Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hibiscus boryanus

 Hibiscus boryanus (Malvaceae)
Native to the Mascarene Islands of Mauritius, La Reunion and Rodrigues this tall shrub is an endangered and protected plant as it succumbs to habitat loss from the invasion of weed species such as Hiptage benghalensis, a plant on the 100 'Global Invasive Species' list.
I bought this Hibiscus earlier in the year from the Growing Friends Nursery at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney and it has just started to flower. Flowers can be red or orange and this one looks like a combination of the two. The common names for it are fairly awful and make no sense to me as to their meaning : Le foulsapate marron or 'brown foulsapate'
and 'bastard mahot'. While the common name for Hibiscus on the islands is 'mandrinette', this is normally associated with other species such as H. liliflorus and H. fragilis.
Much of the plant conservation work associated with this and other plants is carried out by the organisation 'Conservatoire Botanique National de Mascarin'

Friday, December 12, 2014

Festive flowers

 A massed display of red and white Petunias in a large flat bowl has instant appeal.

 Pentas or 'Star Flower' are at their best right now and will flower right through the festive season. They are rain resistant and are quite happy growing in sun or shade.
These plants are from 'Ability Options Wholesale Nursery', a not for profit organisation giving support and work for people with a disability.

 The ever popular Clerodendrum tomsoniae hits the right note with its red flowers enclosed in white bracts.I grow this in a large 30cm pot so it can be moved to a more prominent location when in flower. Grown as a shrub by pruning off the long adventurous stems, it is a tough old thing which will spring back to life even after a drought.

An alternate Xmas tree? This is the large flower appearing now on a 'Pony-Tail Palm' Beaucarnea recurvata. As it has a distinctive Nordic fir tree appearance, I am very tempted to cut it for use as a table decoration. Anyone tried that?

Best wishes to all for the Festive Season

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Coreopsis grandiflora

Coreopsis grandiflora (Asteraceae)
 The genus Coreopsis comprises 120 herbaceous or shrubby species belonging to the daisy family and they occur in tropical Africa, Hawaii and America. Two of the herbaceous species most often found in gardens are C. auriculata, which is about 60cm tall, and C. grandiflora growing to about 1 metre tall. Garden varieties have been selected from both species and these tend to have golden-yellow flowers with a crimson-maroon blotch at the base of each ray-floret, or buttercup yellow flowers overlaid with Indian yellow. While the plain yellow form is now regarded as a roadside weed and rarely offered for sale, this one with the crimson blotch is quite decorative and is one not often available. 
2017 update: I am currently out of stock

Thursday, November 20, 2014

the library jacarandas

The local library building is painted a vibrant shade of burnt orange and has contrasting Jacarandas planted as street trees outside as well as in the adjacent park. They are at their peak right now.
2017 update: Trees have been removed by Council and not sure why?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ranunculus repens 'Buttered Popcorn'

Ranunculus repens 'Buttered Popcorn' (Ranunculaceae)
 The gold leaved form of this water loving buttercup is a real winner but it can be a bit invasive if given a damp spot in shade. I am keeping mine in a pot half submerged in water so it can be moved from sun in spring to deep shade at the height of summer. Technically you could describe it as a woodland margin plant fond of damp ditches in Northern Hemisphere locations and this selected form is useful for brightening dull  garden corners, though its leaves may become less yellow in deep shade.
There are some 400 species of buttercup found in temperate zones across the world including Australia. Most have shiny yellow ,cream or white flowers.

Bulbine frutescens

 Bulbine frutescens (Asphodelaceae)
This grassy onion leafed succulent is a recent find for me and one I see adding to the range of commercial plants I grow in time. Plants with attractive bright flowers which are able to tolerate dry shade are always welcome in my book. This 30cm high clump forming perennial groundcover is found growing in South Africa to Mozambique but has been much used in xeriscaping in Arizona, Texas and dry gardening communities in the US. A mention of it in a garden forum from a South Australian resident shows it does have a small fan base here, and the comment from that person praised its use as a sun burn cure in a similar way to Aloe vera.The 'tiny tangerine' flowers with their fluffy yellow stamens are carried on tall stems up to 60cm in length and are produced in succession up the stem from spring onwards.
2017 update: Failed to sell in the nursery trade market.

