawn from sale never to be seen again. I took this photo in Wisley Gardens in the UK where it remains a popular garden plant given its tolerance of cold conditions (minus 15C). It has incredibly soft flowing seed heads in summer and these move in the slightest breeze.
It is native to Mexico, New Mexico and Texas.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Postcards from Madras

The Conch Flower Creeper
 Clitoria ternatea

Madras is now known as Chennai and is the capital of the south Indian State of Tamil Nadu. A must see place to visit in the region is the Vedanthangal Water Bird Sanctuary about 75km to the south of Chennai. It comes alive with migratory birds from November to February.
These brightly coloured postcards are from the Madras Government Museum and feature common flowers of the city.

The Indian Laburnum
Cassia fistula

The Indian Madar
 Calotropis gigantea

 Artobotrys odoratissimus

Coral Jasmine
 Nyctanthes arbortristis

Monday, March 29, 2010

Anemone japonica, Japanese Windflower

Anemone japonica 'Alba' syn A.hupehensis 'Honorine Jobert'
I am growing a batch of the white 'Windflowers' as it is one of those classic garden plants which is fool-proof to grow; reliable and hardy, tolerating cold or dry soils and always putting on a great display of flowers every autumn. I prefer the white form because of its simplicity and it makes such an impact when grown in the shade of trees or in a dull garden corner. This Anemone gets ready to flower in late summer by firstly sending out a batch of new leaves which even have a slight gloss to them, then follows the flower stems which can eventually reach 1.5 metres in height. In the slightest breeze, the flowers wave and bend adding to their impact in the garden.
They can be propagated by division or by root cuttings taken at this time of year.

Anemone japonica, Pink form

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I collect Floras

Grevillea floribunda, photo by Peter Althofer

Halgania preissiana photo by Beth Williams

The Lifeline Big Book Fair, on in town this weekend always turns up long out of print books.I am always on the lookout for Floras about particular regions I may visit someday. Floras always contain interesting information on history, geology and land formation, ecology as well as descriptive 'keys' to the plant life. The one pictured above is from the town of Wellington in New South Wales.
The other interesting one I found was from the Northern Territory Conservation Commission about Plants of the Tropical Woodland and in the introduction you are invited to 'feel, rub, squeeze, bend, smell and even taste certain plants so that you may get to know them better'.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Agave americana medio-picta alba

Agave americana medio-picta alba

The plain green form of Agave americana grows into a bit of a monster and needs lots of space to show it off to its best advantage. This variety which has a white stripe down the centre of the leaf is a much more well behaved and is slower growing eventually forming a small rosette to about 1 metre across. 'Pups' appear around the base of the plant and it also sends off runners to establish new plants about a metre or so from the parent.This is one of the choice Agaves to grow and it is both cold and drought hardy.
2017 update: I always have plenty of stock in 140mm, less in larger sizes.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Scabiosa atropurpurea

Scabiosa atropurpurea
 Pincushion Flower or 'Mournful Widow'
There are about 16 species of Scabious native to France, Spain and Portugal and this is one species which always gets attention because of the almost black flowers. In gardens it likes well drained, gritty or sandy soil and is best treated as a short lived perennial or summer annual. I have grown it in years gone by, and recently its name came up in a book I am reading where it was used to decorate the table for a 'mock funeral feast to mark the most ludicrous of personal misfortunes' by the decadent main character. The book is A Rebours by J.K. Huysmans and it was published in Paris in 1884: 'The dining room, draped in black, opened out on to a garden metamorphosed for the occasion, the paths being strewn with charcoal, the ornamental pond edged with black basalt and filled with ink, and the shrubberies replanted with cypresses and pines.The dinner itself was served on a black cloth adorned with baskets of violets and scabious'

Aechmea 'Foster's Favorite'

   Bromeliad Aechmea 'Foster's Favorite' 
 This is is certainly one of the very hardy varieties and is most suitable for wall planting or training up tree trunks as in this photo. These are growing in the Roma Street Parklands in Brisbane.
2017 update: I have stock available.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Copper laundry tub recycled

Ever used a washing machine like this one? When I was a student, I lived in a flat which had a pre-war laundry in the basement with a washing machine very much like this one.To use it, you would have had to light a wood stove to boil the water in the copper and then use a large stick to swirl the clothes around before sending them through a wringer to rinse. Nothing quite like the smell of boiling sheets, Lux flakes and the old 'blue bag' bleach. An olfactory memory from my childhood.
This summer I planted out one of these old laundry tubs with some annuals. Here are some photos.

