Sunday, May 26, 2013

Coppiced Eucalypts


A coppiced Eucalyptus haemostoma 
 with lavender and Aloe
In the Bruce Beresford film Don's Party which is set in the fictitious suburb of Westleigh on election night 1969, the character Don Henderson, played wonderfully by the late John Hargreaves, is proud to show off his mini plantation of eucalyptus trees which he was carefully nurturing. Perhaps the film's screenwriter David Williamson was commenting on the fashion of that time for planting trees such as a Sydney Blue gum (Eucalyptus saligna) in the tiny garden of a terrace house in Paddington or Balmain. Many of these trees are still with us in the suburbs and have of course now reached maturity.  Earlier in the week there was a sad evening news story about a huge gum tree which had come crashing down onto the house of some elderly folk with the result being they were left virtually homeless. 
If you still like the inclusion of Eucalyptus species in a home garden, when grown for the foliage alone, the solution is to coppice them when they reach the sapling stage by cutting them off to a short trunk or close to ground level.
I did this earlier this year with a 'scribbly' gum and it has since sent up a flush of young branches. It works better if you have already planted some compatible plants, either native or exotic, close by so that the new foliage fills in the gap in a natural way. I like the transparent quality of the gum leaves and the shadows they cast on each other and the plants around them.
For more on the technical side of coppicing you may be interested in the following article:
 Managing Coppice in Eucalypt Plantations - Department of Environment and Primary Industries

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Courier-Mail'

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Courier-Mail'
The Courier-Mail is published by NewsQueensland formerly Queensland Newspapers and is owned by News Limited.
 This Hibiscus is an outstanding variety with a large ruffled flower of pinky orange with gold edge and lemon flashes at the centre. 
I am currently out of stock.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Kinchen's Yellow'

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Kinchen's Yellow'
Describing the colour yellow usually involves referring to the canary, butter or lemons.
Then there is the musical reference via the song of that name by British band Coldplay or even better, to those Swiss electronica gentleman Dieter Meier and Boris Blank of Yello. Check out their YouTube virtual concert ...You gotta say yes to another excess indeed!
So this yellow Hibiscus is perfection, especially as it has a white eye and radiating white rays across the petals on a large silken textured flower. The foliage which is glossy and dark green makes this an exceptional variety. It is a hardy and is quite bushy in appearance.

Fireworks Gomphrena dazzles at plant trials (08-20-2009)


Gomphrena 'Fireworks', Globe Amaranth
Annual flowers for sale as 'potted colour' have been bred to be compact and neat so as to look good on the bench at the retail Nursery or Garden Centre , as well as to solve 'ease of handling' issues at the growing end before they even get to the market.
Many terrific annual flowers which reach a metre or more in height go largely unnoticed because they are just too difficult to present well in a pot. One such plant which I grew for sale this summer and autumn was Gomphrena 'Fireworks'. 
In a large pot (20cm) it required constant tip pruning to make it appear more bushy as its natural habit is to have fairly sparse growth and few leaves. This is actually a part of its drought beating water saving strategy in the wild. Then comes the flowers which appear on the end of 30 to 45cm brittle stems. When the stems happen to cross over with each other or snag on a neighbouring plant they snap off......... so you are left with half an unsaleable plant looking dreadful. Never mind all this, as growing something new is good fun and meanwhile the 'Fireworks' planted in the garden are still going strong. The papery flower heads are long lived and last well into winter without any trouble. It is also unaffected by plant pests or diseases, so what more can you ask for. Further information can be found at the following:
 Fireworks gomphrena dazzles at plant trials (08-20-2009)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Viola odorata 'Governor Herrick'



Viola odorata 'Governor Herrick'
If you buy a potted violet from a Garden Centre or a bunch of violets from a florist, chances are it will be this variety. It originated in the United States around 1910 and is thought to be a hybrid between V. odorata and the American native species V. sororia. Unlike the common garden violet, which incidentally has a better perfume, this variety has large deep purple flowers on strong stems and glossy deep green leaves. It is also said to be resistant to red spider mite attack though I have never found this to be a problem when growing violets.
It was named for Myron T Herrick (1854-1929) who was a Republican Governor of Ohio from 1904 to 1906 and later was the US Ambassador to France from 1912-1914. He returned to that post in 1921 till his death in 1929. During his tenure as Ambassador he becomes mates with a certain General Joseph-Simon Gallieni (1849-1916). Rose enthusiasts who like Tea roses will be familiar with the wonderful General Gallieni rose of 1899 which is still in cultivation today and is notable for its year round supply of coppery red, white and pink blooms which change colour depending on the season. 
Myron Herrick's biography is available online at the following:
 T. Bentley Mott. Myron Herrick, Friend of France. Foreword. Table of Contents.

