Late Summer draws to a close

In the final days of summer, there’s still a huge amount flowering, but I’ll try to show plants that I haven’t already posted pictures of this season, so as not to bore you, my dear readers 🙂

Even though last winter was one of the mildest on record, the frost still managed to knock many of the so-called ‘hardy’ Salvias about, so I decided to give Agastache a trial and planted a couple of little plugs in late spring.

They have come along very nicely. These are far more cold-tolerant than most of the readily available Salvias,  and so far the Agastache have been almost as long flowering & dry-tolerant as, and sharing the lovely colours and tubular inflorescences of, their better-known cousins. This makes them a great complement in the exposed areas of the garden.

Not that these similarities should be a surprise: both Agastache & Salvia belong to the massive Lamiaceæ (Mint) family.

The first one is Agastache aurantiaca ‘Salmon Pink’:

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Agastache aurantiaca ‘Salmon Pink’

The two-tone, hot coloured flowers just epitomise the summer garden. The next Agastache is more typical of the habit normally seen of the garden Hyssops; this one being the ‘Blue Fortune’ cultivar of Agastache rugosa x fœniculum:

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Agastache rugosa x fœniculum ‘Blue Fortune’

I’ll certainly be searching out many more of these plants as they have been really good value this summer.


But some of the other Salvias have really started to fill out. Salvia x microphylla ‘Hot Lips’, while not much to look at yet, has put on a fair bit of growth. It should fill out to be dense and bushy. This is a reasonably cold-tolerant Salvia; taking at least -15°C/8°F:

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Salvia x microphylla ‘Hot Lips’

Another little Salvia that has flowered is S. greggii ‘Pink Raspberry Royal’:

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Salvia greggii ‘Pink Raspberry Royal’

This one is not as cold tolerant as S. microphylla, so it is in a north-facing enjoying all day sun and radiant warmth from the brickwork.


Moving away from hardy to quite tender is Limonium perezzi (otherwise known as Statice). This is in a protected area; it survived last winter and has given the first flowers:

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Limonium perezzii

Typically, this plant can’t stand frosts lower than about -7°C/20°F – here it is growing in the otherwise difficult shelter of a few large Eucalypts and the Macrocarpa Cypress, so it should be fine, and will hopefully spread. If you are in a mild area, this is a pretty good plant for the dry, dappled shade.


The Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pink Diamond’ shown in an earlier post is now living up to its name with glorious two-toned bracts:

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Pink Diamond

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Pink Diamond


Cuttings of the ivy-leaf pelargonium/geranium (Pelargonium peltatum) have flowered. This was taken from a clients’ garden, so I’m unsure of the cultivar.

In a warm spot, P. peltatum are amongst the most trouble-free Pelargoniums, being largely untroubled by diseases or humidity which makes them suitable in mild dry climates as well as the humid subtropical ones. The cuttings I used were almost 30cm/10″ long, pushed straight into the ground, which shows just how easily they strike.

P. peltatum is very frost tender (taking only a few degrees below freezing) so in my garden it is growing next to the lemon tree and passionfruit vine under the permanent warmth and protection of the polycarbonate roof which acts like a giant cold-frame.

It has a trailing habit and will be treated like a climber/groundcover in this area. I love the white flower and glorious leaf-shape.

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Pelargonium peltatum


The Convolvulus sabatius plug that I planted in April last year and thought was actually on a sabbatical, has finally given one flower. I can add this to a growing list of plants that others find easy to grow but struggle in my cool summers 😉

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Convolvulus sabatius – back from sabbatical (just)


But I haven’t lost hope – these little Cosmos that I whinged about at the start of February have gone from this:

To this:

Still variable, but much, much better 🙂


I moved the little Dianthus away from a similar, but to my mind, clashingly hued Pelargonium…it is doing very well:

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Dianthus cv.


The last two pieces of the Achillea millefolium have finally flowered in shades of pink:


In the foreground is a recent purchase, Ptilotus exaltatus ‘Joey’. This somewhat tender perennial is a cultivar of an Australian plant whose natural habitat is in semi-desert areas. It’s low-growing:, never attaining more than about 30cm/12″, so very useful at the front of the border.

It will tolerate cold nights (about -10°C/14°F) but I’m not sure how it will go in my climate where the days often fail to get above freezing after heavy frost, so this winter will be the test. I imagine in climates like California or Southern Spain, this plant would romp away effortlessly.