Red Orach or Mountain spinach

Red Amaranth and Phlox 'Vegas Lights'

Grassy Lomandra 'Seascape'

Close-up of Phlox 'Vegas Lights' and Red Orach

Completed planting

Background garden planting of Gaura 'Whirling Butterflies'

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Succulents in autumn

Echeveria agavoides 'Frank Reinelt'

I think March should be included as a summer month as the days are still fairly hot. At night the temperature drops so some of the succulents are starting to get a rich colour to their leaves Here are a few.

Kalanchoe 'Flapjacks'
Flowers of Echeveria 'Topsy Turvy' with a purple Aeonium

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Cuban Variety'

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Cuban Variety'

This is one of the more compact varieties of Hibiscus with a smaller than average flower but it makes up for it by flowering prolifically. The leaves are also deeply lobed and almost jagged looking in appearance. As with most hibiscus flowers, the colour changes slightly with the seasons, so this one can vary from a biscuit shade to soft apricot but always with a bright orange red centre.
2017 update: I am currently out of stock of  'Cuban Variety'

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Amaranthus caudatus

Amaranthus caudatus
This has been in flower now for about 5 months. I have cut off old flowers and it just keeps coming back.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Chillies for drying

Chillies for drying

On my way to Badajoz, which is on the Portuguese border, I came across local farmers turning the red peppers spread out to dry on huge canvas sheets in the warm late autumn sun. The colours were magnificent.
Tortilla Estilo Badajoz is a hot chilli omelette and is from Parador Nacional 'Via de la Prata', Merida, Extremadura.
First off you fry a spicy chorizo sausage in olive oil with a teaspoon of paprika and some chillies to taste
Stir in beaten eggs and fry to set (quantity up to 8)
Fold it over and divide when done.
It is a great meal to have with a green salad.
For those who like it hot!

Scadoxus multiflorus ssp. katherinae

Scadoxus multiflorus ssp. katherinae
 Catherine's Wheel
One of the bulbs flowering at the moment which always gets lots of attention is the Catherine Wheel named for its resemblance to the fireworks which have that name. an explosion of salmon orange stars. This bulb hails from South Africa and Zimbabwe and though tropical in origin, it is hardy in any warm garden as long as it has well drained soil particularly over winter when it goes into a period of dormancy. Given a semi shaded spot in the garden it thrives without much attention forming a clump to about 45cm high. New strap like leaves appear in late winter and flower stems follow at any time from mid-summer onwards. It is a great cut flower.
2017 update: I no longer grow this.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'El Capitolo Sport'

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'El Capitolo Sport'

When a hibiscus is given the name 'Sport' it usually means it has appeared as a spontaneous variant colour on the original bush. The original El Capitolo is bright red with a white petal edge whereas this one is soft apricot with a scarlet centre. I like to call it a poodle type Hibiscus because of the long pendulous style with massed ruffled petals at the end. However it usually is referred to as a windmill variety.  I have just planted this one in the garden and already it has had many flowers on a what is a fairly small plant.
2017 update: I currently don't have any stock available.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A couple of Hippeastrum hybrids

Hippeastrum x hybrida 'Olympia'

Hippeastrum x hybrida 'Apple Blossom'

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Aster lateriflorus 'Prince' syn Symphyotrichum lateriflorum

Aster lateriflorus 'Prince'
syn Symphotrichum lateriflorum
Black Leaved Calico Aster

This is an Easter Daisy or Michaelmas Daisy which has black foliage and bears masses of tiny plum centred starry white flowers at this time of year. It is a plant I used to grow in the nursery but it is one of those perennials which can look a bit uninteresting in a pot without a flashy pictorial label. The remaining stock plant I stuck in an odd corner and though it is being a bit swamped by a chrysanthemum, it is holding its own and using the sturdy stems of the 'mum' as a support. So many plants "disappear" during summer as they get out competed or over taken by something fast growing. I find some plants looking pale and shrivelled after having spent a couple of months with not enough sun. When I do a big cutback, they usually come back to life with a bit of TLC.
There are some wonderful Easter daisies and they are amongst the most reliable and hardy group of perennials . An elderly friend grows a nice pink one in her seaside garden amongst succulents and a tough old Cordyline
australis. It flowers several times a year and copes with strong salt wind and baking heat from a gravel mulch.
2017 update: I no longer grow it.