Viola odorata 'Rosina'


Viola odorata 'Rosina'
The violets are just starting to come into flower. This sweet smelling pink variety is a selected form of the naturally occurring pink species 'Rosea' and it sometimes goes by the name of the Strawberry violet. The petals appear almost stained with crushed strawberry juice and are quite distinctive and appealing.
According to Australian violet expert Dr Judyth McLeod, this was a popular violet in the 1920's and 1930's for ladies posies. It seems all things from that era are having a bit of a revival of late thanks to the buzz created by the movie The Great Gatsby.
Something "pink" from that time would have to be this song by Pinky Tomlin..'The object of my affection can change my complexion from white to rosy red...'
 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Time for drying herbs

 Summer Savory, Satureja hortensis
 Chillies of all sizes
Today there was a chill westerly wind blowing, a perfect day for gathering the last of the summer annual herbs to dry for use over winter. Herbs such as summer savory and oregano improve in flavour when the flowering stems are dried instead of using them fresh. I particularly like savory as it is quite strong and reminiscent of both thyme and oregano. It is a great addition to a winter bean cassoulet recipe. (Duck fat lurking at the back of the freezer in readiness.) As the flower stems are fine and soft it dries well without the 'twig' element one gets from dried thyme which you have to fish out of the cooking pot. The dried leaves are also easy to crumble and becoming almost like a powder. I was introduced to its use by some Italian gardening mates who say it is the secret ingredient to a good homemade Pizza. I don't hang herbs up to dry as is usually recommended . The stems dry quite well in a basket or even stuffed upright into a vase in the kitchen ,without the water in the vase of course.
As for chillies, many of them start to dry on the bush but I like to pick a mixture and place them in open trays to dry. The tiny ones can be kept whole for a fiery addition to just about anything or thrown into the food processor to use as 'flakes'.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Tammy Faye'

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Tammy Faye'
This flower is huge, like a dinner plate size. I am not sure how to describe the colour. It is flushed with pink and orange and changes colour depending on the light. The flower is heavy, with a crepe de chine texture, so tends to hang its head.
This is an American variety developed by Florida Colors Nursery and I am assuming it was named for the late Christian Evangelist Tammy Faye Messner (1942- 2007) whose husband Jim Bakker was embroiled in all sorts of scandal, but we won't go there....
Grafting onto suitable rootstock is essential to grow this variety well. It grows to about 1.5 metres and develops into a bushy shrub. 


Monday, May 13, 2013

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Double Johnsonii'


Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Double Johnsonii'
A medium apricot coloured bloom with a wine red throat ,so says the description but this flower is remarkably similar to 'D J O'Brien' in appearance. I have a small plant of this one and it is already producing lots of buds so it looks like being a prolific variety. It has a low and bushy habit of growth.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Isobel Beard'

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Isobel Beard'
This tall bushy variety is well known world wide but remains of unknown origin as far as the hybridizer goes. The flower is a two day one and as they are quite large and ruffled, like a Spanish dancer's skirt, they tend to hang down from the branches under the weight of the bloom. The last row of the petals is fused to the staminal column and these fan out sideways which makes for a dramatic appearance.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Wrightii'

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Wrightii'
'Wrighti'i is a hardy old fashioned white flowering variety with a carmine eye and distinctive hot pink stamen, anthers, and stigma pads. These cast a shadow back over the pure white petals adding another dimension to the flowers appearance. Growth on this bush is rapid with the branches being whiplash thin making it ideal to grow against a wall and use as an espalier or plant in a narrow section of garden along a fence or building. It will eventually reach some 3 metres in height in ideal conditions. As the weather cools down, buds appear blush pink before opening to white though some retain a flush of pink around the petal edge.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Double Rhonda D'

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Double Rhonda D'
This tall growing bushy Hibiscus is a sport of Rhonda D which was bred by Geoff Harvey from a pod parent of 'Madang' and a pollen parent of 'Surfrider'. The flower form is unusual in that the petals are fused to the staminal column and appear as separate layers to just below the anthers. The colour is a rich hot pink at the centre with typical 'Surfrider' orange towards the petal edge. Flower size is medium and they stay open for two days in this cooler autumn weather.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Sun-hardy Coleus

  This is a variety which is winter hardy if given a spot in the garden which is sheltered and away from cold drying winds. There are a few like this, though it is the really spectacular ones with very large floppy leaves like stained glass windows which tend to be the least hardy. So I was given a cutting of this one and I grew it on in a small 4 inch pot. It was placed in the corner of the glasshouse amongst some other plants and I hardly gave it a second thought over summer. Then last week as I cleaned up the plants around it over it toppled having grown some one and a half metres tall with thick woody stems and roots squeezed out of the pot and creeping across the floor. Fortunately Coleus are fairly forgiving and I can start the whole process all over again by cutting off the top branches and putting the pieces in a jar of water till they grow new roots. This time I will plant it out in the garden so it can end up looking as good as the one in the photo.
2017 update: I still grow this variety.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Plectranthus argentatus 'Silver Shield'