It is relatively new-ish on the garden scene (it was used in a few gardens at last years’ Chelsea show): but the flowers are so unique – they look as though they belong in a Victorian era parlour!

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Ptilotus exaltatus ‘Joey’


Helenium ‘Riverton Beauty’ announces the transition from summer to autumn with vibrant yellows:

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Helenium ‘Riverton Beauty’

It’s a stunner, but at about 1.6m/5′ tall, it needs staking and protection from strong wind. The bees love it, and it’s nice not to have to bend down to photograph flowers!

With the shorter days of late summer, the Osteospermums are getting ready to burst into prolific flower. This is one of the first I planted, ‘Cinnamon Trade Winds’ :

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Lastly, to show I can actually grow things in pots without giving the entire space over to cuttings, a Begonia tuberhybrida has flowered. These are notoriously tricky to grow as they need summer warmth, but not heat, with mild nights above 15°C, filtered light but not shade and moist but not damp, soil. Here, I have the pot sitting on the top of the hot-water heater to ensure that it survives my cool summer nights.

Once the leaves die back in autumn, the tuber needs to be lifted and stored in sawdust over the winter period away from frost.

Fiddly, but look at these flowers:

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Begonia Tuberhybrida ‘Old Gold’ and a grumpy garden gnome

Happy Gardening 🙂

       

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49 thoughts on “Late Summer draws to a close

  1. Your perennials look great! Gardening is a perennial experiment! I have never seen any Ptilotus til today.
    I think we were talking about Eucalyptus? I realized there are some Australian Eucalyptus trees in the parking lot of my grocery store – I just hadn’t realized what they were.

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    • The Pelargonium is lovely, isn’t it? I put in about 5 cuttings – all have struck – to grow up the porch posts. I’m treating the agastache like super cold-hardy salvias. I’m pretty sure they will live up to the challenge, given they come from the North Central and North East of the US and Asia, all of which is buried in endless snow and ice!

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  2. Hi Matt, in what type of soil do you garden? I love Agastache but they don’t appreciate my heavy soil. Salvia do very well here – just got Salvia ‘Nachtvlinder’ last year, gorgeous colour. I always grow cosmos…just adorable but one needs to dead-head regularly to promote flowering. Never thought you’d struggle with cold winters over there. Have a lovely Indian summer 🙂

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    • Hi Annette – the soil is very sandy and rocky so salvias and agastaches do very well. But many salvias sold in Australia aren’t particularly cold tolerant and they struggle when have days below zero. Salvia ‘Nachtvlinder’ sounds beautiful (I did a quick internet search) it has such a magnificent shade of royal purple!

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    • As common as hot lips is, I’m still partial to its two toned happy colours. They are easy to grow from cuttings and I have just started a few more so that I can have some back-up plants if the winter is too frosty and the main one dies as well as just adding a few more around the garden to avoid the one of each syndrome 🙂

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    • Summer ended very nice here, February was right on average with a monthly mean of 62F, blissful and not hot at all. You guys deserve some warmth after such a brutal late winter….

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  3. I couldn’t grow Ptilotus no matter what I did so kudos to you on your success. I just looked up Agastache and am going to have to start populating my garden with both salvias and Agastache. We have ‘hot lips’ growing on in the garden which goes to show what a hardy little plant it is as the area it grows in never gets watered and not much else survives there. They are amazing bee attractors and for that reason alone they are worth planting but the added colour and hardiness makes them ‘must have’ plants. Cheers for this very colourful post :).

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    • The Agastaches should be available in Tassie, but otherwise I got mine in the post via Lambley Nursery in Victoria (I think they are authorised to ship to Tassie as well). I like the plants that don’t need to be watered…there is nothing enjoyable about dragging a hose 60m up steep hills! I haven’t given the Ptilotus any extra water yet, and it is on a slope to ensure perfect drainage. It’s only been in the ground for 6 weeks, so I’m hoping it gets through the winter

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  4. You have so many zingy plants Matt, all very covetable, especially Helenium ‘Riverton Beauty’ . Ptilotus exaltatus is a plant I had not been aware of until the last Flemings Australian garden in 2013, glad to hear its being used on other Chelsea gardens.

