This Week in the Garden

After such an average run of summer weather, the start to autumn has been the warmest in over a century.


Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pink Diamond’

I guess the longer summer has suited the Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pink Diamond’ which has now turned to a wonderful deep rose as it begins to fade. What a stunning plant.

One of the plants I truly miss from my Sydney garden is Brunfelsia latifolia (commonly called ‘Yesterday-Today-and-Tomorrow’). It’s strictly a warm climate shrub whose flowers last for three days. They open purple on day one, change to violet on day two and then white on day three, giving this wonderful effect:


Yesterday-Today-and-Tomorrow…not a plant suited to the mountains

But it is for USDA zone 9 and above. And while I took an off-shoot with me before I moved, it has struggled in its pot in my zone 8 garden and constantly looks frost-bitten (even in summer).

However, the Hydrangea paniculata gives a similar effect over a much longer period as these images from January onwards show:

And it fades to pink no matter what the pH of the soil is.

Its leaves are still fresh and green, unlike those of the nearby Hydrangea quercifolia, which are now starting to turn:


Hydrangea quercifolia

I really like the contrast between the multi-coloured leaf and the last, recently opened flower of summer.

The more traditional Hydrangeas (these are Maiko and Nobuko varieties) that I started from cuttings last autumn and planted up in October, have grown nicely and although these are yet to flower, they are also starting to show some nice autumn colours which will add some additional seasonal interest to this border, where they are mass planted with azaleas and primulas.



This was bed back in October, and because this side yard is visible from the front entrance, I have actually avoided my tendency to have ‘one of each’ and go for repetition…I can’t tell you how hard that was:


Hydrangeas – October

Even the Red Maples that I am growing in pots on the veranda before transplanting them to their final home have started to turn:


Acer rubrum

This clear-roofed verandah is where I normally keep tender plants as it is always 5°C warmer than the garden….this certainly proves that cold weather isn’t the only factor in determining vibrant autumn hues.

The wet weather continues to cause an explosion of weeds. Spirea ‘Anthony Waterer’ is flowering away despite being surrounded by paspalum and hundreds of broom seedlings (I must get around to weeding that bed this weekend!):


Spirea and weeds

The long cool spell followed by warmth has tricked some shrubs – here is Viburnum plicatum ‘tomentosum’ starting to flower well out of season


Viburnum plicatum

And all of last years bulbs are starting to come up very early.

This doesn’t concern me too much as many folk (whose soils are better and more moisture retentive than mine) have reported that most of their bulbs have rotted with the endless summer rain.

At least my daffodils seem fine. My saffron crocus, however, rotted entirely after struggling through the wet weather 😦

The Muscari have certainly enjoyed the moisture and have multiplied well:


Grape Hyacinth shoots and never ending poppy flowers

And of course, with autumn, it now means bulbs are available to purchase!

With all of the lovely pictures of spring Irises coming from my gardening friends in Europe and those few parts of N. America not under 5 trillion tonnes of snow, it has prompted me to plant a few of my own.

I’ve chosen Dutch Iris ‘Discovery’, ‘Paris’ and ‘Golden Beauty’ – I’ve already planted these in the drier sunnier parts of the garden.

I’ve added to the daffodil bulbs (I’ll plant these out in mid-May otherwise, going by the other daffodils already sprouting in the garden, they will end up blooming in the middle of winter):

Daffodils and Tulips

All gardeners know where hard earned cash goes….bulbs 🙂

And, I snuck in some tulips for good measure. In my Sydney garden, tulips were just a frivolous waste of money. Here it’s cold enough for Tulips naturalise as long as I can keep the bulbs dry through summer….I’m always up for a challenge 🙂

Autumn is also tree planting time. Regular blog readers will know that I have very odd-shaped block of land with a dividing fence that is in the wrong spot, cutting off a large area of the garden. I fixed that with 50m of Leyland cypress:


The new property boundary

I’ve been clearing this part of the yard for many months, there is still much to go, but it’s a long way from what it used to look like when I bought the place:


Google street view 2010 – you can imagine how much worse it was in 2013 when I bought the house!

The Leyland cypresses will be kept clipped to a formal hedge, and, once they have grown to 1.8m/6″ the timber fence will be removed. The new hedge isn’t quite the property boundary, but as the land survey showed sewerage pipes running along the boundary I decided to keep the hedge 2.5m/9″ closer to the house to avoid any problems later.

