Monday, June 22, 2015

a few winter Hibiscus

 June is still a good month to have Hibiscus coming into flower particularly if the days are sunny and there is no wind chill factor. The surprising thing is the blooms often take on richer and darker colours and they may last for several days instead of the normal one or two. Here is a small selection of flowers from the past week or so.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Crassula arborescens 'Bluebird'

Crassula arborescens 'Bluebird' (Crassulaceae)

Crassula arborescens subsp. undulatifolia

  For many years I have been successfully growing the wavy leaved form of the 'silver dollar jade' 'undulatifolia' which forms a compact neat shrub to about 60cm. I now grow the 'Bluebird' variety after seeing its used in a bold and effective way by a landscape designer.
I currently have stock in 140 mm pots.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Hibiscus paramutabilis

 Hibiscus paramutabilis (Malvaceae)
Yep, it's as bright as the photo depicts, visible from a hundred metres away like a beacon. Fuchsia pink or cerise pink, hot pink take your pick.This Hibiscus is now starting to become more widely known perhaps because it is suitable for a wide range of climates owing to its frost tolerance. Deciduous in cold climates and perhaps not in mild coastal ones. This photo was taken a couple of weeks ago and note the grub having a chew on both the bud and open flower.
Taking the prefix para to mean allied to, this is a close relative of the other China native Hibiscus mutabilis, that old fashioned garden shrub with the big double flowers which change colour from white to pink. I think it gets called cotton rose. This one does not change colour but may do in cold climates for according to Barbara Perry Lawton in her book Hibiscus (Timber Press) the flower petals open white and darken to rose-pink during the day. It is supposed to grow to about 4 metres but I think 2 might be a more reasonable estimate. Still only available from specialist nurseries, it will no doubt become a popular garden shrub in years to come as it is continually in flower during the warmer months. 
2017 update: I can't get enough suitable wood to take cuttings. Nice flowers but not flourishing.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Osmanthus fragrans

 Osmanthus fragrans (Oleaceae)
This shrub from China and southern Japan scrapes into the top twenty best perfumed plants for the delicious intense ripe apricot scent which is released from the very small brownish white flowers. It can be elusive though as when I stuck my nose up close one afternoon last week I could barely detect a fragrant note. No doubt it is timed to deal with the appearance or not of a suitable pollinator. When not in flower it can be a bit of an unappealing and straggly shrub with tough leathery olive green leaves and growing from 3 to 5 metres; so the suggestion would be to plant it in groups of 3 or more or merge it with other shrubs in a border. It would be useful to plant in one of those narrow corridors between buildings which get zero sun in winter as it will tolerate some shade though I have seen specimens grown in exposed windy positions suffering dreadful leaf scorch. Most plants available in the nursery trade are sold in 140mm/6inch pots as it can be slow growing.The common name for it of 'Sweet Olive' is just too confusing as some punters may imagine that it belongs in a martini glass.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Outstanding'

 Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Outstanding'
All my Hibiscus have been through hell during the past few weeks, not appreciating the cold windy weather and thus suffering from leaf scorch and bud drop. And then along comes a few fine sunny days and they buck up and start to send out more flowers. Flowers are getting smaller with the approach of winter and the colours of some are entirely different from the pictures of type, though at least the flowers last for a few days as opposed to just one or two like in the middle of summer. 
There is not much information available about 'Outstanding' as the International cultivar register lists it as being of unknown origin which means it could be an Aussie.The colour also appears more orange than golden but I am not complaining. The bud opens with a delightful crimped edge to the petal and then turns wavy and folds back as the flower opens fully. Ten out of ten.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Boondah'

 Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Boondah'
The name 'Boondah' is an Aboriginal word which refers to the native tree Angophora floribunda found in local bushland of the Sydney suburb of Warriewood where Hibiscus breeder Les Beers produced this classic pink Hibiscus many years ago. It is a hardy prolific variety growing to average height. A sport of it called 'White Wave' was introduced by David and Vicki Ponman and registered in 2002. It retains a slight blush pink in the centre of the bloom.
 Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'White Wave'
The word 'Boondah' was used by Indigenous Health Services in their successful quit smoking campaign 'Butt out Boondah' and a terrific ad showing two young footy players talking about why they don't smoke was shown on TV earlier this year.

