Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Aloe bellatula from Madagascar

Aloe bellatula
 Undemanding is a word I wish I could use more often when it comes to growing various plants but it is a very apt description in the case of this miniature Aloe.
Throughout the year thin wiry stems emerge from a neat clump of olive green succulent leaves bearing an inflorescence made up of tiny white fringed bright coral pink bells.
Occasionally I tidy up the plant, removing old leaves and breaking off the spent flower stems but that is about all the attention it gets. When in flower I move it onto an outdoor table so better to see the delicate flowers up close.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Firebird'

 Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Firebird'
A brilliant tangerine orange colour on this Hibiscus but I can find no information as to its origin. It has open ruffled petals which tend to fan out from the centre in the windmill style. Good glossy foliage as well so it is going in the stock garden to see how it performs over the coming year.

Cotyledon orbiculata 'Silver Waves'

Cotyledon orbiculata 'Silver Waves'
It is always the way, just when you have a batch of plants ready for sale and and they are looking fantastic something happens to make them worthless. Silver foliage plants have adapted to grow in climates where the conditions tend to be hot and dry with little humidity in the atmosphere for most of the year, so when the conditions are not to their liking they firstly develop unappealing black spots on the leaves and then the stems start to collapse having rotted in the middle. Not much can be done other than salvage a few tip cuttings which have been unaffected by the rot and start again. Cooler weather and winter temperature tend to suit this plant better and they love a spot on the coast in the full blast of salt wind and/or growing in sandy soil.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Gardeners' Proust

Horse-Chestnut Flower (Aesculus hippocastanum)
Swann abounding in leisure, fragrant with the scent of the great chestnut-tree, of baskets of raspberries and of a sprig of tarragon...
 The 267 plants in the writings of Marcel Proust is a terrific book written by Adelaide author Dr Brian Morley. It was published late last year by New York publishers Edwin Mellen Press who have the dubious Wikipedia entry of "publishing books which often prove to contain quite extraordinary gibberish". Perhaps this comment could also be labelled on much of Proust's In Remembrance of Things Past (A la Recherche du Temps Perdu) , the first volume of which, Swann's Way is having its 100th anniversary of publication this year.
I have to admit to reading it in fits and starts. The perfect book to read at bedtime because it sends you to sleep after just a few pages, or, as Roberto Bolle in the video below describes, it ..." the perfect book to take to heaven as you would have eternity to read it".
 For garden lovers however it is a source of inspiration. The grandmother of the young Marcel who gardens at "Combray" (Illiers in the real world) strides about surreptitiously removing rose stakes to make them look more natural and even goes out in the 'rain-lashed garden, pushing back her disordered grey locks so that her forehead might be freer to absorb the health giving draughts of wind and rain', a true gardener indeed, though this may in fact be more of a reaction to her well regulated bourgeois life with maid Francoise always at her heel.
The big Horse-Chestnut tree under which the family gathers to share a meal or gossip is central to the Combray garden. A true temperate climate tree its large seeds or 'conkers' are not edible like the familiar Sweet Chestnut but are used in France to wash linen and fabric after being ground and mixed with water. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'General Corteges'

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'General Corteges'
This is an old variety of Hibiscus which is mentioned in garden books in the early decades of the 20th Century. The brilliant scarlet flowers are of a medium size and are produced prolifically over a long period. I have seen it used as a hedge plant and it is still recommended for use in that way today.
The variety name 'corteges' intrigues me as the singular word is usually associated with ceremonial or funeral occasions. Was this flower used as a substitute for the Flanders Poppy (the poppy wreath on a soldier's tomb), as we pause to reflect on the meaning of ANZAC day tomorrow?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Molly Cummings'

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Molly Cummings'
A large rich velvety 'dragon red' flower has given this Hibiscus world wide recognition since its introduction to the garden world in 1960 in the United States.
It grows as a fairly large leggy shrub but it can't be kept lower and more bushy if given an annual prune in spring. Grafted specimens of this variety are often available for gardens which have heavy soil which is less well drained or for climates outside the sub-tropics where winters are colder and wetter.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Petunias gone wild

Open-pollinated Petunias
On sunny late afternoons, usually around dusk, these seed grown Petunias, which have relatively small flowers ,seem to have more in kin with the original wild night scented species which was discovered in South America more than a century ago.
They release a heady perfume, a sort of musky spicy smell which is obviously meant to attract a moth pollinator from afar.
Perfume in flowering plants is often lost the more extensively they are improved. I think something can be said for growing some of the old open-pollinated flower varieties as well as trying the new flamboyant hybrids.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Carissa grandiflora 'Green Carpet'

Carissa grandiflora 'Green Carpet'
  Natal Plum
My books on gardening in South Africa are kept on the top shelf of the bookcase which is best not navigated during the cocktail hour early evening, a time usually devoted to checking plant facts of one sort or another.
 I like the gardening books written by Una van der Spuy, who sadly passed away last year just shy of her 100th birthday, and in her book on gardening with ground covers she gives some interesting facts on the dwarf forms of Carissa, a South African shrub which is grown in warm coastal gardens in many parts of the world. 
She refers to three cultivars 'Green Carpet', which has small leaves on a plant 60cm in height and a metre across, 'Horizontalis' which has trailing stems of densely arranged leaves and 'Prostrata' which produces more side than top growth and spreads across a metre. All were developed in the United States, possibly during the mid 1970's as Una refers to them as 'recent' at the time of publication of this book.
Although the Carissa pictured here came labelled as 'Green Carpet' it has spread across an embankment by about 3 metres as well as sending up vertical branches to about a metre or more.The vertical branches can be easily pruned off to keep it low and spreading, though, as it is armed with three corned thorns just under the foliage, it has formed an impenetrable barrier and any 'under-gardener' given the task of maintaining it is apt to complain about this task.
The white star shaped flowers and the edible plum shaped red fruit which follow seem to occur throughout the year with the main flush during spring and summer.
I propagate it from semi hardwood cuttings taken during the warm months but cuttings may be slow to strike and the resulting plants are also slow to grow during their first year. Once in the ground the plant takes off and requires little additional water or fertilizer once established.
Carissa is tolerant of salt spray in coastal gardens and light frost.
To read more on the horticultural life of Una van der Spuy click on the following link:
Una van der Spuy - Rhodes University
2017 update: I have limited stock of this plant.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Black Knight'

