Sunday, November 14, 2021

Agave isthmensis


 Agave isthmensis: Dwarf Butterfly Agave

Having a shadowy zigzag imprint on its powdery grey leaves gives this small 30cm Agave a distinctive look. It is easy to grow requiring little water and though slow growing, there are few congested "pups" around the base to detract from the neat rosette shape.
Hardy to -3C and worth considering for decorative container growing or semi shaded garden position under trees. 


Thursday, November 4, 2021

Reseda odorata 'Machet Ruben' (Mignonette)

 Reseda odorata 'Machet Ruben'

(Resedaceae) 

I have not grown this spring flowering annual for a number of years and came across it in a seed catalogue while ordering summer vegetables.  August here is the month when you can start seeds indoors in a bright location. Germination was quick and they were ready for potting on in no time. While most gardening books say it can be difficult to transplant into garden beds, I had success with placing three or four seedlings close together in 175 mm pots which was to be their flowering 'home'.

 I placed the pots along a low wall in full sun to help kickstart them during the normal cold early  spring days. Growth was slow at first but they responded to some liquid fertilizer and they soon became bushy plants to about 30cm with flower spikes appearing in late September at which time I moved the pots to bench height to better enjoy the sweet perfume released from the flower spikes in late afternoon. You don't have to stick your nose up close either as the fragrance is in the air from a distance away. It is described as ambrosial so no wonder the French in the southern perfume industry region called this plant Mignonette or 'little darling'. 

Bill Simpson in his book Growing Annuals (Kangaroo Press 1988) described the flower as having orange red bell clapper stamens protruding like grapes from insignificant white-yellow 6mm wide flowers accompanied by smooth spoon shaped plain green leaves. The leaves wilt quite quickly on hot days or when the plants are lacking water so the ideal location is in a semi shaded garden position with moisture retentive soil.

It is a North African plant in origin and it must have caught the eye of 19th Century naturalist Charles Darwin who used it to study self-fertilized plants published as The effects of cross and self fertilization in the vegetable kingdom.

Mignonette is not showy but as perfumed flowers go it is up there with the best.





Thursday, October 21, 2021

Trichocereus bridgesii 'Monstrose'

Trichocereus bridgesii 'Monstrouse'
Given the common name in German Frauengluck or Women's Joy this small compact growing cactus has been in cultivation for many years and that common name is always a source of amusement for those who view the smooth cylindrical segments with their distinctive cleft for the first time. "Oh I see...."
it was formally known as Echinopsis lageniformis and may be given a further taxonomic shift given the current advances in plant molecular DNA.
The lower sections of this cactus have quite long spines which make repotting or weeding close by a minor problem but it is otherwise very hardy and decorative.
I grow some in larger pots so it has more room to show off its interesting form.



Sunday, April 1, 2018

Finding the perfect chilli

Last year I saved seed from what I thought was the perfect chilli. By that I mean one which has the right amount of heat for my taste and one which can be used either whole and green in say a vegetable curry or chopped and red in sauces and marinades.
The bonus with this one is it dries well even on the bush and produces enough for year round use.
Don't know what variety or origin this one is but would be interested to know.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'George Harwood'


Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'George Harwood'
photo by Arthur Gulliver (Your Garden magazine)
This full page colour photo of 'George Harwood' appeared in the second edition of the book Garden Trees and Shrubs in Australia  by Harold Sargeant (Macmillan of Australia 1968) 
The first edition of this book was published in 1951 with the title including Asia as in Australasia. ( Colorgravure Publications )
 Described as 'a new pink variety' for Melbourne gardens, it had made its way south from Sydney where it made its first appearance way back in 1902 having been bred by the George Harwood who at the time was a propagator, overseer and superintendent at the Royal Botanic Gardens. His tenure there was from 1883 to 1914. 
Of note is the watercolour painting of it now in the Mitchell Library (State Library of NSW) by Essex born Margaret Flockton who would go on to be described as 'the most accomplished botanical artist in NSW'. Her legacy is ongoing and today she inspires a new generation to pursue botanical illustration.

So where can this Hibiscus be found today?
While not available commercially it is probably still around in an old garden as Hibiscus are great survivors always flowering despite years of drought and neglect.
Recently I thought I might have found it in a 1960's/1970's planted garden growing just a metre away from a huge peppermint gumtree which was probably planted at the same time.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'George Harwood' ??
I will leave the question marks in place until someone can confirm my naming.


Margaret Lilian Flockton (1861-1953)
Botanical Artist

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Epipremnum aureum 'Frosty'


'Devil's Ivy' Frosty
Epipremnum aureum 'Frosty'
I have been growing this white variegated form of Devil's Ivy for several years now and find it more appealing than the yellow/gold form which has much larger leaves. I have several plants of it growing in different positions both indoors and out and at this time of year it is looking at its best, responding well to warm humid days.
The leaves are somewhat stiff in appearance and when unblemished it could be said the whole plants looks plastic or artificial. Perfect! Of course it does not stay that way for long and during winter many leaves develop burnt edges or drop off as a response to cold.
This is when the plant needs a rest, given minimal water and kept in a warm sheltered location, preferably out of sight as the temptation to bin a tired looking plant may overtake you.

Frosty......

Cephalophyllum sp


Cephalophyllum sp
This small South African "pigface" family succulent came to me with a wrong name and after a bit of searching I came across a good match as to what it might be.
I used 'The Timber Press Guide to Succulent Plants of the World' by Fred Dortort as reference.
Pinning it down to a species is proving more difficult and at the moment it is a toss up between alstonii, stayneri or framesii. 
There are about 30 species in the Genus and they display a wide range of jewel like flower colours. Growth occurs mainly in winter, no doubt as a response to rainfall.
The parent plant has spread to about 30 cm across and is quite decorative even when not if flower as the leaves resemble small grey green birthday candles with bright pink tips.
These flowers came out during the last few days and I like the way they stand above the leaves on short stems.