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.

Asparagus densiflorus 'Myersii'

Asparagus densiflorus 'Myersii' 
 Foxtail fern

The ornamental Asparagus plants are amongst our worst weeds and areas of coastal bushland have these plants forming dense stands of prickly stems and tenacious roots. Birds are attracted to the red fruits which spreads them further.
Fortunately this variety is an almost a sterile hybrid as it rarely seed and is fairly slow to increase.The arching leaves are very decorative and can form a cylinder or brush up to a metre long. It is a decorative plant to grow in shade under trees, though it requires some fertilizer to maintain good leaf colour. As a container plant it quickly exhausts the soil and stops growing or, like its cousins, tries to break out of the pot with its tough root system.
2017 update: I have sold all my stock but will have more plants available at some time in the future.

Cerastium tomentosum, 'Snow in Summer'

Cerastium tomentosum

In the garden world it is often easy to overlook a plant which has been around for years while concentrating on the search for the latest and greatest. A friend pointed out this plant to me recently as being really useful ground cover as no weeds are able to penetrate the thick carpet it forms . I have always though it browns off a bit in mid summer making it look unappealing and then realized its native habitat is in alpine areas of Italy so it actually does a pretty good job at adapting to a range of climates and growing conditions. The tiny white flowers are just starting to appear and are delicate and very similar to Gypsophila. Definitely worth a second fade to grey this summer.

Artemisia x 'Powis Castle'

Silver Artemisia 'Powis Castle' with purple Rhoeo "Moses-in-the-Cradle"

Artemisia 'Powis Castle' has been around for quite a few years and I find it an indispensable low mounding easy care shrub for a sunny position in average soil. In late August I cut it back hard almost to ground level so it looks like bare sticks and within a month new foliage has appeared and it is off and running at record speed.
 Originally I planted the semi tropical ground cover Rhoeo as an edge planting . It looked quite good for awhile but the Rhoeo succumbed to wet cold weather and rotted from the base. Rhoeo is a very popular landscaping plant as it has brightly coloured leaves and an intriguing boat or cradle shaped flower,hence the common name. It forms a carpet of colour in often difficult sites or low maintenance gardens. However it is frost tender and does not like cold wet winters.It needs a hot spot in western sun and mixes well with succulents and cacti and other drought hardy perennials.

Anthemis tinctoria

Anthemis tinctoria  
Ox-eye daisy or Dyer's chamomile
This is a terrific ground cover with soft grey ferny foliage and upright daisy flowers on tall stems which are long enough to make it a good cut flower. It is in full flower at the moment and covering a good square metre of ground as a weed suppressing mat. Putting an exact cultivar name to this one has proved difficult for me as the three forms with their pale creamy flowers are markedly similar. These are Anthemis x 'Sauce Hollandaise' , A. x 'Susanah Mitchell' and A. x Mrs E.C. Buxton'. The original species has canary yellow flowers and is very bright. They all like well drained average garden soil in sun or part shade and can take a good cut back with a spade to keep them in check when they get a bit unruly. Alternatively side shoots with roots attached can be replanted if the whole plant is looking a little burnt out. It is hardy across a range of climates and very quick growing.

Geranium maderense

Geranium maderense 
 Madeira Geranium
This is one of my favourite plants and not often seen in the commercial nursery scene. It is a short lived perennial but generous self-seeder in a semi shaded spot in the garden. I planted this one in autumn and was surprised how quickly it became established and started to flower. The bright magenta, pink veined flowers form a panicle-like inflorescence on the top of a metre high stem. The flower stalks themselves are covered with glistening purple hairs. In its native habitat it grows in rock crevices so at the base of the plant the leaf stalks arch downwards to add extra support to the main stem. The leaves are much lobed, palm like and a rich green colour. All Geraniums are remarkably hardy plants with low water and fertilizer requirements. They are also ideal for planting under trees if given a top dressing of compost from time to time.
2017 update: I currently don't have any plants available.

Gazania 'Tiger Eye'

Gazania 'Tiger Eye'
Gazanias are at their best during spring and this one has rich burnt orange flowers with a darker eye zone. The leaves are also attractive as they have a white margin to the edge of the leaf. This variety is a clump forming one and is slow to increase. It would make an ideal container plant as it has low water and fertilizer requirements.
2017 update: I currently do not have any stock of this variety.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Greek Sage, Salvia fruticosa

Salvia fruticosa 
 Greek Sage

For years I have been trying to grow the herb Sage, Salvia officinalis, without much success. The climate here is just too warm and humid and though the plant grows rapidly for a season or two, it turns up its toes as soon as February arrives. Greek sage is proving to be a much hardier plant with intensely aromatic leaves and beautiful lavender blue flowers covering the plant at the moment. Dried bunches of it are sold in my local greengrocer as Faskomilo or mountain tea. It is the kind of herbal tea which can be sweetened with honey and reputedly sharpens the memory and brings about a sense of well-being.
Salvia fruticosa was previously known as Salvia trilobata as the older leaves have two tiny "ears" or lobes at the base of the leaf. This form lacks the lobes so is probably a hybrid with a wild form of garden sage. It is found growing throughout the eastern Mediterranean including southern Italy, the Canary Islands and North Africa. It prefers dry rocky or poor soil or average garden soil with sharp drainage. Propagation is from seed or soft wood cuttings in spring. Leaves can be dried or used fresh in cooking, best sparingly as the flavour is strong.

2017 update: I have limited stock available.