Saturday, May 20, 2017

Senecio barbertonicus

                     Senecio barbertonicus
I have been growing this succulent sub-shrub for about a year now and it has reached posssibly its mature height and spread of about a metre. The pointed leaves are an unusual colour green, changing from chartreuse in winter to olive green in summer. The daisy like flowers are said to be perfumed though I will have to wait and see as none have been produced as yet. Senecio flowers tend to be fairly insignificant daisies which end their life as balls of fluff at the end of the stems. 
The species name relates to the region of South Africa where it hails from, with its more famous cousin being the Barberton daisy or Gerbera.

Sedum adolphii 'Firestorm'

           Sedum adolphii 'Firestorm'
This Mexican groundcover succulent is putting on a display of intense orange and red leaves at the moment. The other two forms of this Sedum, the more familiar 'Golden' and 'Pat's Pink' are equally appealing but just not quite so bright.
As a trailing plant, leaves are prone to drop off exposing bare stems as it matures. If this is not appealing pruning back closer to the centre of the plant will result in a more compact specimen. New plants can be propagated from these stems or from the leaves themselves if placed on the surface of potting soil.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

My seed packet history

Seed Merchants of yesteryear.........
I have to confess to being something of a gardening hoarder. If by definition that refers to someone who has kept all packets of seed, plant labels, gardening magazines and newspaper clippings, as well as an assortment of rusting no longer in service tools that have ever crossed my path during the past forty years or so. 
Then you wake up one day and ask yourself why am I keeping all this? So before the old seed packets went into the recycle bin I took a few photos of a range from various companies some of whom are no longer trading. 
Not much changes however......
It is impossible for me to walk past a seed rack in a Nursery or Hardware store without picking out a couple of packets of something I would like to try. As well, these days it is seeds saved from cross pollinated prize shrubs which hold my attention. What will the resulting seedling turn into?

These lines from the V Sackville-West poem The Garden convey the wonder and reward of growing plants from seed.
'He is a millionaire for a few pence.
Squandering nature in her gift exceeds
Even her own demands.
Consider not the lily, but her seeds
In membrane tissue packed within the pod
With skill that fools the skill of human hands;
The poppy with her cracking pepper-pot
That spills in ripened moment split asunder;
The foxglove with her shower as fine as snuff.
Consider these with thankfulness and wonder.'

An Autumn Gazania

 This Gazania was in flower a few weeks back which surprised me as they normally do their thing in spring and summer. It is an American bred variety whose name escapes me. What was most unusual about it was the number of flowers which appeared, forming a crown across the entire top of the plant growing in a squat six inch pot. Now if only I had a hundred or so they would have been a sure fire winner in the plant markets. Definitely one to set aside and try to build up the numbers of.

Agave weberi 'Arizona Star'

              Agave weberi 'Arizona Star'
This Agave was in need of a repot which also gave me the opportunity to remove some of the smaller plants growing around its base. Easier said than done when it comes to handling Agaves as it is often difficult not to damage the soft succulent leaves and get spiked in the handling process. The plain green form of this species has always been a slow grower for me so I was surprised at just how quickly this variegated form filled out the pot. Though it looks similar to an A americana the leaves are certainly much thinner and have that 'Grey Nurse' shark skin texture to them. 
This cultivar originates in the United States as the name suggests.
I don't have any plants of it for sale at present but will do at some stage in the future. 

Two Autumn Hibiscus

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Shelley'
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Spring Song'
A couple of iPhone pics in passing and a nice reminder that Hibiscus blooms can be found at almost any time of year. The flower colours are often more distinct now compared to mid summer when they can fade in the strong sun. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Salvia involucrata 'Bethelli'

            Salvia involucrata 'Bethelii'
Some Salvias turn into monsters overnight and before you know it they have covered three metres of ground and have even taken on the likes of a big clump of Miscanthus  'Cosmopolitan'.
Bethelli is doing its thing most succesfully at the moment and is producing loads of bright cerise pink flowers on the ends of long arching branches. It must be all the rain we had a month or so ago that set off on this growth spurt. Once flowering has finished it can be trimmed back and even given a harder prune next spring so the whole process can start again. It's a ten out of ten shrub for quick growth, hardiness and brilliance of flower.

Senecio haworthii

                          Senecio haworthii
Some succulent plants refuse to budge and are very slow growing. This Senecio is one of them and it is probably the reason it is rarely offered for sale except as a collector's plant.
A common name given to it of 'Cocoon Plant' refers to the resemblance the leaves have to silk covered insect pupae cases. This 'silk' has a traditional African use of being collected to use as tinder and it does peel off the leaves revealing a pale green underside (just visible in this photo).
Silver foliage plants can be tricky to keep going during periods of high rainfall or humidity so I have incorporated lots of grit and perlite into the potting mix of this plant to make sure it is free draining.