Neoregelia tigrina

 Neoregelia tigrina (Bromeliaceae)
All this talk about the alleged Parisian tiger on the loose, which may turn out to be just a large marmalade tabby on the prowl, got me thinking about the 'tiger' bromeliad. I bought this at a spring bromeliad show and it came already attached to a block of wood for placing in a tree or against a wall. It's a miniature species from Brazil with strikingly marked leaves and one which is tolerant of more sun than other species. I can't wait for it to get a bit bigger and start sending out new 'kittens' into the world.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Fancy leaf Geraniums

Fancy-Leaf Geraniums
My interest in growing these goes back to the late 1990's when a small nursery called Pelargonium Place run by Marjorie Edwards at 40 Mistletoe street, Golden Square in Victoria became famous in the Geranium world for producing the 'Edwards' cultivars, with some even making their way back to Europe to the prestigious German nursery Pelargonien Fischer and perhaps eventually adorning a window-box in Munich or Zurich.
The fancy leaf ones, which often have insignificant flowers, provide year round colour and are ideal for balcony gardeners who want to brighten up a space which does not receive the sun all day. They are undemanding when it comes to watering and in fact may rot if given too much or when grown in too rich a potting soil. I just tidy mine up from time to time, removing spent leaves and take cuttings when they get too tall and leggy.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

collecting succulents

Starting out with Succulents
David L Jones
New Holland publishers Australia 2012

David Jones' name is synonymous with native plants so it was a surprise to find out he was a collector and enthusiast of succulents and bulbs, though the inclusion of native "succulents" eg Doryanthes makes this book true to form.  
As he lives on the south coast of NSW the information here is local and there is a terrific range of plants included. 
Because of their relative ease of propagation succulents often pop up at market stalls, usually without names, and with this book identification via photos and descriptions are made a whole lot simpler. I try and not collect too many plants these days but am always interested in trialing new plants to see if they have the potential to cross over from "collectible" to a commercial landscaping or garden specimen. Many make better container grown subjects and the little Cotyledon pictured below is a good example. I like the torpedo shaped leaves and the tiny stems carrying what will be bell shaped flowers. It's quite a cutie and as the flower stems are quite sticky perhaps it may have that ability like some other plants originating from nutrient poor soils of being able to trap tiny insects for a bit of extra food.
Cotyledon papillaris (Crassulaceae)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Gypsophila paniculata 'Rosea'

Gypsophila paniculata 'Rosea' (Caryophyllaceae)

This compact Gypsophila species sold as potted colour during spring makes a wonderful foil for spiky leaved Yuccas or other architectural plants. The fine 'rosy veil' of little pink star flowers and delicate foliage look terrific when combined in this way, though as stand alone potted specimens or massed in a border they are equally at home.This one is so neat you feel like patting its wiry cushion shape. So far it has seemed fairly resistant to heat and dry and I am hoping for another month or so flowers.

an Echinopsis

Echinopsis in flower this week
The long funnel shaped flowers of this cactus appeared this week and they held my attention for the two days they were open, reminding me a bit of a waterlily with some of that same fragile beauty that waterlilies have. With flowering over it will go back to being a nasty little brute covered in spines and loved by only a few.
The genus Echinopsis includes plants originating from the lowlands of northeastern Argentina, southern Brazil and Paraguay as well as higher elevation locations of Bolivia and Argentina.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Verbena 'La France'

 Verbena 'La France' (Verbeniaceae)
We are having our Northern Hemisphere summer days right now and plants which originate from those cooler climes are looking their best. This Verbena came to my attention through the Beth Chatto gravel garden book where she included it in her list of drought busting continuous hot sunny day loving plants. Plants which thrive without additional summer watering or special treatment are always welcome and this certainly fits the bill.
It started to flower in late winter having sent out metre long trailing stems each topped with clusters of these pretty though scentless mauve flowers. This week I cut it back quite hard and used all the stem pieces for cuttings as you do.
2017 update: I no longer stock this Verbena
soft wood tip cuttings