Brisbane residents may be familiar with the historic house 'Boondah' in the suburb of Rosalie. It was built in 1907 and designed by architect Richard Gailey who is remembered for the elegant Regatta Hotel in Toowong.
In 1915 Boondah hosted a fete raising money for the 'Wounded Soldiers' Fund' led by Lady Elsie Goold-Adams the wife of Queensland Governor Sir Hamilton Goold-Adams

Lady Elsie Goold-Adams

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Hibiscus in cooler weather

As the weather cools down Hibiscus flowers often change colour slightly and this 'Surfrider' is showing two tone orange/pink most noticable on the top petals which were probably exposed to more sun.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Paspalum dilatatum

 Paspalum dilatatum (Poaceae)
One of my treasured books is Pasture Legumes and Grasses which was published by The Bank of New South Wales in Sydney in June of 1961. It gives the botanical history of this South American native grass which was introduced into Australia in the 1890's by German Australian botanist Baron Sir Ferdinand Jacob Heinrich von Mueller (1825-1896). This "tough as" pasture grass 'provided a foundation for the dairying industries' of both New South Wales and Queensland and of course eventually made its way into the suburban backyards of coastal cities and towns. By mid-twentieth century mischievous boys had learnt that if you tied the flower stalks together you could easily trip up a few of your opponents in a backyard game of footy or cricket.
Present day applications for its use could include as a 'scratch proof' ground cover for chicken pen/'ranch' and it is probably goat grazing proof as well.
The only down side to that suggestion is that the developing flower heads and seed can be affected by ergot fungus which, by reputation, can lead those who have ingested it to imagine they have entered the world of an Heironymus Bosch painting.

Meanwhile, my lawn, which consists of at least 45% Paspalum, needs mowing.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

#FKA Hibiscus species

 Jacob Peter Storck (1836-1893)
Botanist and Nurseryman
Berthold Carl Seemann (1825-1871)
Botanist and Plant Hunter 
'Formerly known as' or 'name unresolved' applies to two interesting Hibiscus species which have an Australian connection and they are Hibiscus storckii and Hibiscus denisonii.
In 1859, German born Jacob Storck was working at the Botanic Gardens in Sydney where he met fellow German Berthold Seemann. The following year, on April 20th they set sail for Fiji on a plant hunting expedition where they discovered a pink flowered Hibiscus growing in the wild. Seemann named it Hibiscus storckii for his companion. Following this initial discovery it was never sighted again but later a Hibiscus which matched the description was found in Sydney and was named Hibiscus denisonii after Sir William Thomas Denison (1804-1871) who was a Governor of New South Wales from 1855-1861. Are they one of the same and where can I get my hands on one.? In the meantime they have been lumped together as just forms of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis.
The video below is an interesting retelling of some adventurous 19th Century garden and plant history.

Jasminum sambac 'Grand Duke of Tuscany'

 Jasminum sambac 'Grand Duke of Tuscany' (Oleaceae)
'Gardenia Jasmine'
How sweet it is...This is the Italian form of the Arabian jasmine which has button-hole perfect white flowers like mini Gardenias which become stained with purple on the outer petals as they age. The flowers are scattered through straggly angular stems embraced with quilted oval leaves and the resulting bush of a metre or more will never win a prize for being neat, clipped and tidy. It makes a good pot plant and table centre piece when in flower and growth is generally quite slow. The flower buds of the single form are used to make jasmine tea especially in the Philippines.
 I bought this one from the Growing Friends Nursery at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney earlier last year.

Plectranthus 'Pygmy'

Plectranthus 'Pygmy' (Lamiaceae)
and when coping with light foot traffic.
A terrific hanging basket, ground cover or vertical garden plant, this Plectranthus ,which is probably a form of P.australis, has been available for a few years now and the only down side I have found to growing it is that it grows too fast, needing constant trimming back in a pot to keep it in check.
Pretty mauve and white flowers appear in autumn on the end of the trailing stems though it is the purple underside of the glossy leaves which are the real highlight. It will grow in full sun or deep shade and can spread a great distance to form a weed suppressing mat. Even if it strays across a path and gets trodden on it keeps on growing. It is a low water use plant and will tolerate some light frost but may need to be replaced in a pot when it 'exhausts' the growing medium as it exhibits tawny or cream leaves from fertilizer stress when this happens.
2017 update: I have stock in 140mm pots. 

Cadel's Day

Fernery at Geelong Botanic Gardens 1890's

Place to be today for the final event in the career of champion cyclist Cadel Evans, that is the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. Congrats to him on a stellar career.

