Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Solandra maxima 'Variegata', Cup of Gold

I grow this large sprawling shrub/climber in 30cm. pots, and, for the past week or so, a large bud at the top of one plant has remained in suspended animation, like a half blown up pale creamy yellow balloon. At this time of year it may be too cold for it open and reveal the coconut scented 'cup of gold' style flower but it provides a wonderful contrast to the new leaves below it which are vibrant purple as they emerge before turning ivory white and pale green on maturity.
This plant is native to Mexico and like other members of the Solanaceae Family it is poisonous , though this should not be a deterrent from growing it. While the plain green form is a vigorous climber to 20 metres or more and needing a large garden or sturdy structure where it can spread to its hearts content, this variegated form is less rampant especially in milder climates. Severe frost will cause most of the leaves to drop off and stems may die back and blacken but growth returns quickly when the weather warms up. As a pot plant it is a bit ungainly and forms a network of thick untidy branches which can never be  pruned to a neat shape, so, if used in this way it needs a foreground plant of neat and rounded appearance to hide its 'legs'. It is otherwise very forgiving of neglect and has low water and fertilizer requirements.
2017 update: I have some plants available.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Punica granatum 'Mme. Legrelle"

 This ornamental Pomegranate is just starting to break its winter dormancy and is producing the first flush of bronze red leaves along the stems. Always a welcome sign that winter is finally almost over. If only it could remind the tropical plants to drop their yellow leaves and sad demeanor and show a bit of life as well.
In summer this 3 metres shrub displays large salmon orange carnation like flowers which look as if they have been dipped in icing sugar.They are so fat they weigh the branches down and to me they resemble those overstuffed double oriental poppies. Growth is fairly rapid during the warm months and it can be pruned to shape during this time though waiting till after leaf fall allows you to see a better framework of branches suitable for shaping.
This variety does not produce fruit. It is hardy over a range of climates and will tolerate dry conditions well. I have some small plants for sale. If interested please email me but I cannot send plants to Tasmania, Western Australia or overseas
 2017 update: I am currently out of stock.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Just a few more....

Camellia japonica 'Gay Chieftain'
This is a beautiful small flowering variety. The variegation of the petals is terrific. I like the stripes and blush appearance as well as the way the petals flare out around the stamens becoming almost trumpet shaped.

Camellia japonica 'Debbie'
Camellia japonica 'Katie'
There are not many flowers which are shocking pink and as bright as these two above.
 Camellia japonica 'White Button'
Another small flowering variety which is just showing a few pink stripes. Lovely form

7 Red Camellias

Camellia japonica 'Firefalls'

Camellia japonica 'Royal Velvet'

Camellia japonica 'Ted Craig'

Camellia japonica 'Black Magic'

  Camellia japonica 'Bob Hope'
Camellia japonica 'Wildfire'
It is has been the weather for a nice drop of red at the end of the day,. Here is a good selection of red flowering camellias which can be grown in a full sun position. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Camellia japonica 'Margaret Davis'

Camellia japonica 'Margaret Davis'
At first glance this looks like a large flowered sim carnation. It is an Australian camellia which originally appeared as a sport of 'Aspasia Macarthur' and is named for the great Sydney gardener Margaret Davis (1908-2000) who is remembered as the founding President of the Garden Clubs of Australia as well as being an accomplished writer and broadcaster. She comments on this cultivar in her book Balcony Gardens (Golden Press, Sydney 1981), My namesake, 'Margaret Davis', a consistent prize-winner in both Australia and many areas of the United States, is remarkably sun-hardy, although it is a white-edged pink. Pale coloured camellias are usually only successful in shade or semi shaded positions as the flower petals may burn in the sun.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Camellia japonica 'Lovelight'

Camellia japonica 'Lovelight'
I am a bit of a sucker for Camellias which display a big boss of bright stamens at the centre of delicate tissue paper like petals. The book by Peter Valder called The Garden Plants of China has a close-up photo of stamens like this of a wild red flowered species of Camellia growing in Hangzhou Province. 'Lovelight' originated in the United States and has been around since 1960. It is a vigorous and hardy variety with strong upright growth.

