Blue Rhododendrons and a White Waratah

Of the many, many plants vying for attention in the garden at the moment, a few of the more unusual ones have caught my eye.

First up is Rhododendron ‘Blue Admiral’ which a friend gave me as a housewarming gift:

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It’s a pretty thing, and its bloom seems a deeper shade this year. Now, while it isn’t ‘true-blue’, the rich violet-lavender shade is very striking and it is totally different from all of the other evergreen azaleas which always display red or white based flowers.

Last autumn I added another ‘blue’ Rhododendron called ‘Florence Mann’, and it too, lives up to the description of lilac blue blooms (the yellow poppy is a nice counterpoint).

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Of course, there is still the red base in both of these Rhododendrons, as these plants simply don’t possess the blue coloured gene. The violet/lavender/lilac shades can more easily be seen by picking out and isolating the main colour of each:

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But as far as blue goes, these are both quite a good job!


Another more unusual plant in my garden is the White Waratah, Telopea speciosissima x oreades ‘Shady Lady’.

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This is a garden cultivar of the Waratah that is endemic to the Sydney region and the standard colour – a brilliant red – is the NSW floral emblem. I also have a couple of these that I have grown from seed, but they are tiny and yet to flower.

To see Waratahs in the bush is quite amazing, and they are most unlike many Australian plants which are demure and subtle.

Out of flower the shrub – which typically grows to about 2m – has an appearance of a cross between an Oleander and a Rhododendron, and in flower, they are possibly the most showy Australian native, so much so that it is hard to believe these plants thrive in terrible, sandy soil.

I recently had the pleasure of re-visiting a garden I designed about 15 years ago, and was pleased to see the Shady Lady Red Waratah still doing very well…here, it is literally sitting atop a sandstone rock shelf with about 40cms / 16″ of soil placed on top of the boulder. So it is a very resilient plant indeed:

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They are reasonably hardy, and look very pretty when covered in spring snow:

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Waratahs are easy to grow – if you have the right climate and soil.

The soil needs to be really light and free draining; heavy clay will kill it.

But the ideal climate range is very narrow: USDA zone 8a-10a / RHS zone H5-H3. These plants really struggle where summers are hot and humid; thus excluding the south-east of the USA.

This plant would work well in California/PNW coast or the southern areas of the UK/Northwest Spain and coastal France.

Waratahs are an understory plant: here they grow in the light, dappled shade of tall Eucalypts; when planting in the garden, if you haven’t dappled shade (from say, a birch tree, dogwood or hawthorn) then at least give them protection from hot afternoon summer sun.

Removing the spent blooms and cutting back older shrubs by about ¼ after flowering ensures they stay bushy and floriferous. As with all Australian natives, don’t use phosphorous based fertilizers: half-strength seaweed based fertilizers are fine.

Happy Gardening🙂

Happy Coincidence

With the exception of the foundation beds adjacent to the house, I am unfussed about ephemeral flower colour combinations in my own garden. So, I usually just buy a ‘mixed bag’ of seeds or bulbs and enjoy the results, whatever they are….

So it’s nice to see these two matchy-matchy combinations:

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Above: the cool blush of an apple-blossom coloured Rununculus and, well, apple blossom (which belongs to a dwarf Malus domestica ‘Pink Lady’).

Below: an equally matchy-matchy hot combo of mixed Papaver nudicaule and an Exbury-Mollis Azalea ‘Arneson Flame’

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Happy Gardening🙂

Early October in the Garden

To my mind, October is really when the first stirrings of spring start to become that all-out marathon as most shrubs and trees get in on the act to peak between now and November.

At this time of year in the mountains, the weather is incredibly variable: for the last two weeks we had really cold, wet and blustery conditions (including frost, sleet and even hail) which damaged a lot of flowers – this weekend we are forecast to have a nation-wide El-Niño five day heat wave….yuck😦

So I do apologise in advance that the pictured flowers aren’t ‘perfect’, but no garden should be perfect anyway…

The cold period has helped prolong the winter and early spring flowering plants:

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In the shadier areas of the garden, it is still winter. L:R Primula vulgaris ‘High Tea Drumcliff’, Cyclamen & Pulmonaria

Daffodils and early tulips are still giving a nice display, but the petals of the poppy took a beating with the sleet/hail:

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L:R Narcissus; Tulipa sp. & Papaver nudicaule; first spot flowers of Rosa banksiae in the hedgerow.

