Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bonsai: Acacia howitti

Beautiful pendulous foliage of Acacia howitti, the 'Sticky Wattle', a native of Victoria.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mansfield Park revisited

Business card of Humphry Repton (1752-1818)
'The Father of Landscape Design'

I like to read works of fiction in which gardens play a role. One such book I am enjoying reading at the moment is 'Murder at Mansfield Park' by British author Lynn Shepherd. It is a clever and funny re-imagining of the Jane Austen classic Mansfield Park. In this version, the character of Henry Crawford is a landscape gardener who is employed to make improvements to Mansfield Park. Soon after his arrival, his knowledge and abilities on the subject are challenged by the pompous James Rushworth from nearby Southerton, who sees himself as a genius and much better even than the great Humphry Repton.
The profession of landscape gardening had been 'codified' by Repton in the late 18th century with his book Sketches and Hints on Landscape Gardening which was published in 1795.
........What to wear in 1810 while inspecting the grounds for Views,Vistas and the Picturesque?
I like the idea of having a dress sword at the ready for dead-heading roses and perennials!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Our new P.M.

Rosa 'Red Star'

Congratulations to Julia Gillard, Australia's first female Prime Minister.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Agave sisalana, Sisal

Sisal Agave, Athi Plains, Nairobi, Kenya.

South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya all grow Agave sisalana for the production of the natural fibre sisal, though the main world producer is Brazil. Sisal has a high breaking strain and low extensibility and is used to make heavy twines, ropes and marine cordage, mats ,sacks, tarpaulins mops, brushes ,craft paper and cardboard. The first leaf cut is when the plant is about 3 years old or about 1.5m tall and bearing about 100 leaves.
2017 update: I do not have plants of this Agave for sale.

Agave sisalana

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Gazania,Treasure Flower

A South African plant which has found a home in many parts of the world is the Gazania. In Australia it has naturalised in sandy coastal places and is much used in public space landscaping because of its ability withstand harsh conditions and its attractive display of bright flowers which appear for up to eight months of the year.There are two main types available: The clump forming larger flowered varieties ,such as the one pictured above, and the spreading silver leafed ground cover types which have bright yellow flowers in single or double. 
2017 update: i normally have plants ready in late winter or early spring.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Zantedeschia aethiopica, Arum Lily

Zantedeschia aethiopica
  Arum Lily
One of the garden escapes in my district is the South African Arum Lily. It grows beside streams which meander through lush pasture grazed by herds of Friesian dairy cattle. At the moment it is is full flower and will continue to be in bloom for most of Winter.
2017 update: I have limited stock available of the dwarf form.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Aloes of South Africa

Published by Briza Publications
PO Box 56569
Arcadia 0007, Pretoria, South Africa

The best guide available for the gardener or traveller to South Africa
Local Aloe beauties with attendant Rainbow Lorikeet

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Eucomis , Pineapple Lily

Eucomis hybrid, Pineapple Lily

 There are about ten species of Pineapple Lily native to South Africa. and the most popular in recent years have been the hybrids with the dark coloured leaves and mauve flowers. I have the one pictured above in a pot and at the moment it is sending up a rosette of new leaves which have that wonderful dark chocolate colour. This week I received a bulb catalogue from Bryan H Tonkin in Victoria which featured the punctata species hybrids which have been developed in New Zealand .They have exceptionally large flowers which are sweetly scented.
The down side of growing them is that the flowers may flop as they are top heavy and towards the end of their summer flowering period, a clump of this bulb can look fairly bedraggled with a mass of limp leaves and fallen flowers. Overall however, they are very hardy and require minimal watering and are happy in a tough spot with a bit of shade.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cheilocostus speciosus 'Variegatus', Spiral Ginger

Cheilocostus speciosus 'Variegatus'

New to me....It grows to about 1.5 metres and like other "Gingers" it likes rich moist soil in a sunny or partly shaded position that is sheltered from cold wind during winter if growing in a temperate climate.
2017 update: I no longer grow this.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Gardening Philosophy

'A person who undertakes to grow a garden at home, by practices that will preserve rather than exploit the soil, has set his mind decisively against what is wrong with us. He is helping himself in a way that dignifies him and that is rich in meaning and pleasure. But he is doing something else that is more important: He is making vital contact with the soil and the weather on which life depends. He will no longer look upon rain as a traffic impediment, or upon the sun as a holiday decoration. And his sense of humanity's dependence on the world will have grown precise enough, one would hope, to be politically clarifying and useful.'

A Continuous Harmony is published by Shoemaker & Hoard (Avalon Publishing Group Inc)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Guinea Hen Flower, Checkered Lily Fritillaria

Fritillaria meleagris 1915
Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928)
Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow

Photo by Luc Regniers
'And its development from the bud stage is interesting to watch. Usually there are two flowers to a stem, but at first the two buds appear to be united. Presently they separate, and the large bud develops a faint checkering, garnet upon a pale ground, and this checkering becomes more distinct until, in the fully expanded square shouldered flower, it is very marked'. Louise Beebe Wilder, 1936, 'Adventures with Hardy Bulbs'
'This species is found from Norway throughout the whole of central Europe to the Caucasus. It is said to grow thickly in the smiling meadows about lovely Azay-le-Rideau in Touraine France; and in parts of England it is so abundant as in the valley of the Thames and its tributaries.'

Illustration in the 1554 Flemish Herbal Cruydeboech by Rembertus Dodonaeus
Dodonaeus calls it Flos Meleagris,....... meleagris then being the name of the guinea hen, for the reason that the whole flower is checkered over like the wings and breast of that curious fowl."Nature hath kept a very wonderful order, surpassing the curiousest painting that art can set downe."

Rembertus Dodonaeus (1517-1585)

Guinea Fowl, Numida meleagris