Camellia japonica 'Donna Herzilia de Freitas Magalhaes'

Camellia japonica 'Donna Herzilia de Freitas Magalhaes'
When I went to buy this Camellia the grower talked me out of getting it and said it was very temperamental. If the soil was not to its liking it would only produce pink flowers or not flower at all, and it is said to do better in a cool climate with cold winters.The variation in colour of flowers displayed on the show bench was quite marked with the best being of a violet shade. Variegation of petals also shows up on some flowers.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

4 Champion Camellias

 Camellia japonica 'Elegans Champagne'
This was awarded  Grand Champion at the Camellia Show this weekend. It is an anemone form of ivory petals with a centre of champagne. This is a big bloom so I imagine the bush would have to be dis-budded to allow room for the flowers to open properly.

 Camellia japonica 'Kurrajong'
This is the Champion Australian raised cultivar. A magnificent bloom of the waterlily type which is as close to perfect in form as you can get.
Camellia japonica 'Winters Own Variegated'
This one is the Reserve Champion and shows a beautiful arrangement of fluted petals.

Camellia japonica 'Desire'
This is a formal double type and was awarded the Betty McGovern Memorial Award 

Camellia japonica 'Nicky Crisp'

This Camellia is following the trend of developing shrubs for smaller gardens and ones which can be used either as stand alone specimen plants or used as a hedge. It grows to about 2 metres and is quite bushy making it an easy care hedge plant. The flowers are well formed and about 10cm across. I quite like the arrangement pictured here where the flowers have been floated in a bowl with some nasturtium leaves.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Camellia reticulata ' Wandin Sebire'

Camellia reticulata 'Wandin Sebire'
It is the time of year when Camellias are at their best and the path outside my door is littered with spent blooms.Today I went to the 60th annual Illawarra Camellia Show which is always enjoyable because every year is different in that some blooms are outstanding and really catch your eye and others are not performing as well as might be expected all probably due to the unpredictable nature of the weather. I will post some photos of what I thought were the highlights over the coming days
This one is interesting because it is an Australian cultivar having been bred by Edgar Sebire and released in 1977. It was named after Edgar's father Wandin and is also the name of the district in Melbourne which he founded.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Hyacinth. Hyacinthus orientalis

I am not sure whether to admit to having a real love for the sweetly perfumed hyacinth which are just coming into flower, given that they are now forever associated with the character created by veteran English actress Patricia Routledge, one Hyacinth Bucket (It's Boo-Kay dear) in the series Keeping Up Appearances. Every year in autumn I buy some different coloured varieties and pot them up, placing them in a cool shady spot while they put down roots and develop their flower spike. It is really too warm for them here as they need a temperature range of between 5 and 10 C to fully develop a flower spike of 30cm, however the strong perfume is there, even when just emerging from the soil and that is what counts for me.
Hyacinth originally came from the Middle East and were introduced to Europe around 1560 and it was Dutch nurserymen who did all the work on improving them over the centuries so that now they are more often known as Dutch Hyacinth or 'Florist's' type. The lovely primrose yellow cultivar 'City of Haarlem' which has received an 'AGM', award of garden merit from the RHS is named for the Netherlands city of Haarlem.
As they are quite formal looking plants, with the flower spike held stiffly erect, they have been often used in municipal plantings and spring display beds over the years. This aspect of their appearance was lampooned by English pop artist Sir Peter Blake when he set about to create a garden using Hyacinth for the record cover of the The Beatles, Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band  when it was photographed at Chelsea Manor Studios in 1967. Hyacinth were used to spell out the name Beatles and, according to Blake, the nursery delivery boy made up a guitar using the flowers. It would be interesting to know whether the popular pink variety 'Princess Margaret' was included given that she was very much part of 'swinging London' of that time. The respectable municipal hyacinth were surrounded by Indian Gurus, Sri Paramahansa Yogananda, Sri Mahavatara Babaji etc, though record company EMI blocked out the image of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi as it was possibly too sensitive to the British establishment.
Garden writers over the years are rarely kind about hyacinth. Louise Beebe Wilder in her book Adventures with Hardy Bulbs (1936, Macmillan, New York) describes them as 'obese, fat stalked, overstuffed, overscented and dedicated to pots or lozenge beds upon a suffering greensward'  Though 'when left in the ground for several years with no notice taken of them, until their starched pride is somewhat subdued, they acquire a slender grace and modesty that is most becoming to them'
More recently New York Times garden columnist Leslie Land waxed lyrical: Thinking of bulbs leads me to ask what you do about hyacinths? Got to be one of the ugliest flowers in all creation no matter where you put them or what you do with them, but then there is that perfume, without which there is no spring.'
Narcissus are very nice, (but) the scent of hyacinth is such as dreams are made on......

