Friday, December 30, 2011

Anthricus sylvestris 'Ravenswing'

Feathery black foliage of Anthricus sylvestris 'Ravenswing'with white striped Iris japonica 'Variegata'
and with Carex elata, Bowles' Golden grass
The common name for this plant is black cow parsley and it is really more suited to a shady cool English woodland garden but I am giving it a go in full shade and keeping it well watered. It remains to be seen whether I can get it to flower so I can collect some seed so as to grow more of it. It would look terrific if mass planted beside some pale foliaged plants like the ones above for it could easily disappear in the landscape without something to highlight its seductive dark leaves.
2017 update: I no longer have this plant.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Platycerium superbum, Staghorn fern

Staghorn fern
 Platycerium superbum
Looking like a giant moth, the newly emerging fronds of this fern will eventually divide and turn into streamer like lobes as it matures . I will have to take more photos of it over the coming months. It is found naturally on trees in the rainforests of northern New South Wales and tropical Queensland but makes a spectacular garden specimen when given lots of room. It can be grown on a wooden garden fence or retaining wall as is this one.
2017 update: I do not have any plants available.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Impatiens 'Congo Cockatoo'

Impatiens niamniamensis 'Congo Cockatoo'
This is one of the perennial small shrub Impatiens from central Africa which grows very well in full shade as long as the soil is moist. It lets you know very quickly when lacking water by drooping rapidly. Though the flowers are vibrant and resemble a parrot's beak they remain fairly hidden amongst the foliage. To take the photo I had to cut a couple of leaves off to reveal them.
Solution would be to grow it on an embankment or in a container above eye level so you can admire the flowers. Apart from the watering requirements, it is fairly hardy and goes through a cold winter tolerating a light frost.
2017 update: I no longer have this plant.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Red flowered Nerium oleander

Nerium oleander 'Cherry Surprise'
I grow two types of red flowering Oleander. This dwarf growing one 'Cherry Surprise' and a taller one called 'Delphi'.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Crassula ovata Tolkein cultivars

Ballantine Books NY
Cover painting: Bilbo comes to the Huts of the Raftelvesby J.R.R. Tolkien

It is not often that you get a book/movie/plant tie-in but such is the case with The Hobbit. Some very fine succulent plant cultivars of Crassula ovata, which have been in the Nursery trade for years were named after it. I have to confess to never having read Tolkien and even worse to have not seen The Lord of Rings movies, but now, one hundred pages in, I am hooked ,even if it is the kind of book which you need to read on a dark stormy night and not on a sunny day at the beach.

The Crassula plant cultivars 'Gollum', 'Hobbit' and 'Fingers' are mainly distinguished by their leaf shapes. 'Gollum' has tubular trumpet shaped leaves with suction cup tips. 'Fingers' leaves come to a tapered point and 'Hobbit' leaves are more open and spathulate. Variation in leaf shape can occur from plant to plant which can lead to some confusing naming. All form small shrubs to about 40 cm and will grow in full sun or shade. In sun and hot positions leaves will often reveal red tips or attractive yellow and gold edges. Frost will burn the leaves but plants recover well and produce new growth over summer. They make excellent container plants and are popular as hardy bonsai as they form aged "tree" trunks over time and are undemanding as to watering.

Crassula ovata 'Hobbit'
Crassula ovata 'Hobbit' in sun
what is a hobbit? They are inclined to be fat in the stomach; they dress in bright colours (chiefly green and yellow); wear no shoes, because their feet grow naturally leathery soles and thick warm brown hair like the stuff on their heads (which is curly); have long clever brown fingers, good-natured faces, and laugh deep fruit laughs........
Crassula ovata 'Gollum'
Deep down here by the dark water lived old Gollum, a small slimy creature.I don't know where he came from, nor who or what he was. He was Gollum-------as dark as darkness, except for two big round pale eyes in his thin face.

Crassula ovata 'Fingers'
Gollum was looking out of his pale lamp-like eyes for blind fish, which he grabbed with his long fingers as quick as thinking.....

