A Stormy Week in the Garden

Summer’s arrived with a week of terrible storms in the Sydney area.

Here in the mountains, this pattern forms a daily ritual: bright, humid mornings that fuel the growth of giant cumulonimbus clouds. These clouds rumble incessantly from early lunch-time, obscuring the sky as they build in strength and spew torrents of rain before barrelling down either side of the mountain towards sea-level. There, the rising heat of the coast or inland plain only increases the storm’s ferocity: they become electrically charged monsters unleashing thousands of lightning strikes.

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It starts as this at around 10am….

 …lunchtime…

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….lunchtime darkness and pelting rain…

 …by late afternoon ends up as this in Sydney…

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Timeline Image of Afternoon Storms in Sydney –  courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald

And then it continues again all night!

We’ve clocked over 20cm/8″ of rain in 7 days and all of it Nitrogen-rich; refreshing the garden. In some cases, spring flowering plants have had a second flush, and in other, summer plants are blooming very early.

The Weeping Bottlebrush (Callistemon viminalis – hardy to USDA zone 8 if given a sheltered spot) has started its summer display very early:

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Weeping Bottlebrush, Rhododendron and Deodar

Here it can be seen next to Rhododendron ponticum: it’s unusual to see these flower at the same time. Hopefully it should continue to produce flowers between now and April.

Incidentally, I love the golden flush of the new growth on the Himalayan Cedar, Cedrus deodara ‘Aurea’, which features in every one of the pictures of my house. It is one of three large golden varieties of conifer planted on the property when the house was built- I am grateful for the afternoon shade it provides (even if the needles are a pain to clear from the gutters)!

The climbing rose, ‘Pierre de Ronsard’ is weighed down by heavy blooms. Though these have lost their pink blush that featured in my early spring post:

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Climbing Rose ‘Pierre de Ronsard’

It isn’t of concern, as the cream is equally delightful.

The rain and storms have meant some of the azaleas have already had a second flush. This is a White Indica in front of Rhododendron ‘President Roosevelt’:

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Indica Azalea with another flush of flowers

While Azaleas spot flowering isn’t unusual, you can see how the combination of summer sun/rain have burnt the edges of the petals.

A little Aquilegia vulgaris ‘White Barlow’ makes a dainty combination with the Oak-leaf Hydrangea and Osteospermum ‘Lemon Power’

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Hydrangea, Columbine and African Daisy

This is but a fleeting combination. Soon the Aquilegia and Osteospermum will go over and the foxglove will open in shades of strawberry (which will still work with the hydrangea). Then of course, in seasons to come, the Oak-leaf hydrangea will fill this entire space and obscure the fence line.

Lastly, an update showing some of the cuttings taken last summer-winter that have started to perform.

This one is Kolkwitzia amabilis.

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Chinese Beauty Bush cutting and Japanese Maple seedling

Known as the Chinese Beauty Bush, this will be a spectacularly graceful, arching shrub in a few years’ time:

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Mature Chinese Beauty Bush – image courtesy Google

Deutzia x hybrida ‘Magicien’ has also flowered and is putting on strong growth since being struck last summer. Here it is given some afternoon shade by the Lupins which is actually beneficial while the cutting establishes itself. As I have light free draining soil, I often place cuttings straight into the ground to root:

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Deutzia Magicien

I love the dual pink and white stripes!

And lastly, the cutting of the Tree Dahlia, Dahlia Imperialis, I took in June has started to give some reasonable growth. It was taller a week ago, but sadly the strong central leader received tip-pruning courtesy of a slug 😦

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Tree Dahlia

The slug’s feast won’t do lasting damage. Even though plant is a quick grower and this is a warm, sheltered spot in front of a sunny fence, I’m not expecting any flowers until autumn 2016…so that’s forward planning!

Happy Gardening 🙂

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12 thoughts on “A Stormy Week in the Garden

  1. Those are some clouds and what an amazing lightning photo – did you try to get one yourself? I always miss the flashes. I guess leaving the shutter open is the only way to do it. Interesting to see how your rhododendron flowers have burnt. I know we are not supposed to water in the sunshine, but I don’t think our sun is actually hot enough to cause that to happen. Well I have never seen it anyway. Your cuttings are all doing really well. It is not something I have done a lot of, but I have tried some this year of my Erysimums.

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    • I’m like you – the lightning is too fast for me! Here the sun in summer is frightfully strong (think Southern Greece/Spain), so wet petals and leaves usually get burnt fairly quickly especially if there is no wind. I love taking cuttings….in a few weeks I’ll start going for evening walks with plastic bags and secateurs….snipping anything and everything that takes my fancy 🙂

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  2. Looking great! I’ve never tried cuttings, but just might have to give it a try. Not sure I would see the same success here, especially if I planted directly in the ground. We’ve just returned from the states where we enjoyed a wonderful time. Our Finnish weather has been crazy as usual, snow and thaw, snow and thaw. My recently planted bulbs think it’s springtime and have 4-5cm growth poking through the soil! good grief they are gonna get a big surprise when it freezes up for real! 😦

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    • Cuttings are so easy – especially semi-hardwood cuttings in summer. For ones that might be cold tender, I strike them in pots under the veranda, even my decorative pot-plants have little cuttings striking in them 🙂 Hope you had a great time in the US!

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    • It is indeed an Australian native – the wattlebirds love to feed on the nectar of the flowers and the tree is covered in bees and wasps. It is one of the few small trees that flower all summer, which is always welcome!

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  3. It’s a fantastic combination of plant material, not sure I have ever seen Deodar Cedar and Weeping Bottlebrush growing in the same area-gardening nirvana. The lighting is a bit scary, but what a fantastic photo.

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    • My area is gardening nirvana! The Deodar does beautifully, but the bottlebrush is not quite as happy – my climate is a little too cool for it to really thrive, as this tree is more suited to warm temperate/subtropical climates (which is why the previous owners probably planted it next to the house and in the shelter of other tall shrubs). I have to keep cutting the top growth off in Spring as it always gets cut back by winter ice

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  4. Well, I feel better now. Bottlebrush will thrive here, but is considered an invasive exotic – so I don’t have any.
    Do you have Mrs. G. G. Gerbing Indica Azaleas? It looks like the picture. These are Southern standbys, a slightly fragrant white Indica. I don’t know why, but It seems weird to me that is in Australia?!

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    • They’ve made quite a few more sterile varieties of the bottlebrush which are lovely – compact, different colours, etc. But I suspect that, like here, once a plant is tainted with the ‘invasive weed’ brush that no-one would want any of its cultivars.
      The azaleas are ‘Alba Magnifica’ but they look insanely similar to ‘Mrs G.G. Gerbing’. While here in the mountains it’s much cooler, here in South East Australia, we grow a lot of Southern US plants – Most parts of Sydney have a climate very similar to Charleston, SC which makes it just perfect for all of the southern plants 🙂

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