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. 

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Mystic Hue'

          Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Mystic Hue' 
I have been growing this Hibiscus for a couple of years now and am very impressed with both the flower colour and the compact growth habit. How to describe the colour?..probably lavender blue with pink margins though this will vary depending on time of day or month.
For example the first photo appears more pink and was taken early one morning.
It is a small flowered Australian variety bred by Allan McMullen from 'Elena Mia' x 'Blue Toy'.
I hope to be able to propagate from this one when it gets a little larger. 


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue'

             Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue'
This is said to be a smaller growing cultivar of the species which I have written about before as being a bit of a garden thug spreading far and wide with a thick tuberous root system.
I am keeping it in a large pot where it can be more easily managed. That said it would make a great addition to a garden position in the light shade of trees where shrubs may be difficult to establish as it is not fussed as to soil and water requirements. 

Salvia 'Amistad', The Friendship Sage

                                  Salvia 'Amistad'
This is a very dark purple Salvia which I planted last year in front of a giant orange sun loving Bromeliad Aechmea blanchetiana. I am hoping for a good colour contrast when 'Amistad reaches the 2 metres it is said to. So far it is a well behaved small shrub with bright green foliage and masses of flowers. No damage to the branches from nectar feeding birds either.
The story goes that this plant was found in a market in Argentina and released to the garden scene in Australia in 2013. Plant Breeders Rights apply to this plant.

Salvia 'Black Knight'

     Salvia 'Black Knight' above Salvia leucantha
This Salvia is thought to be a hybrid of S. guaranitica x S. gesneriiflora and has been on the garden scene for a number of years.
It forms a scruffy shrub to just under two metres high with flowers so dark you have to be up close to really notice them. From a distance they appear as a dark smudge above pale green foliage. That said it is a hardy shrub which requires no special attention to do well. Perhaps with some judicious pruning in spring a well shaped shrub could be achieved.
The birds love it !

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Abelia x grandiflora

                   Abelia x grandiflora
 Abelia has come to my notice because it is flowering so late this year. Normally it is covered in sweetly scented flowers at the end of January but this year it waited for some good soaking rain to perform at its best, though the rain has diminished the scent somewhat. I really like Abelia because it behaves as a near perfect shrub. Undemanding as to growing conditions it eventually forms a naturally rounded shaped bush to 2 metres, despite an infancy of throwing out lax and arching branches. Lightly pruned specimens may resemble a shaggy plum pudding with the bunches of flowers loosely covering the end of stems. 
I leave mine unpruned and growing up close to some big Yuccas which are noted for their extensive hungry root system. Abelia is not fazed by this competition. There are some interesting forms of this shrub such as the dwarf 'Nana', one with variegated foliage and a burnished leaf one called 'Keat's Gold'.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Jasminum officinale, 'Poets Jasmine'

       Jasminum officinale, 'Poet's Jasmine'
This has always been my favourite species of Jasmine and it took me awhile to locate a plant of it to start propagating it again as it has almost disappeared from the nursery trade. A gardening friend from the Sydney suburb of Paddington had it growing along a wall mixed in with Jasminum nitidum and old roses. She also showed me where a giant plant of it was cascading over a local lane way wall so perhaps it is an inner urban plant of yesteryear.
Overall it is an untidy lax shrub and not strictly a climber as it rambles and scrambles its way over things flowering almost non-stop in a mild frost free climate. Training it as a single trunked specimen against a sturdy metal post is often the way I have seen it growing in the gardens of Italian-Australians where it holds special significance. In Italy the flowers were entwined with orange blossom to form a bridal headdress assuring the bride of constancy and love; a tradition derived from the country expression of 'she who is worthy of being decorated in jasmine is rich enough for any husband'.
 I currently have plants available in 100mm / 4 inch pots at $7.50.

Hibiscus trionum, Bladder Ketmia

         Hibiscus trionum,  Bladder Ketmia
It is always interesting when a new weed makes an appearance in the garden as you wonder not only as to how it got there but also its origins in the plant world.
Apparently this is a fairly widespread summer annual weed occurring along much of the mainland Australian coastline as well as inland. It is of Middle Eastern origin but is widespread in cultivated land throughout America and parts of Europe (eastern Spain). 
I think this came from a bird dropped seed or from potting soil of a newly planted adjacent Lilly-Pilly. Either way it has a fairly innocuous presence as it is only about 17cm high and quite fragile in appearance. The pastel coloured flowers are quite pretty and give rise to the common name of 'flower-of-an-hour', while the seed pods are bladder or balloon shaped.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Epiphyllum hybrid 'Ivan the Terrible'

 Epiphyllum hybrid 'Ivan the Terrible'

Not wishing to become a collector of these beauties I have settled for growing just a few of the hybrids as well as some of the species. When this one flowered a couple of months ago I was amazed how big the flower was and how luminescent it appeared to be having both bright red and fuchsia pink petals. While very easy to care for and undemanding as to watering, I am forever lifting up the pots which topple over in the slightest breeze. The whole plant becomes quite top heavy with its long arching branches and needs a strong support on which to grow. Resting against a tree trunk or placing them in a giant wire hanging basket may be the solution to positioning them in the garden. They prefer a spot which is semi shaded though I have seem them flower in full shade and even full sun though yellowing leaves are an indication of too bright a light.
 Mention should also be made of snails which are very attracted to the fleshy leaves and stems and their damage is noticeable for a long while afterwards.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Salvia greggii 'Crimson and Black'

               Salvia greggii 'Crimson and Black'
The greggii salvias grow from a central stem with branches topped with flowers emerging from quite low down. Herein lies a problem, as some of the bigger nectar feeding birds such as Wattle birds are liable to snap off the somewhat brittle stems during their quest for food. 
Several weeks ago I sheared off all the flowers from this batch to stop the bird damage but to no avail as the flowers reappeared in no time.
This crimson and black flowered variety is quite a striking colour combination and really stands out in a garden. The shrub grows to about 60cm and is hardy over a range of conditions and climates.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Bowen Special'

       Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Bowen Special'
A new one for me this year and flowering for the first time and it certainly is a beautiful shade of pale pink. As it is an unregistered cultivar I have no information as to its origin.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Acalypha wilkesiana cv.

