Sunday, February 24, 2013

Tithonia rotundifolia "Fiesta del Sol"

Tithonia "Fiesta del Sol" planted with dark purple Salvia splendens
This is the first time I have grown the dwarf form of this Mexican sunflower. I have it planted  in a large shallow bowl combined with  purple Salvia and some 'spillover' succulents around the edge.The succulents have been somewhat hidden by the Tithonia leaves.
 The pumpkin orange flowers stand above the coarsely hairy leaves on compact 25cm plants and are easy to snip off when spent, ensuring a continuous long flowering season through summer and autumn. It is possible that the plants may become semi perennial as the winter months approach ....wait and see. This is a good sustainable plant as it requires minimal water and fertilizer and has no pests or diseases.
Tithonia species are in the Asteraceae family and are native to Mexico.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Rudbeckia hirta 'Cherry Brandy'

 Annual Rudbeckia 'Cherry Brandy' with perennial Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm'
This is a great flower combo which is at its best right now. It is the first time I have grown the dark cherry coloured Rudbeckia and I am impressed by the tall sturdy flowering stems which carry many flowers. The flower buds open near black and tan before aging to ruby red. Leaves are typically coarsely hairy and appear as round bristly scallops hugging the ground after seeds germinate. I have another batch of seedlings which I have just potted on and wonder whether they will get up to speed and flower before the onset of shorter days and cooler weather. The ideal time for sowing Rudbeckia seed is Spring.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Duranta 'Geisha Girl'

A standard purple flowered Duranta erecta 'Geisha Girl'  underplanted
with red Acalypha reptans

Australian Blue Banded Bee feeding on Duranta 'Geisha Girl'
photo by Louise Docker from Wikipedia
I am in trouble for promoting weeds all the time. This shrub is on the hit list because the yellow berries which form after flowering are known to be spread by birds into native forest. The berries are also poisonous to dogs, so "double-whammy-in-disgrace" "go to jail do not pass go" etc for what is a wonderful summer flowering shrub. 
 Nectar feeding birds love the flowers which stand proud of the leaves and cascade from the centre in long racemes. There is a constant rustling of the leaves and fighting between bigger and smaller birds. This evening at dusk, a solitary blue banded bee was quietly stumbling around the flowers. This little charmer was featured by landscaper Jason on the Friday TV show of Better Homes and Gardens.
Duranta is a popular shrub when grown as a standard but it does not necessarily form the round lollipop style as expected. Branches are angular and so you often end up with a dip in the middle of the ball . It is also very vigorous, so is prone to develop side shoots along the main stem during the growing season. Regular tip pruning is best and then a hard prune once the berries start to from. 'Geisha Girl,' as the name suggests, originated in Japan and is thus fairly tolerant of extremes of heat and cold. I have come across some interesting photos of it from Japan, growing tall and covering the side of a building where the tumbling flowers looked magnificent.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Mesa Yellow'

 Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Mesa Yellow'
Since Lance Armstrong came clean to Oprah, it is safe to like the colour yellow again. Somewhere in the early posts on this blog there are tributes to Lance following his Le Tour de France wins but I really don't have the time to edit them out.
This is a particularly fine shade of bright yellow with the flower petal edges neatly crimped and tempered by a duller matt centre which is something of a permanent work site for bees. Released in 2010, this Gaillardia follows the tend towards neat compact perennials which flower in their first year and are suitable for growing in a pot on a balcony. It is also a sustainable plant having both low fertilizer and water requirements, sailing through the hottest days without a problem. Drumstick shaped seed heads remain on the plant after flowering and these are quite decorative in themselves but are best removed if you want the flowers to continue for a longer time. The word "mesa" means table in Spanish as in the land formation of tableland such as the Mesa Verde in the southern part of the United states where this species is a wildflower.