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Black Knight'
This is an exceptional dark red bloom which has distinctive cream coloured stripes and flecks on the petals. The flower is large and ruffled with over-lapping petals which curve backwards. The size of the flower means it may fall forward revealing the cream coloured back more than the face while it is small, however as it eventually grows into a tall bush this may not be an issue as you may end up looking upwards into the shrub.
This Hibiscus was bred by Alan McMullen from a pod parent of 'Fiesta' and a pollen parent of 'Red Bomb'.

Rhoeo discolor 'Stripe-me-Pink'

 Rhoeo discolor 'Stripe-me-Pink'
Like many members of its Family Commelinaceae, this plant likes it in a garden spot or in a container which is kept on the dry side and is, as well, tolerant of poor soil. It also likes it in a warm to hot place being frost tender. It is often available at Garden Centres included with indoor or balcony plants for those who garden in cool climates. The vibrant pink and magenta striped leaves are at their best however when grown in full sun and will more than likely fade in shady conditions.
Each spring I grow a batch for sale as summer bedding and those unsold will often succumb to rotting when given overhead irrigation in the humid summer months. Water collecting in the centre of the plants results in fungal disease problems and the whole plant turns brown and collapses (see picture below)

Rhoeo given too much water will quickly rot and collapse

The variety name 'Stripe-me-Pink' is a clever play on words and is based on the Australian colloquialism 'Strike me Pink' which probably had its origins in the sheep shearing sheds of yesteryear. 'Pinking' means a sheep has been shorn too close to the skin so that the pink skin shows through, making it vulnerable to fly-strike, hence 'Strike me Pink' is used when speaking in surprise or alarm. Can also be used in combination with the word 'strewth'.
A local 'pink' expression involving the town of Jamberoo can be found in the book by W T Goodge Hits! Skits! and Jingles! published in 1899: 'The leathery necks he pinked 'em too, / Did Gentleman Jack of Jamberoo'
2017 update: I no longer grow this plant.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Lady Flo'

 Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Lady Flo'
'Lady Flo' is a wonderful tall bushy Hibiscus with flowers that change colour from near white to blush pink and mauve as the weather cools down. It is usually included with white Hibiscus when colour groups are separated in Nursery lists.
It was bred by Bert Hardy from a pod parent of 'Shirley Howie' and a pollen parent of 'Muriel'.
'Lady Flo' is named for Lady Florence Bjelke-Peterson who is remembered both for her pumpkin scones and for her political career as a Queensland Senator.
2017 update: I currently don't have any stock available

Friday, April 12, 2013

Carrion Flower

Stapelia grandiflora, Carrion Flower

Flower bud before opening
For a week now I have been waiting for this massive balloon shaped bud to open and it finally did so today. This succulent plant is well known for emitting the smell of rotting meat so as to attract flies to pollinate it, hence the name carrion flower.
 It did not disappoint as three different species of flies were in attendance when I took these photos. This admission to observing flies may bring the accusation of my having too much time on my hands, or, of me finally having gone completely bonkers. Yes, guilty as charged....
So the common housefly, Musca domestica,  didn't wait around long when I made my presence felt, obviously preferring to be inside lurking on the kitchen bench.The brown blowfly, the 'blowie' or Calliphora stygia preferred to hang out on the petals keeping his eye on the pair of green bottle flies, Lucillia sericata,who were doing most of the pollination work.The 'green bottles' do have a wonderful iridescent sheen to their bodies but their reputation for coming to the aid of forensic detectives at crime scenes doesn't make them the most lovable of creatures.

 Open flower as seen from behind
 Hairy petal edges

 Unique star shaped flower centre
 Green bottle flies doing their pollination duties
 A large brown blowfly waiting in the wings

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Autumn Flowers

 Flower stems: Salvia gesneriiflora 'Tequila', Antignon leptopus 'Chain of Love',          Bougainvillea 'Zulu',
 Rose heps: from Hybrid Tea 'Queen Elizabeth'
 Leaf: Monstera deliciosa 'Variegata

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Jayella'

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Jayella'
April is Hibiscus month in the southern hemisphere  so I have a few more photos to share over the coming weeks.
 'Jayella' is a very tall growing shrub and was bred by Australian Brian Kerr from 'Jayne' x 'Herm Geller'. Though dominated by the distinctive central red eye, the flower colour is multi-layered from pink, tan to orange and yellow on the petal edge.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Gaillardia grandiflora 'Arizona Apricot'

Gaillardia grandiflora 'Arizona Apricot'
This small (30cm) clump forming perennial 'blanket' flower has been looking like this for months and shows no sign of slowing. It is producing more buds even though the weather has cooled finally. The bees love it and visit everyday, as they do to the Salvias which are at their autumn best. No shortage of bees in this neck of the woods. A delivery man last week ,who was driving a forklift up the driveway came too close to the bees and squealed saying that he was allergic to them. I said bees only sting if you stand on them!...
 I think I prefer this apricot jam coloured Gaillardia to the previously mentioned 'Mesa Yellow' variety. Another great plant for front of border, mixed with succulents or as a potted specimen on a balcony in hot sun. Remove spent flower heads for continuous flowering.