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Barleria obtusa 'Purple Gem'

Barleria obtusa 'Purple Gem'

Despite it being a cool summer so far, it is time to get some inspiration for tropical style gardening and this small shrub would make a colourful addition to a warm frost free garden. Growing to only about a metre, it is an ideal balcony container plant or if used as a garden specimen amongst Bromeliads or perennials. In cooler districts it could be grown as a pot plant and over-wintered in a dry spot or indoors. The foliage is an eye-catching combination of grey and pale green with new leaves emerging purple with hot pink flashes. The clusters of small pink flowers are striped with darker markings and are quite dazzling.
2017 update: I no longer have this available for sale.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Erigeron karvinskianus 'Los Angeles Pink'

Erigeron karvinskianus 'L A Pink' 
Seaside daisy
I have been looking for weed suppressing ground-cover plants to grow and the seaside daisy fits the bill despite its reputation of being with you for evermore once you have planted it, as It will find a way of coming up in the cracks of paving and in walls. English garden writer Anne Wareham devoted a small chapter to it in her book The Bad Tempered Gardener and called it 'one of those furnishing plants that we all should have unless you're stark modern and clean'. The Los Angeles pink form has slightly larger flowers than the type and they are more of a soft pink than white like the species.I like plants which can be cut back almost to ground level and are off and growing before you know it. This is one of them. It is hardy across a range of climates preferring semi shade in hot districts and sun in cool climates.
2017 update: I am currently out of stock

Friday, December 16, 2011

Citharexylum spinosum, Jamaican Fiddlewood tree

Fiddlewood, Citharexylum spinosum

I used to plant this quick growing tree for screening purposes and then regretted having done so as the space turned out to be too small for it...... a common problem in city gardens. It easily reaches 12 metres after a couple of years especially if it receives plenty of water and the soil is reasonably fertile. The summer born flowers are sweet though not particularly spectacular but the foliage is something worth talking about as it goes through a stage when the entire tree turns a vibrant orange, usually during November. If you want a real colour show in your garden plant one next to a Jacaranda, an Illawarra Flame tree and grow a Bougainvillea 'Magnifica Trailii' through them or close by. I have seen this orange, mauve, red and magenta combo in an old Sydney garden and it is quite a sight.
2017 update: I am currently out of stock but will have more at some stage in the future.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gardening in Sydney 1953:A chemical romance

F R Green Daily Mirror Gardening expert
Cover photo flowers by Mrs Z Tregenna
of 'Jane Ann Florists', Double Bay, Sydney

"You can play golf and have a garden too......." only a Sydneysider could use those words as the chapter heading on growing perennials. With the tone thus set of gardening as a bit of a chore which keeps you away from doing something more interesting, how best to manage your quarter acre block in the suburbs? F R Green's advice, like many other garden writers of the time, was to go and talk to someone at a "scientific technical service department" in a city garden store to have all your pest and disease problems solved and then carry the purchased "deadly weapon" home on the tram. DDT, the organochlorine insecticide was already well established as a "cure all" but 1953, when this book was published, saw the release of new products to help gardeners. One was the German manufactured insecticide E605 or Parathion (E = entwichlungsummer) which is closely related to the nerve agent Sarin. Though proving the Germans have a sense of humour it was called schwiegermuttergift or mother-in-law poison.
The soil fumigant chloropicrin was recommended to control soil nematodes or eelworms. This had become well known as a chemical warfare weapon in 1917 through its use by the Germans on the Italian front ,though it was first synthesized by Scottish chemist John Stenhouse way back in 1848.
Monsanto also released the soil conditioner Krilium as an aid to improving soil tilth and aeration and reducing compaction. The perfect product for vegetable growers when sowing seeds directly into the soil. Krilium was made from highly water absorbent non toxic polyacrylimide. However unpolymerized acrylamide is a neurotoxin and a percentage remains after synthesizing. Current data suggests that the "evidence of acrylamide posing a cancer risk has been strengthened'
1953 advertising from Monsanto Chemicals
(Australia) Limited
Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Yucca pallida

Yucca pallida

This Yucca is from the Blackland Prairies of north central Texas. I am not sure how long I have had the plant as it has not changed size for years but suddenly it has decided to flower. It is one of the stemless non spiky Yuccas with lovely pale blue leaves and delightful pendant mint green flowers with white margins. I am hoping for seed when it has finished flowering . Seeds are apparently small matt black with a rough surface and measure a mere 4-6 x 2-3 mm.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Romneya coulteri, Californian Tree Poppy

Californian tree poppy Romneya coulteri
Every nursery has a rubbish pile where plants are dumped because they have remained unsold or have outgrown their pots and can't be potted on. The more tenacious plants often gain a foothold and if weather conditions are right they will start to grow despite being tipped sideways or on their head. One such plant for me has been the Californian tree poppy which is known for its drought tolerance and suckering habit. It really prefers a drier climate and lighter soil than I can offer it and would be more a home in a garden in South Australia where summers tend to be hot and dry. When well grown, It forms a shrub to about 1.5 metres with glaucous blue leaves and a display of "poached egg" style flowers in late spring. The tissue paper quality of the flowers is delightful even though they only last a few days.
2017 update: I no longer stock this.

