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.