Ledebouria petiolata

Ledebouria petiolata syn. Drimiopsis maculata
The good folk at Larkman's Nursery in Victoria bought this to my attention recently as they market it as an 'African Hosta'. Unlike the Japanese Hosta this plant thrives in poor soil and with minimal water but it is equally loved by snails and slugs which generally spoil its appearance as soon as your back is turned. At this time of year it produces masses of short stemmed white flowers which resemble miniature Hyacinth but without the perfume. It grows from a series of fleshy bulbs which protrude slightly above the ground.These can be easily divided to form new clumps of plants. I am in two minds about this plant; one could consider it as a "novelty" item or as a serious contender for a difficult garden site of dry shade under trees where not much would grow and where it would be quite at home. Otherwise it makes a terrific pot plant which can be brought indoors when in flower or if you like things a bit dotty/spotty.

Senecio radicans

 Senecio radicans (Asteraceae)
'String of Bananas'
  I am growing this popular succulent for use in vertical gardens and this specimen has already grown down 1.5 metres, with little red spur-like roots protruding from the stems along the way which are obviously in search of a some soil.
 There are two forms of this succulent ground-cover from South Africa ,one with grey leaves (glauca) and a plain green form. Leaf form can also vary from banana or fish-hook shape to globe shaped. Tiny shaving-brush like flowers appeared a month or so ago and these were attended by some beneficial insects which is a bonus when you are growing any plant these days.In cool climates this plant is grown indoors and it adapts well to shady or low light conditions.
2017 update: I no longer grow this succulent. 

Geranium molle, Dove's Foot Cranesbill

Geranium molle (Geraniaceae)
 Dove's Foot Cranesbill
The appearance of this weed had me fooled into thinking it was a seedling G. sanguineum as the leaves are remarkably similar to that species. It came up first in a hanging basket which had contained one and also in the garden. For a moment I thought I was on to a sure fire winner with possibly a new and different flower colour. However as soon as it flowered I knew it was a weed species and a quick check of an ID book confirmed it as this species of European origin which is said to only make a rare appearance in gardens and is of no significance. It gets my vote as the most clever weed of the year looking as it does like a respectable garden perennial and able to grow cherished until maturity when its true identity was revealed.
Like many weeds it has an ancient and useful herbal remedy past. The famous astrologer-physician of the early 17th Century, Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654) probably had it in his medical practice in Red Lion Street, Spitalfields in London in 1640 where he recommended it be applied directly to 'green wounds' ulcers and sores as it 'healeth them quickly'; and for use in a 'decoction in wine' for internal hurts and bruises or to relieve joint-ache.
Published by W Foulsham & Co., LTD
Slough, Bucks, England

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Penstemon digitalis 'Husker's Red'

 Penstemon digitalis (Plantaginaceae)
This is from Canada and the eastern United States and is doing its Northern Hemisphere summer thing by flowering in our spring, like a lot of other similar perennials do. I suspect by January the leaves may be a bit crispy and it may have gone into shock at the temperature.
For those who like that black and white colour scheme in a garden this is a good addition as the leaves emerge after winter a near black colour. The 30cm burgundy coloured flower stems are topped with white, pink blushed, foxglove like flowers. Penstemon are generally fairly hardy and do well across a range of climates. The cultivar name 'Husker Red' is applied to this plant in the UK.
2017 update: I am no longer growing it for sale.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Miniature Regal Pelargonium