Friday, November 25, 2011

an Haworthia

flower detail
Haworthias are an interesting genus of small succulents from South Africa and some of the miniature species which have glassy "window" type leaves make interesting pot plants, ideally suited to growing in a bonsai type container and displayed on a table top. The window type leaves are an adaptation to their environment. If surrounded by larger plants, such as grasses which may limit their growth potential; maximum sunlight is able to penetrate into the inside layer of the plants skin and thus produce more food for the plant. Haworthias also have contractile roots which draw the plants back into the soil during extended dry spells.They are not commonly available but specialist succulent nurseries always have some of these fascinating and very collectible plants for sale.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nerium oleander 'Ruby Embers'

The Oleanders introduced to the garden world in the late 1980's and early 90's by the Monrovia Nursery Company of Azusa, California are noted for their exceptional flower production and almost neon, iridescent fluorescent flowers. They were also selected for their suitability for growing in smaller gardens and many only reach a couple of metres in height making them ideal for use as hedges or for screening, while not growing into the tree like specimens often seen in older gardens. In Australia, the label 'Monrovia Red' has been attached to plants of this type or they are sold under the trade marked name of 'Ruby Embers' which has the namesake 'Ruby Lace' in the U.S.
2017 update: I am currently out of stock of this variety.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Aechmea nudicaulis var.

Golden leafed form of Aechmea nudicaulis
Just coming into flower this Bromeliad is quite impressive.I grow it in a spot which gets sun for most of the day with other heat loving plants such as a Croton and Crassula 'Hummel's Sunset'.
2017 update: I have limited stock available.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Nicotiana sylvestris, night scented tobacco

Towering into the evening sky, the night scented tobacco is certainly a statement maker in the garden with its large lime coloured leaves and elegant drooping white flowers. I grew this from seed planted months ago . The seed incidentally is like dust so you end up with a pot of crowded tiny plants which are difficult to separate into individuals for potting on. The seedlings also sulk in a pot with leaves turning yellow and looking very unhealthy indeed. Once planted in the garden, growth is fairly rapid with the lower leaves forming a rosette over the ground while upper leaves clasp the developing flower stem. What I love about about the leaves however is their ability to trap and kill insects. The leaves are very hairy and sticky and laden with nicotine so passing bugs don't stand a chance. Is this the perfect plant to grow in a vegetable garden? I think so.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Papaver rhoeas

Papaver rhoeas
Spring flowering poppies at the community garden are a reminder that it is Remembrance Day.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Banana "Palm" as bedding plant

Here is a French style banana planting, as the centre piece to a circular bed, surrounded by Cannas and bedding Begonias and making quite an impact in this garden. I am not sure where I took this photo and I assume the whole thing is lifted at the end of the season and bought into a glasshouse while the cedar tree in the background gets dusted with snow.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Le Jardin public Fernand Chapsal

Le jardin public Fernand Chapsal est l'un des principaux espaces vert de la ville de Saintes dans le department francais de la Clarente-Maritime
This rock has a wonderful scultptural quality and evokes mountain scenery and wild untamed nature, the perfect contrast in a formal garden setting. I always think formal gardens need abstract organic shapes to make them come alive.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Deep Purple Iris x germanica

Iris x germanica Flag Iris
I have been reading a book about colour in the garden written by the late Christopher Lloyd. Some of the really intense flower colours are shown in the flag Iris which are out at the moment.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Brownea macrophylla

Brownea macrophylla in flower now
(All photos courtesy B. Maslen)

It is always amazing to see flowers which emerge from a tree trunk. It seems to be a characteristic of tropical trees, perhaps as a way of ensuring pollination from ground dwelling animals or low flying insects which are unable to navigate to the tall rainforest canopy. Brownea species are from Venezuela and Colombia and have been introduced to other wet tropical regions of the world adding exceptional ornamental value to parks and gardens.
2017 update: I do not grow this tree.