Geelong Botanic Gardens is worth visiting for those with a passion for Salvias and Pelargoniums as the national collections of those plants are held there.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Hosta envy

I can't grow Japanese Hostas or the so called Plantain Lily. They like a cool climate, a shady location with humus rich moist soil and a vigilant protection from snails and slugs. That said I admired these in a plant trade market last week. That means they are available right now in retail Nurseries and Garden Centres

The village 'Crepe Myrtles'

 The Crepe Myrtle trees (Lagerstroemia indica) at the local shopping village have been flowering their heads off for weeks and I particularly like this red/dark pink one. The branches are being weighed down by the amount of flowers. A terrific small tree for gardens and parks.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

black sugarcane, Saccharum officinarum var. purpureum

 Gomphrena 'Fireworks' flowering in front of black sugarcane
Saccharum officinarum var. purpureum (Poaceae)
The distinctive black stems and purple foliage of this ornamental and edible sugarcane make it an attractive addition to the summer garden particularly if planted alongside the large variegated Miscanthus 'Cosmopolitan' or some burgundy leaved orange flowering Canna 'Wyoming'. By the end of summer the stems may have reached 2 metres or more as it loves the heat and constant moisture, something we are getting plenty of if this afternoon's downpour is anything to go by. Large canes can be cut during the summer and used to propagate more plants by cutting the stem into short sections which include a node and laying them horizontally with a bare covering of soil. Having a few back-up plants is handy if you live in a frosty climate as they can be kept under shelter for planting out as the weather warms up.
 Growing an ornamental sugarcane plant provides a link to a part of the agricultural history of Australia while gaining an insight into some of the characters who were pioneers in the industry. While the sugar museum in Mourilyan, Queensland has recorded the oral history of the 20th century pioneers, some of whom were interned as 'enemy aliens' during both Wars, the 19th century records make for interesting reading while second guessing the motives and actions of those involved. Certainly this is the case with the 31 year old John Buhot who, with his wife Jessie, sailed into Brisbane on board the Montmorency in April 1862. He was born and raised in Barbados at the tail end of their sugar industry which was tainted with the dark side of slavery and he probably knew more than anyone in the Colony about establishing and nurturing the fledgling sugar industry here. Two months after his arrival his expertise in making granular sugar was put to the test with the help of engineer and architect Andrew Petrie (1798-1872) Twenty four canes were selected from the patch growing at the Brisbane city 'Botanic Reserve', yielding 7 gallons of juice and 5 pounds of sugar. The crushing of the canes and clarifying of the juice was carried out on the footpath of the Brookes and Foster Ironmongers establishment at 143 Queen Street. No doubt a crowd gathered to watch this process and with much fanfare the clarified liquor was taken back to the gardens for the final process of turning it into granular crystals. For his efforts he was promised a grant of 500 acres of land by a select Parliamentary Committee consisting of Messers. S.W. Griffith, Moreton, Buzzacott and Macrossan. This promise came to nothing though he was no doubt living comfortably by 1874 in his 56 acre Dunellan Estate in what is now the Brisbane suburb of Greenslopes. On his death at age fifty in 1881 his wife reminded the government of their promise but this was dismissed. His falling out with sugar industry associates such as Louis Hope from Ormiston indicates he may have been quite quick tempered or a just a victim of a 'tall poppy' syndrome frustrated by his efforts to get people to take notice of someone born with sugar 'flowing through his veins' from a young age. A hundred years after his initial 'manufacture' experiments, a plaque was unveiled to honour his achievements at the Brisbane City Botanic Garden, with his descendants in attendance. He is also remembered by a row of fig (Ficus) trees he planted in Quay Street Rockhampton and by Buhot street in Geebung.

John Buhot (1831-1881)
Family portrait at Dunellan Estate 1870's

Suagarcane at Brisbane City Botanic Garden

Coreopsis rosea 'Sweet Dreams'

 Coreopsis rosea 'Sweet Dreams' (Asteraceae)
with purple Tradescantia pallida and Kale
This delightful Coreopsis is a bit of a flopper in warm humid climates, as, instead of forming a neat mound of foliage to 45cm topped with raspberry and white daisy flowers, it collapses in the centre with stems akimbo. Purists may reach for a metal hoop to keep it upright and in place but by selecting a few contrasting companions it can be left to its own devices quite successfully. An adjacent stiff stemmed Kale acts as an instant stake and a ground cover of 'purple heart' Tradescantia allows the horizontal stems a good place to rest without impeding on the growth of either, though the Coreopsis prefers even soil moisture for best results while the 'trad' can cope with dry. Flower stems are good for picking and have a light airy appearance in a vase and by cutting, a second flush of flowers is possible if this is done now.
Propagation is by division in winter as it does not set seed.
2017 update: I am currently out of stock.