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    • Thanks! The paniculata hydrangeas have been really slow to arrive in Australia, so I’m glad to see that they are finally here – what I love is that this always fades to pink even with my acid soils

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  5. I love salvias and that Agastache ‘ Salmon Pink’ is gorgeous. Oh that Hydrangea ‘ Pink Diamond’! I think I am going to have to buy one, it’ s lovely.
    You have lots of lovely summer flowers, we are needing a bit of colour here.

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    • Thankyou! I think that salmon pink is really stunning. One of my must haves is plants that flower in summer – I figure that you spend so much time outside doing chores in the garden during summer, that at least you should be surrounded by flowers 🙂

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  6. We grow many of the same plants so your summaries are helpful, Matt. I’ve had mixed results with Agastache but it’s on my list to try again this year – varieties seem to vary in their degree of drought tolerance. I need to try the Ptilotis again too. And I’ve got to see if I can get cuttings of my ivy geraniums to take that easily!

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    • It is true how similar the plants are! Ptilotis is a somewhat short lived but should thrive in LA. I must have luck with pelargoniums because I just push them into the ground, and most garden shows etc recommend rooting hormones, horticultural grit, bottom heat and so on….I’ve never ever done that 🙂

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  7. That settles it, I will give Joey a try this year although I still question my ability to bring it on from seed!
    Pink diamond looks great but I especially admire the lush green foliage. My paniculatas always look worn out an slightly pale by the time they bloom 🙂

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    • The paniculatas are a real favourite of mine…I think that the cool summers I get here help keep the foliage green. Are you able to get the seeds for Joey easily? I have heard that they are more reliable germinators if the perianth sheath is removed (scarification) and if they are sown at soil temperatures of approx. 65-70F

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      • Thanks for the advice! The seeds are through a society exchange so I have no idea on the quality, I’m sure they’re just a seed head a member stuffed in an envelope and sent in…. But oftentimes those are the best ones!

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  8. I’m very interested in the thinking behind using agastache instead of salvias. I did well with S. Amistad last year and took insurance cuttings to overwinter. They are doing well and are truly gorgeous but I think trying Agastache might be a good plan for the naturalistic planting I have in mind-much less trouble. Nice to see the beauty of a summer border. It reminds us Northerners what is to come.

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  9. I am a huge fan of Agastache, but I grow the straight A. foeniculum, which performs just fine for me. It does self-sow madly, but that’s OK. You have a great range of late-season color – I especially love that Helenium.

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  10. Wish I had gotten to your post sooner – I have my first Agastaches on order, and this post certainly makes the idea look promising! I have Salvia reptans coming as well; it is said to be quite cold-hardy (to 0 F I believe); the ordered plant will be my first sight of it… I will have to look around for some Ptilotus now – it looks wonderful 🙂

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    • S Reptans is a lovely, billowy sort of perennial and is a great choice for dry climates. Similarly, Ptilotus, is a real desert-dweller. In Australia it comes from very arid areas, so should feel at home in the Sonora area 🙂

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  11. Your pinks + purples are vibrant! Do you do something special? just lovely:-) Maybe i just see too much “white” out there in my garden, right now-lol Forgot what a flower looks like!
    You have many of my favorites-I LOVE the pink and white cosmos!
    I have never seen the helinium cultivar Riverton beauty-hmmm-need to check that one out! You have bees on it , so I know it is a good one for the bees. I did have the “mardis gras” one and it just did not like my yard-too hot. I guess, I thought they were drought tolerant + they were not! I have to check that cultivar out-really like it!

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    • Thanks! Hopefully the winter weather will finally disappear for you, you guys have endured a hard couple of months! The riverton beauty cv. is supposedly an ‘old-fashioned’ cultivar, but it wasn’t hard to find. The flowers, as they start to fade see the petals droop downwards, almost like Echinacea which is quite a nice attribute of this plant.

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  12. Your Ptilotus looks fabulous! It grows well in Canberra (where I used to live) but it sounds like your winters are significantly colder (I wasn’t sure that was possible in Australia!). Good luck over the winter!

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    • Thanks Janna! It’s good to know that it grows well on the tablelands – here it’s about twice as high as Canberra, so we can get some fairly cold days and coupled with being close to the coast can make them wet, too, which often tests plants!

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