Azaleas and more Narcissus:

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L:R Osteospermum & Tulipa bokassa ‘Baby Doll’ ; Nepeta and Hyacinthoides hispanica; Anemone nemorosa

But the foul weather has made a lot of the azalea flowers rather tatty:

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The flowers of the red and cerise azaleas look a bit bedraggled with the sleet and frost; a De Caen anemone contrasts with the saturated cerise of the Kurume azalea

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More battered flowers – but the pale pink of Azalea ‘Inga’ seem to do just fine

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Rhododendron ‘Robyn’ is still putting on a great display – this is now its sixth week. Primulas against the flowers of Rhododendron ‘President Roosevelt’ and the beautiful new foliage of Heuchera ‘Purple Palace’


Still, there’s warm colours:

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L:R Erysimum; Eschscholzia californica hybrid; Indica Azalea ‘Goyet’

And cool:

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L:R Dutch Iris; Anemone coronaria ‘De Caen Hollandia’; Viola labradorica

And of course, the big jumble of colours thanks to the ever-popular ‘mixed’ collections that are always offered:

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Lastly, now that parts of the garden are a year old, it has finally started to fill out…don’t get me wrong, because I am using cuttings and tube-stock (plant plugs) there are still plenty of itty-bitty plants everywhere, but for the first time, I can start to appreciate more of what the garden will start to look like as it matures:

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Front Garden looking east this fence will eventually be removed as it isn’t the actual property boundary; Part of the newly-laid terraces in the back garden…this represents only a tiny portion of the garden – there is still much to do!!!!

Happy Gardening🙂

GBFD September – Foliage Returns

With spring flowers stealing the spotlight, it’s nice to see some of the deciduous trees and shrubs leafing out early this year (the dry, sunny weather means they are about 3 weeks ahead of shedule).

The first leaves are fresh and perfect, and this year, after a very cold winter, I don’t have to contend with an onslaught of aphids keen to get a jump on sucking sap before the ladybugs arrive to feast on them🙂

Here is a selection of some of the foliage that has opened in the last week or so:

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L:R Betula pendula ‘Dalecarlica’; Hydrangea quercifolia; Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Monlo’

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Clockwise, L:R Spiraea x bumalda ‘Goldflame’; Picea glauca v. albertiana ‘Conica’ & Santolina chamaecyparissus; Rosa ‘Climbing Iceberg’; Metasequoia glyptostroboides

Japanese Maples are particularly effortless in the upper Blue Mountains.

I was able to purchase a few bare-rooted, cut-leaf, weeping varieties at a very good price during winter…so I couldn’t resist.

Once these start to mature, they lend an amazing sculptural quality to a garden; especially one that is steeply sloping like mine. For now, they are just little sticks, but they will fill out over the next few years!

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L:R Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Ever Red’ ; Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Seiryu’; Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Orangeola’

Linking up with Christina at My Hesperides Garden. Do take a look at the foliage that has captured bloggers attention this month!

Happy Gardening🙂

This Week in the Garden.

Even though it is cold and wet today, we’ve had weeks of sunny and mild weather, meaning spring continues its early march. And it is mostly the bulbs that are early to flower, especially in the sheltered micro-climate of the secret garden area where Tulips are commanding my attention:

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Clockwise L-R: Mixed Tulips (Monet Series); Species Tulip (Tulipa bakerei) ‘Lilac Wonder’; Bokassa Tulips ‘Baby Doll’

Narcissi in the other areas of the garden have finally started to open:

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The Cockatoo has actually left the white Narcissi alone!

Compare this to the Narcissi in the secret garden area which are so far ahead:

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The scent in the secret garden is heavenly on still, sunny days…let me tell you!

The first Freesias have opened:

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Muscari still continue to put on a lovely display. The secret garden area was the first to open, and now the rest of the garden is following suit.

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I love the contrast between the Erysimum and the Muscari:

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Most of the Erysimum in the garden have started blooming and I really adore some of the burnt reds and oranges:

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Pink Muscari are something of a disappointment. They have really only just started opening, and the pink is very subtle (to say the least). As they fill out in the next year or so, they may look impressive, but for now, I’ll reserve judgement. The garden centre did however include an unknown bulb in the mix which is far lovelier than the Muscari!