             Acalypha wilkesiana cv. (Euphorbiaceae)
This is a new one for me which I bought last week and as it came unlabelled I could take a wild guess and say this is the variety 'Sunset Hue' which it matches from photos I have looked at.
As coloured foliage plants go Acalyphas are more hardy than Crotons for growing outside the sub-tropic regions. Being in the Euphorbia family they have all the requirements for adapting to low water and less favourable growing conditions including windy salt spray coastal ones. 
This one adds to my small collection of varieties some of which I will have available for sale in the near future. 

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Cheer Leader'

            Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Cheer Leader'
This is a new variety for me and a first time flower. It is not a registered cultivar so I have no information as to its background.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Cooperi' var. 'Rose Flake'

     Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Cooperi' 'Rose Flake'
Flushed with nearly all pink leaves and the odd small red flower, this Hibiscus is at its best right now. However as this is a heat loving variety, a true tropical, it loses form as soon as the weather cools down. Last winter it became almost leafless and took awhile to regain vigour in the warmer months. As such I have yet to get enough suitable growth from which to take cuttings and propagate new plants of it. I might have to bring it indoors over winter this year.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Rudbeckia hirta 'Cherry Brandy'

 Rudbeckia hirta 'Cherry Brandy' with a Gomphrena doing a 'photo-bomb'
As a summer annual which lingers on into autumn courtesy of decorative seed heads, Rudbeckias are hard to beat.
I had some seed left over of this variety after growing a batch years ago so thought I should give it another try. Very viable seeds resulted in a huge batch of seedlings which were fairly easy to handle as they are characterized by tough raspy leaves and a strong root system.
Individual plants hug the ground for awhile and their broad leaves can provide shelter for snails so that is something to watch out for when growing them. By mid summer a tall flower stem starts to appear topped by many individual buds. The strong stem makes them ideal as a cut flower but it also gives them an ability to withstand any stormy windy days. The flowers were not affected by extremes of heat and the strong root system these plants have meant that they were able to seek out moisture well below the soil surface.
I look forward to trying some of the other colour forms of this hardy annual in years to come.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Edith Parsons'

              Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Edith Parsons'
This is a fairly old variety which originated from India and is noteworthy for the luminous semi-double chrome yellow flowers which revel a red centre on closer inspection.

Aloe cooperi

                             Aloe cooperi
I have been waiting years for this so called 'Grass Aloe' to flower, so long in fact I have forgotten from where or from whom I originally got it.
It is a South African species discovered by British plant hunter and naturalist William Burchell (1781-1863) around 1815 though it was named for professional plant collector Thomas Cooper who rediscovered it later.
It grows in both dry rocky locations as well as wet marshy ones in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga so in a garden situation it needs friable soil with some moisture. Perhaps this water requirement is the reason it took so long to flower for me as I had assumed it was not requiring such conditions.
The distinctive two ranked V shaped leaves are white-spotted near the base and the cone shaped inflorescence is salmon pink with individual flowers being green tipped.
This is a cold tolerant Aloe so should be tolerant of some frost.
I am hoping this will set seed as it is mostly grows in solitary rather than clump forming way.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'New Idea'

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'New Idea'
This is a 1990's Australian Hibiscus of Greg and Julie Lindsay (Hibiscus Paradise Nursery) from 'Pro Legato' x 'Harvest Moon'.
The carmine red flowers are occasionally splashed with white and they last for 2 to 3 days.
It needs to be grafted for best growth.
I currently don't have any stock of it available  

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Queensland Arrowroot/Achira, Canna edulis

Queensland Arrowroot or Achira: Canna edulis

You know when a plant has reached a peak of popularity when you starting finding discarded specimens at the rubbish tip. This is where I picked up a clump of Queensland Arrowroot, on the ground as a thick tangle of rhizomes, roots and tatty large leaves. In recent years it has been made popular by Permaculture gardeners who want to grow a starchy root vegetable or quick growing screen plant/windbreak or source of leaves to use as mulch. It is even tolerant of a light frost and is certainly ok in a boggy poorly drained site which is where I planted three small pieces of plant. Off it went like a rocket over summer and is now a thick mass of stems about 2.5 metres tall. I am not sure whether I want to harvest it and extract the starch. Arrowroot was always included in the 'Invalid Cooking' section of cookbooks in Australia, in between such delights as 'toast water' and 'gruel'. My copy of The Golden Wattle Cookbook, published as late as 1976, has the recipe for 'Milk Arrowroot' straight after lemonade. I know which I would prefer. If you grew up in Queensland you may even remember having a slice of 'sand cake' for afternoon tea which is made using arrowroot in equal quantities with butter and sugar plus 4 eggs. Cake was better than being offered a plain Arnott's Milk Arrowroot biscuit.

Australia's favourite biscuits

From around the 1870's onwards, Queensland arrowroot was grown commercially in the Pimpama district which is about 45 km south of Brisbane.

Kanaka slave labour was used to harvest rhizomes of arrowroot until the practise of 'blackbirding' was outlawed after Federation.