Plectranthus 'Cape Angel Pink'

Plectranthus 'Cape Angel' with a pale pink Malvaviscus penduliflorus
The 'Cape Angel' Plectranthus, of which there are white, purple and pink flowering forms as well as the dark foliaged 'Mona Lavender' variety, have been around in the garden scene for over ten years now and have become a real highlight of the autumn garden scene. Long flowering and tolerant of drier shade locations they can be grown in pots or garden beds and reach a height of about a metre. Their 'shelf life' is only around five years however as they can become woody with age and lose vigour and they are susceptible to being disfigured by the dreaded flea beetle which damage the foliage leaving it permanently pock marked. I find the use of a granular systemic insecticide breaks the life cycle of this pest if caught when the first sign of damage occurs. Replacement plants are fairly easy to produce by cuttings and the old method of sticking a stem in the ground where required may suffice such is the ease of propagation of this plant
'Cape Angel' a hybrid between two South African species, P. saccatus and P. hilliardiae, the former which is also in flower now has delightful flowers resembling the Jacaranda.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Plectranthus cremnus

                Plectranthus cremnus
I call this the Byron Bay Plectranthus as it is from that part of northern New South Wales. Like a lot of native plants it has failed to cross over into the general garden scene despite having these extraordinary deep marine blue flowers and lovely velvet soft heart shaped leaves. The problem is that it is an untidy plant and a bit of a sprawler. Along the way it sheds its stem leaves so you are left looking at a mass of bare stems with leaves and flowers at the terminal. I have tried tip pruning in the hope of making it more compact but this has not made a difference to the overall appearance. Nevertheless it is a hardy plant and does not have any special water or fertilizer requirements.


Salvia microphylla 'Pink Blush'

                Salvia microphylla 'Pink Blush'
There is nothing blushing about the flower colour of this Salvia. It is a strong dark cyclamen  pink which really stands out in the garden. Like others in the 'microphylla' group, such as the ever popular 'Hot Lips', this is a tough long blooming plant which forms a small rounded shrub to about a metre. If it gets too untidy it can be sheared off almost to ground level and it will return with renewed vigour in no time.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Philodendron 'Gold Bullion'

                     Philodendron 'Gold Bullion'
I have been growing this for about a year now in a pot on the deck in a semi shaded position and noticed this week that some of the leaves are changing colour in response to cooler weather. The leaf veins are developing a delightful pink tinge.
This Philodendron is related to 'Xanadu' and is just as hardy as long as it is given some protection from frost. In a garden situation 'Gold Bullion' could be mass planted under trees as it is able to cope with dry shade and the leaf colour would certainly add brightness and vigour to the garden picture.
It is equally at home as an indoor or balcony plant and its low water requirements means means it can be left unattended for a period of time without looking back.
There does not seem to be any insect or disease problems associated with it either. Ten out of ten. 

Salvia muelleri

               Salvia muelleri 'Royal Purple Sage' 
There is much debate among Salvia enthusiasts as to whether this species is the real deal or an imposter. There is certainly nothing very 'Royal Purple' about the flower colour. 
Native to Mexico and thus one of the dry hardy small twiggy plants, it is certainly one of the bright sparks in an autumn garden. It is a useful filler in front of taller shrubs or half hidden with just the bright magenta purple flowers poking out from surrounding foliage.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Lan Xue Hua

Ceratostigma sp. 'Blue Snow Flower' or Chinese Plumbago
This has to be my flower of the week.
I have forgotten what species this is and I have just one plant of it with only two branches hanging on for dear life which are producing these intensely dark blue flowers. 
This Ceratostigma is dreaming of a better life in a cool temperate garden away from the coast where it can reach its full potential as a hardy small shrub in a sunny or part shade position. The Chinese name 'Lan Xue Hua' means 'Blue Snow Flower' .

Antigonon leptopus, 'Chain-of-Hearts'

             Antigonon leptopus (Polygonaceae)
With all the autumn rain, this climber has taken off and has scrambled over everything in its path. I don't have the heart to cut it back right now as the flowers are a magnet for bees. The flowers grow out from the tendrils at the end of long trailing stems and are the most vivid shade of hot pink. Being in the buckwheat family, the seeds are said to be edible if you fancy going through a long collection and winnowing process. The tuberous roots are also claimed to be edible. This root system allows for cutting back the entire plant to ground level during winter, which I do knowing it will re-shoot as soon as the warm weather returns. Treating it as a summer annual climber seems to be the way to go but I am just hoping nothing has been smothered under all that lush growth.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Hibiscus heterophyllus Variegatus

      Hibiscus heterophyllus 'Variegatus'
The bonus of having a shrub with variegated foliage is that you get year round interest when the flowering time has finished. Variegation is sometimes not a very stable trait however and the appearance of green branches can sometimes indicate that the plant is fighting to caste off its gaudy party frock and return to being a 'plain Jane'. Such is the case here though the variegation is remaining on the uppermost stems and leaves which are vividly marked with white and cream; with this style of variegation being easier on the eye than yellow or gold which can look quite harsh in our Australian sun.
The flowers are produced from a very early stage as the top photo attests and are the typical Hibiscus big one day pale pink to white ones. 
This is a good quick growing screen shrub with a long summer blooming time. The only downside to the native Hibiscus is that the stems may be prickly and the slightly hairy stems and leaves may be a bit irritating to the skin. Given a position in sun or semi shade it may reach a height of three to five metres.
I currently have stock of this in 140 mm pots.