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Ipheon continue to give a lovely display and have been going since mid winter which is quite incredible.

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Anemone and Ranunculus are also starting to show promise:

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But not everything in the garden is early. In areas which only receive partial sun, my cold climate wins out.

For instance, when I lived in the UK, Cyclamen and Pulmonaria were considered mid-late winter flowers. However here, they have only just started to open, but are delightful none-the-less.

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Happy Gardening!

Wednesday Vignette – Cherries on the Mountain

Mt Fuji it isn’t, and I don’t think that the Japanese will be clamouring to enjoy Hanami under the first cherry blossoms  on one of my hell-strips, but to me the view across the valley is just as lovely on a bright, breezy morning.

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We are looking North: the furthest blue hill that we are looking down on just to the right of the power-pole is the Mt Tomah Botanic Gardens.

If you are ever in the Blue Mountains, the Mt Tomah gardens are spectacular, and it is just a short trip to the magical garden village of Mt Wilson.

Linking up with Anna at Flutter and Hum. Do check out what has caught the eye of other gardeners around the globe this Wednesday!

 

Tableland Mirbelia – a Rare Australian Native

Even though so much in the spring garden is clamouring for attention with big bright showy flowers, I thought I’d focus on a somewhat rare and little-known native plant, Mirbelia platyloboides.

This little Mirbelia is native to elevated areas of Australia’s East Coast on fast-draining sandstone based soils and forms an open groundcover/prostrate shrub. Like so much of the lesser-known flora of the world, it is in decline.

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Close up of Mirbelia platyloboides

The flowers of M. platyloboides are small: less than 15mm / ½” across.

In my garden it grows on an embankment in the ‘bushland’ area that separates the public road from the private easement that allows my neighbours to get to their houses: and gives me the dubious pleasure of owning four ‘hell-strips’.

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Standing on the public road looking back to the easement and house: M. platyloboides is in the foreground

With so much mess to tackle in the main garden I haven’t touched this area since I moved in…although now that an El-Niño is bearing down on Australia (meaning less rain), I won’t do anything with this area yet.

But I am excited at the prospect.

The disconnection from the house and the rest of the garden that the easement brings is very unusual in a smaller garden – and allows me the opportunity to do something totally different from other garden areas around the house – and it will have a lot of Australian natives…but that is for much, much later posts!

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Though M. platyloboides flowers are quite intense up close, at standing height, they are much more subtle

M. platyloboides flowers late winter/early spring and has usually gone over by mid October. Its flowers are similar to the (only slightly) more well known Dillwynias.

This winter it survived a lot of severe frosts (the lowest being -10°C / 14°F as well as over 40 mornings of about -5°C / 23ºF) and many days where the temperature didn’t get above freezing and it was undamaged by all of heavy snowfalls and ice.

It is a member of the tough Fabaceæ family and bears the typical pea-flower. The small leaves have the most wonderful texture similar to reptilian skin.

Mirbelia does not tolerate clay and needs excellent drainage. Coming from cool areas, it dislikes heat and humidity, but could probably survive in the higher suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne or Adelaide as long as it had afternoon shade.

This is a very difficult plant to get hold of, but if you are an Australian native plant enthusiast, seeds can be purchased online. To germinate them, you must replicate a light, quick bushfire (I do this by lightly sowing the seeds in a large clay/terracotta/concrete pot, cover thinly with soil and then a thick layer of Eucalyptus leaves and then set fire to it).

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Close-up of leaves and flowers

But for something quite unusual, it is well worth the effort, and, once planted needs virtually no maintenance apart from an occasional light trim after flowering.

Happy Gardening🙂

Wednesday Vignette – Plaque and Jonquil

This plaque came from my old garden in inner-city Sydney.

Surrounded by 100 year old bricks, render and strict Victorian-era order, it worked well there….but in this garden….not quite so well.

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Except for a month in spring….I rather like how the ruffles on the Jonquil reference the details of the garden plaque…perhaps I just haven’t found the right spot for the plaque yet.

It does, however have sentimental value. It came from a parapet atop the very first house I bought which, when I sold it, was to be raised for duplexes, so I salvaged some of the old architectural details and have kept this one ever since.

Linking in with Anna over at Flutter & Hum : do check out what has caught the eye of other bloggers around the globe