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

X Cryptbergia 'Rubra'

X Cryptbergia 'Rubra'
This Bromeliad is a hybrid between a Crypthanthus and a Billbergia and forms a compact rosette of many offsets to about 40 cm across. It is noteworthy for the brilliant copper red leaves which change to deep burgundy depending on the time of year and how much sun it is given. I like to grow it in full sun as the leaf colour is deeper and richer. You could use that overused word "sustainable" to describe this plant as it requires no special watering or fertilizer to keep it looking good. It is hardy down to about zero C. Plants may be divided in spring and potted into an orchid style potting mix. Small flowers appear in the central rosette but these are fairly insignificant. In cool climates it is suitable to use as an indoor or patio plant.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Redondo Creeper. Lampranthus filicaulis

Not really a creeper but a succulent groundcover which we would probably call a 'pig-face' plant. This one is from South Africa and is proving to be a real winner this winter. It has not been without a flower for months so it looks as if I will take cuttings from it as soon as this stock plant gets big enough. The flowers are about the size of a 20 cent piece and are shaded a delicate pink on the edges fading to white at the centre. The whole plant grows to a height of about 15cm and the eventual spread would be about triple that. Lampranthus are good in coastal gardens and grow well in pure sand. They are also useful as fire retardant ground cover plants close to buildings.

Park of Peace

 Dove of Peace by Illawarra artist Michael Keighery
Detail includes tiny heart shaped motif on wing tips, tail and beak
Miners' Federation Peace Grove
Caldwell Avenue & Foothills Road, Tarrawanna, New South Wales
Detail includes top representing a miner's helmet with lamp and base of coal coloured tiles placed in a gradient to represent entrance to mine shaft and tunnels. Background planting includes rainforest pioneer, the Brown Kurrajong, Commersonia frazeri, which bears sweetly scented white flowers in spring.

This morning I went to have a look at a new park which was unveiled in my neighbourhood earlier this month. It was commissioned by the Coal Miners' Federation to pay tribute to the men and women who have served the needs of the Australian Coal Industry in the Illawarra for over 100 years, acknowledging and identifying the historic struggles undertaken by coal miners in pursuit of a safer and more peaceful world.
Included is a wall of pictorial tiles displaying interesting photos from the industry as a reminder to future generation of what has been achieved in the local area.

 Part of the park was once a paddock for the pit ponies which worked in the nearby Corrimal Colliery (1883-1985) and in a section called 'The Travelling Road' which marks the pathway taken by miners and ponies on their way to Corrimal, some terrific and touching photos of them are included in the wall tiles. Over 2000 ponies worked in the mines over the years before mechanisation.

 From paddock to rainforest thanks to the work of bush regeneration specialists makes this park a real asset to the local community.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Springstar flower. Ipheion uniflorum

The opening bud of a Springstar flower showing the distinctive deep maroon marking on the back of the petals. The common pale mauve form, pictured above, fades as it ages and looks as if the colour has been painted on by a watercolour brush.

 First year plants in production are just starting to flower but will take another two years before they reach a well developed clump and a saleable size.

 Cultivar 'Bright Star' starts off as milky blue with a thin blue line down the centre of each petal before changing to snow white after a few days
Cultivar 'Froyle Mill' is a dark purple mauve and the largest type.
Spring Starflowers or Ipheion are in the family Liliaceae and hail from Argentina and Uruguay. At various times they have been included in the Genus' Brodiaea, Milla and Triteleia. They are one of the easiest and most reliable winter flowering bulbs to grow and are tolerant of a wide range of climatic conditions, flourishing in a full sun or shade position. They form a small clump of grassy garlic scented leaves, about 15cm long, and are not fussy as to soil type as long as it is free draining. They make an attractive edging plant or look good when mass planted under deciduous trees or mixed with shade loving perennials such as Helleborus or other winter flowering bulbs such as Cyclamen. As with many bulbs, foliage remains until early summer and then dies off. During that summer holiday they take it is important not to let some other more vigorous ground cover plant take over their spot or they may struggle to push up new leaves the following autumn.  Bulbs can always be lifted and stored if this is likely to be an issue but you miss out on their natural habit of producing lots of offset bulbs and increasing in clump size.