Epiphyllum anguliger, the rick-rack cactus

                    Epiphyllum anguliger
When this flowered a couple of months ago I didn't think to stick my nose up close to indulge in the scent. It was only after reading the perfume being described as 'delicious' by horticulturist Edward Kemp (1910-2012) (Yep he lived to 101) curator of the RBG Edinburgh from 1950 to 1971, that I knew I might now have to wait a whole year to experience that treat.
Kemp's description of this species is in his occasionally off kilter translation from the German of Das praktische Kakteenbuch in Farben by Walther Haage 1961 , 'Cacti and Succulents' Studio Vista 1963.
Apparently 'Epi' cactus have been around since 1689 when they were described by Dutch botanist Herman Boerhaave (1668-1738) at the Hortus Botanicus Leiden. Hence from him epi = upon and phyllum = leaf. 
Growing it gives the usual challenge of finding a sturdy enough, large enough container in which to place it. Branches grow every which way and arch down to ground level presenting that temptation to passing snails which they can hardly resist. While relatively small in root system, the branches carry quite a bit of weight and as the plants require a light free draining orchid style potting mix, it is worth placing some stones around the base of the plant to keep it from being wrenched out of the ground in windy conditions. Though I have grown it successfully from cuttings, many have succumbed to rot from over-wet conditions. So a spot with summer shade and a warm dry bright position over winter would suit it best, with the occasional dose of liquid fertilizer to keep it healthy.

Echeveria 'Icycle'

                     Echeveria x 'Icycle'
A plant breeder with a sense of humour ! For years I called this 'Icicle' assuming that the frosty looking silver leaves were named with that in mind. A cycling enthusiast reminded of Mont Blanc more likely ?
This is a hybrid between Echeveria agavoides and Echeveria leucotricha and grows to about 150mm across. Having as a parent E. agavoides gives it a certain toughness with the ability to withstand the occasional knock if weeding around it or when moving a pot grown specimen; as well as good rainy weather resistance with water not hanging on foliage as it may do on the flatter rosette shaped hybrids, which often results in stem rot and fungal problems.
I remove the one or two offsets and flower stems which appear each year so that the main plant is able to grow large and more sturdy. It forms a handsome and dramatic looking specimen with added appeal when contrasted with some silvery ornamental grasses.
I always have some small plants available for sale. 

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Emerald Isle'

         Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Emerald Isle'
A difficult one to describe the colour of ,Emerald Isle changes during the day from tan to biscuit while offset with a rich ruby centre. When first in flower I imagined that there had to be a greenish tinge to reflect the name but perhaps the grower Peter Van Duyn had his tongue in cheek and the 'Isle' was experiencing drought. This flower glows and really stands out from some distance away. It was bred from 'Tammy Faye' x 'Silver Rose' and registered in 2004. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Salvia azurea 'Grandiflora'

           Salvia azurea 'Grandiflora'
This is in flower now and has graceful tall stems up to a metre in height, clasped with tiny linear leaves and topped with pale lavender blue flowers.
It is a true herbaceous perennial from the American prairies and not your typical shrubby Salvia from say Mexico or South Africa.The prairie type plants often have a deep root system which go off in search of water during dry spells and give it the ability to survive the ground freezing over winter. It also makes for a sturdy plant with stems that stay upright during windy conditions.
This Salvia usually never makes it into the commercial nursery scene but remains readily available from mail order specialists.
From my experience of growing a batch in pots its appearance during spring was typical of many herbaceous plants, awakening after winter by presenting tiny neat shoots followed by a few straggly stems. By the time the weather had warmed up the root system had outgrown the pots and the advancing upright stems were crying out for water and wilting rapidly when not getting enough. Fortunately it did sell well before many had got to that stage to some gardeners or landscapers in the know about this easy care hardy perennial.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Frank Aland'

          Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Frank Aland'
First time in flower for me and it is certainly a very bright vermillion. The flower size is average and the recurving petals give it a slightly ruffled appearance.
It has been around for awhile,1982 when registered, having been bred by Jim Howie from John Massie x Nathan Charles.
At this stage I have no other information on it growth habits.