Emerging new foliage hanging like a handkerchief
Brownea macrophylla growing amongst palm trees in Far North Queensland

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bougainvillea Pergola

Quite a bit of work is involved in training a Bougainvillea to grow up and over a structure. As the plant gets older its thorns get longer and more hook shaped making it difficult to work with. New growth wants to grow skywards and these can snap off if left too long to train or tie down. Cross beams on this structure have been widely spaced so that flowering side branches can hang downwards or be seen with the sun shining through the bracts. It makes for a delightful and inviting entrance to the house.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Salvia somalensis

Cal Madow Forest, northern Somalia
Salvia somalensis is found in forest clearings in this region

Salvia somalensis

Somalia is probably the most dangerous place in the world, as kidnapping and piracy originating from there seems to be always in the news. It is also a nature conservation hot spot as little has been able be done to help conserve the 3000 plant species and new, yet to be identified, plant species likely to occur there.
Seed from this Somalian Salvia was collected by the Huntington Botanical Garden of San Marino, California in 1973 . I have had it in the garden for about a year and already it is a large robust shrub of about 1.5 metres. I find the flowers a little disappointing as they are a bit floppy and not a strong enough blue to really stand out and be seen from a distance. However the most interesting aspect of this plant is the leaves . When crushed they leave a slightly sticky residue on the hands smelly strongly of camphor and menthol. I am sure it would work wonders if the leaves were steeped in hot water and used to clear a stuffy head. It would be interesting to know whether this plant has played a role in traditional medicine of Somalia.
2017 update: I no longer grow this Salvia.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Heterocentron roseum, Pearl Flower

Heterocentron roseum, Mexican Pearl Flower

This sprawling untidy shrub could be described as old fashioned in this age where the hedge and clipped shrubs rule supreme. I picked it up at a garden show last year as I had not seen it available through the commercial nursery scene for some time. It never makes the most attractive container plant when small, as at certain times of the year, the foliage takes on a bronze or reddish tone making it look even less appealing and in need of some plant food. However the flowers which are just starting to appear now are very appealing and resemble miniature Tibouchina flowers to which this plant is related. It needs a warm garden spot but is otherwise trouble free and easy care. Pruning my help maintain its unruly habit of growth.

Vriesea phillipo-coburgii, Vagabond plant

Vriesea phillipo-coburgii

Every September I go to the local Bromeliad Society show and usually come away with a few new plants to try. Often I will buy the same one from the previous year without releasing it. Such was the case with this species. I think I was attracted to the clean lines and lovely apple green foliage. This species is actually a sun hardy variety and will turn lime green or acid yellow depending on how much sun it is given. I like the common name of "vagabond" plant because it sounds like a character from a movie starring Johnny Depp. I think the name refers to the way it behaves in its native South East Brazil where it takes advantage of host trees and hitches a ride to whatever plant comes along. I find it a bit slow to increase and though the plant I bought last year is now at least 30 cm across, it is only now sending out a few new pups which will grow to be new plants. I might just try one in the sun to watch the colour change. Sun hardy Bromeliads are best moved to higher light positions during the cooler months of spring so they can adapt to the changing sun intensity without burning the leaves when summer arrives.

Phlomis fruticosa, Jerusalem sage

Phlomis fruticosa Jerusalem sage

Here is a new word for you: verticillate. It refers to the way flowers are grouped in whorls along the stems such as how they appear in this Phlomis. This is a real seaside plant from the Mediterranean. The tough furry leaves are able to withstand salt wind and the supple stems are able to bend down in the strongest gales without breaking. This species has been a popular garden plant for a number of years particularly during the recent drought years. It grows to about a metre high and across and is best pruned after flowering to maintain a good shape. Other species of Phlomis, which are not as readily available here, have pink or white flowers and are worth seeking out if you are looking for tough reliable garden plants which are long flowering.
2017 update: I have stock available from time to time.

Salvia 'Wendy's Wish'

Salvia 'Wendy's Wish'

This is a delightful Salvia I planted in the garden last year and apart from a brief rest in mid winter it has not stopped flowering. I like the maroon fluted flowers with the attendant caramel coloured calyx. The story behind the name is that it was found in the garden of Wendy Smith of Victoria, growing near a plant of Salvia mexicana 'Lolly'. Wendy made it available to the nursery industry with a percentage of plant sales going to the charitable organisation the 'Make-a Wish Foundation' following its release in 2008. It grows to about 60 cm tall and is very hardy.
2017 update: I do not grow this as it has PBR attached to it.