 Miniature Regal Pelargonium or 'Martha Washington'
Regal Pelargoniums are a classic "impulse buy" plant at a Nursery or Garden Centre and if you wait a few weeks as they finish the peak of their flowering there will be lots of discounted ones on offer.I picked up this miniature one last year and I have to admit it was fairly neglected, even kicked over on its side with snapped branches a few months back. I prefer these smaller compact varieties as the larger sorts often become quite straggly in the garden. Amongst the larger ones there are some fabulous colours available including near black and pure white as well as lots of rich purples, pinks, red and mauve. They make good seaside garden plants and grow happily in sandy soils with low water availability. Pruning by a third after flowering is recommended. If you prune them too hard into old wood they may not recover and re-shoot.
 The miniature varieties are also sometimes called 'Angel' or 'Pansy' Pelargoniums and the small crinkled leaves resemble P. crispum,from which they are thought to be derived in the early 19th Century; later re-developed in London in the 1930's and 1940's by a Mr Langley Smith. Unfortunately, without a proper label I can't be sure of the correct name for this little beauty.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Euphorbia enopla

 Euphorbia enopla (Euphorbiaceae)
Cactus for indoors? Certainly and this would be a good candidate as it only grows to about 1 metre. This is frost hardy species which originates from South Africa has very attractive long reddish spines which turn to black as they age. When I look at this specimen I can see that the side branches could be removed and used as propagation material to grow new plants thus changing the shape to a more central column.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Hippeastrum papilio

Hippeastrum papilio (Amaryllidaceae)
Living up to its epiphytic origins ,think Brazilian rainforest growing on rocks or trees, this one has flowered this week in a tiny 4 inch pot with virtually no soil. The tricky thing about growing them in pots is in getting the soil mix right. They love perfect drainage and a light bark/orchid mix. Many of my plants succumb to root rot at the drop of a hat if they are in a largish pot. Snails and slugs adore the leaves and can strip the foliage overnight and as I don't get around to looking at the batch I have on a regular basis this is a common occurrence for me.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Calibanus hookeri, Mexican Boulder

 Calibanus hookeri (Asparagaceae)
This scruffy, wiry stemmed clump of leaves emerge from a round 'boulder' like base at ground level. The base is covered in rough corky bark, hence the common name. Clipped Buxus it ain't, so a plant as untidy looking as this may not have huge appeal. However the leaves have a pleasing blue grey appearance and the plant seldom needs extra water to keep it looking healthy. The leaves can be trimmed back to expose the boulder or caudex base and this may eventually reach 30cm across. I am still waiting for the appearance of flowers which are said to be tiny and white and are carried on a rigidly stiff panicle 10 to 20cm long. Flowers means seed so I may eventually have some plants for sale.

Salvia canariensis

 Salvia canariensis (Lamiaceae)
'The violet-mauve flowers emerge from large reddish calyces, underpinned by long coloured bracts which remain on the plant for a long time after flowering'; a description of this 1.5 metre shrub according to Oliver Filippi in his book The Dry Gardening Handbook.
I am having a crack at growing this Canary Island beauty but I suspect it may be short lived if we experience a rainy humid summer.The leaves have quite an acrid smell when crushed and remind me of turpentine mixed with fish oil. Flowers are large and prominent and this shrub would look good as a background plant to a Mediterranean herb border or mixed with succulents and grasses.
2017 update: I no longer have this plant.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

National Hat-Day

 The 'Piping Hot' straw
October 10th is National Hat Day and is an initiative to raise awareness of mental health issues affecting one in four Australians.
The word hat originates from the Old English word haett which is linked to the Norse for 'hood' or 'cowl'.
A hat which has a dark colour under the brim, such as my favourite straw, will absorb a little more reflected UV light. A brim width of 80mm protects neck, chin, ears and face.

 A chin strap is essential if you don't want it too blow away in the slightest breeze. Rain or water is the enemy of the straw, though in general, a shelf life of a few years is the best you can hope for.Great for the garden or beach.
 The SPF50 Legionnaire
Practical, machine  washable but very daggy looking so best as work-wear or for fishing not really street-wear.

 The Akubra
Australian classic with iconic status but not for city slickers.
 The Drizabone Sou'wester
Wet weather oil-skin essential with ear protection and chin strap.