Plectranthus argentatus 'Silver Shield'
'Silver Shield' was introduced to the garden scene many years ago by the good folk at Ball Horticulture as part of their Nature's Decor range of plants. It is the compact growing form of the Queensland native Plectranthus argentatus which is a sprawling rainforest understory shrub. Like the original species it prefers a fairly warm spot in the garden though it will tolerate light frost. Frost damage of blackened leaves is only a temporary problem of this otherwise hardy sun or shade loving shrub. Usually it grows to around 60 cm in height and it will need an annual prune to keep it in shape. Green looper caterpillars are fond of the leaves and as they hide on the lower leaf surface, the damage is often done before you find the culprit. Snails also can disfigure the leaves.
Flowers which are pale lavender in colour are fairly insignificant and are not really noteworthy as this silver foliage plant stands alone by adding an exciting colour element to any garden or container grown collection of plants.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Plectranthus x hybrida

 Plectranthus x hybrida
This hybrid which was developed in South Africa at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden in Cape Town in the early 2000's and has been distributed worldwide under various names including 'Mona Lavender' and 'Cape Angels'. The most popular variety is this one which has lavender coloured flowers and dark inky stems and under leaves. I grow this and the pink flowering form which is unfortunately a bit wishy-washy and not very striking.

 'Purple Angel' forms a neat shrub to about a metre tall in sun or shade and looks particularly fine when contrasted, as pictured here, with a lighter coloured foliage plant. In this case it is grown under a variegated lemon tree. Hardy, easily grown and good in pots, flowering is mainly in autumn but the flowering season can be extended by shearing off the top to bring on a new flush of flowers. Now for some bad news..... Flea beetles find the leaves very attractive and  they are difficult to spot on the dark leaves, or maybe they just live up to their namesake by jumping out of the way when you approach. Damage does not show up immediately until close observation reveals a network of tiny brown holes and disfigurement.
 A systemic insecticide is needed to kill them effectively as they return for a second go even if you cut the plants back and give them a feed to produce a flush of new growth. Flowers are not affected so perhaps in a garden situation spraying may not be necessary but when growing a batch for the marketplace it is a real curse to find the "crop" spoiled in this way.

Plectranthus barbatus var. grandis


Plectranthus barbatus var. grandis
This is the largest growing Plectranthus species reaching some 3 metres and has the typical furry, velvety leaves of the genus and familiar autumn flowers. The flowers of this one are a clear Wedgwood blue and stand proud of the foliage making quite an impact in the garden. It is a shrub which is fairly versatile as it will grow in sun or shade, will tolerate light frost and is not fussy as to watering or soil condition. It fits the bill for that garden position of dry shade under trees which is always a difficult spot to fill.
That said, Plectranthus need a bit of work to keep them looking good for a long time and it can be said that they have a shelf life of about five years before needing to be replaced. They become woody or straggly after that time. Cuttings strike readily however and large pieces of stem can simply be placed in the ground where you want this shrub to grow.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Acalypha hispida 'Rabo de Gato'


Acalypha hispida (Euphorbia Family)
These days members of the Euphorbia family (Euphorbiaceae) get bad press, especially on the Internet, and are associated with various warnings about poisonings or allergic reactions when gardening with them or when handling the plants. No such "Fun Police" warnings from me however as this plant is worth growing for the unusual tassel like flowers which extend to some 30 cm within the plants foliage. It is a bit of a tropical beauty, originating in Oceania but widely grown as an indoor plant in cooler regions.
As a shrub it can grow up to 2 metres or more but obviously will stay smaller in a pot. For many years I have grown and sold the small version Acalypha reptans which is more of a ground cover plant or hanging basket specimen. It is quite hardy for me and flowers for most of the year so I am hoping the same goes for this species. Only time, and the kind of winter we get, will tell. Watch this space for when plants become available. Propagation is usually by cuttings in the warmer months.
 

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Holley's Pride'

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Holley's Pride'
An Australian cultivar hybridized by Hollingsworth (No other name given) hence the abbreviation to 'Holley'. This is an unusual flower form because it opens flat with the petals arranged in layers like in a cake. The colour is difficult to describe also as it is neither pink nor red so perhaps there is a bit of orange in the parentage.
Its habit of growth is said to be as a tall erect shrub and it is generally regarded as a hardy variety.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Hawaiin Sunset'

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Hawaiin Sunset'
Terrific colour this one, with intense hot pink centre fading to cream around the frilly edges.
It grows as a good bushy shrub of average height and was hybridised by Tony Kuhn. It is a well known variety across the world.
2017 update: I am currently out of stock.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Penstemon barbatus


Penstemon barbatus syn Chelone barbata
Another peerless Penstemon , this one grows more as a wide spreading ground cover and can eventually reach over an area of several square metres. The tall stems of tubular bell shaped scarlet flowers occur both in spring and in autumn in large numbers though they have the unfortunate habit of flopping sideways particularly if there has been strong winds blowing. Even my container grown plants are lop sided and as I brush past them out comes a large contingent of bees which have been foraging amongst the flowers.
When not in flower the foliage makes an attractive mat of shiny grey green leaves as it spreads out from the central plant. As with any perennial ground cover, from time to time you have to get into the centre of the growth to remove a plant which has become un-thrifty or replace a patch which has stopped flowering. However this is a very hardy plant requiring no additional irrigation once established and is tolerant of both cold and heat making it suitable to grow over a range of climates.
It is native to the western regions of the United States. There is apparently a pale pink form of this Penstemon species but I have yet to come across it.