Saint Patrick's Day

Turning everything green for a day

Rose Hybrid Tea, St Patrick

A glass of Guinness for breakfast or a spot of Irish Dancing on the pavement outside a pub in the heart of Sydney.........St Patrick's Day celebrations seem to be on hold somewhat while the spotlight turns to one Lady Gaga who has arrived in the country. I have yet to see her video of Telephone with Beyonce but it looks like it packs a punch.
In the garden, St Patrick's Day is the traditional time to be planting Sweet Peas. The new variety for this year is one called 'Bubbles' which was bred in California. It grows to about 80cm and can be grown in a large pot on a balcony. I have not had time to prepare a spot in the garden for Sweet Peas but have saved seed from previous years so will be putting them in soon.
St Patrick's Day souvenir postcard from 1912
Rose, St Patrick

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bright foliage combo

Hot pink Alternanthera 'Firebug' with orange Bougainvillea ' Pedro'
When you grow lots of plants in pots as I do, it is possible to experiment with various combinations in different colours and textures to see what might work in a garden or landscaping setting. Then you dream about having a client who is willing to go with your ideas no matter how wild. Hot pink and orange together is not subtle enough for most people.
The Bambino series of Bougainvillea such as this one called 'Pedro' only grow to a metre or so and make a good low hedge or clipped specimen. The foliage is variegated cream and grey green and the flowers are a marmalade orange. Alternanthera 'Firebug' grows to about the same height as the Bougainvillea and also takes to being trimmed or clipped into a low hedge.

Fig Variety 'Blue Province'

The Blue Province fig is a late season variety with excellent flavour. The skin has a steely blue bloom to it hence the name. Autumn ripening figs are incredibly sweet and this year as we had good summer at just the right time to ensure a great crop. I took this photo after I had a bite of one straight from the tree.
2017 update: I do not have any plants for sale.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Kylie Kwong's Sweetcorn Soup

This recipe was featured in Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Companion book and is a great way of using up lots of sweetcorn. The last stage of cooking involves incorporating a couple of lightly beaten eggs which subtly thickens the soup and adds a great flavour. If you are freezing any of the soup for later use ,this stage can be left out and the eggs added when reheating.
After removing the corn husks and silk from the cob, it is recommended that you rake the corn kernels with a fork to split the skins before cutting the kernels from the cob. Best to wear eye protection while doing this if you don't want a face-full of corn juice as happened to me.
Recipe Ingredients:
3 cups corn kernels, half cup dry sherry or Chinese shao hsing wine
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1.75 litres chicken stock
1 small onion finely diced, 1& half teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons ginger julienne, 2 eggs lightly beaten
1 clove garlic,diced, 1 teaspoon sea salt.
Heat oil in a saucepan and saute onion, garlic,ginger, and salt for one minute.
Add sherry or wine and simmer for another minute
Stir in corn and chicken stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes
Skim the surface occasionally during cooking.
Stir in soy sauce and slowly pour in beaten eggs in a thin stream while stirring with a fork.
Remove from heat as the eggs form fine white "ribbons", usually within a few minutes of adding them.
I like to garnish with chopped spring onions including lots of the green part and some chopped coriander.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Maiz Espanol Spanish Corn

I am having a corny weekend using up the corn crop by trying some new recipes and freezing the surplus.
Here is a recipe for Spanish Corn
What you need:
Corn from 4 cobs about 2 cups
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons of flourpinch sea salt
cayenne pepper
half teaspoon chilli powder

clove of garlic, crushed

4-6 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 Spanish onion finely sliced

12 Olives roughly chopped
Cup grated Parmesan

1 Pre heat oven to 180C (350F)

2 In a saucepan, combine oil, corn, flour, salt, cayenne and chilli powder and cook over low heat for ten minutes, stirring constantly.
3 Add the cheese, onion, olives, garlic, and tomatoes.

4 Pour into a small casserole ,and bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes.

Waterlily Dahlias

A final bit of Dahlia mania.... This is the waterlily type so called for its resemblance to waterlilies or Lotus. The flowerheads are double with relatively few broad ray florets, which are flat, or slightly incurved or recurved along their margins, giving the bloom a flattened or shallow appearance. Blooms are classified according to their size, and include miniature, small and medium-flowered ones.