And, to finish off this post, a quick shot of one of the garden Osteospermums starting its cool-season flowering spree:



Happy gardening 🙂


26 thoughts on “This Week in the Garden

      • The bot canker is in Australia, but here it’s more a secondary pathogen that affects almost everything in the cypress family (including Leyland cypresses) when the plants are stressed and aged rather than something that would take trees out. The real problem is phytophthora which is in pockets of the blue mountains, but given that I have very old, healthy cypress trees all around me which would all succumb to disease more quickly than the newly planted trees, I’m hopeful!!!!


  1. The red maple looks great; we had a couple while we lived in the Midwest; they are very special trees as far as I’m concerned. H. p. “Pink Diamond” seems like a real winner! And as I will not be growing hydrangeas, you have me checking on Brunfelsia… It looks like it would need a fair amount of supplemental watering in arid conditions?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks – I really like them, they always turn such stunning colours. Brunfelsia is quite a thirsty plant, I’m afraid…while it can withstand heat, I don’t think I’ve seen it grow in arid conditions 😦


  2. I always enjoy your knowledgeable posts Matt. I wondered if there was a website you could recommend that giving the amount of time and temperature required for chilling bulbs so they’ll flower. This is such an important thing and yet it is rarely mentioned, or is that because I grew up in the UK where there was always enough cold weather in winter?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Christina, that’s a lovely thing to say and now I’m blushing! But I think the only reason I know this stuff is that Sydney is one of those ‘nothing’ climates that is neither cold enough to enjoy the cool temperate plants nor tropical enough to have the jungle-like gardens, so it was just knowledge that my grandfather passed on to me as he grew a small patch of flowers (think 1950s tastes and styles) in his terrace house garden. He always taught me that 6-8 weeks (between 2 and 7C) was enough for most bulbs…I have heard people recommend up to 16 weeks, but in my experience in Sydney 8 weeks was always about right as that replicated at least two months of winter chill. And looking at the UK this year, I would say they only had about 8 weeks of cold as most bloggers reported that December was very mild and then by late February most bloggers were showing the first spring flowers….so it generally works, especially if they can be kept dry during their dormant period

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s really helpful. I did look online just after I made my comment and you’re quite right that several sites suggested a lot more than 8 weeks chill. Although the longer chill time would explain why my narcissus often bloom at a similar time to my tulips!


  3. I love your Pink Diamond Hydrangea and the Brunfelsia is stunning.
    I think we all shudder when we hear the words Leyland Cypress but as you say, as long as they are kept well clipped they make a good, fast -growing hedge.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks – the Brunfelsia is a plant I miss, I doubt the one I took from Sydney will do all that well here, but it’s worth a try! Yes, Leyland cypresses get a bad rap due to the way they are misplanted, but there are only a handful of plants that form such a dense, tall hedge when clipped, and in my climate they only need trimming twice a year which isn’t a big deal from a maintenance perspective


    • Thanks – the upper mountains are a gardeners paradise – high rainfall and cool summers ensure the plants look their best most of the time….it certainly helps make me look like I have a green thumb 🙂


    • They are fantastic, aren’t they! They are often considered a bit nanna-ish, but I think there are few things nicer for late summer colour than these shrubs. As long as they have a bit of shade and moisture, they are completely problem free!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I always like the look of cypress but, having never grown it, was unaware of the controversy surrounding it. I hope the hedge works for you – it’ll be fun to watch those tiny plants mature. I love hydrangeas but, in light of the drought here, I’m currently living hydrangea-free so I’ll just have to enjoy yours as a proxy for getting one of my own.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Kris – the trees got a bad rap because in dense urban areas they were often planted in between houses which robbed people of sunlight as they grew quickly to over 100′ on tiny residential allotments. Where I have planted these there are no neighbours (nor will there ever be) and they will be kept trimmed as a living fence rather than a tree hedge. They should reach 6′ in about 2-3 years and by the 5th should be dense enough to remove the paling fence without losing any privacy.


  5. Like most everyone else, I gasped when I read the words “Leyland cypresses”, but after reading the comments, I’m rather looking forward to seeing it in a clipped hedge form. Never heard of a Brunfelsia before, but it is a stunning shrub! So cool – wish I could give it a whirl… I’m too stingy with the water anyway. I love hydrangeas too, but gave most of the ones I had away for that very reason.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They are polarising, but do look great as a clipped hedge – thick and dense just like Yew trees, but are much quicker growing (and about 1/50th of the price to purchase) I really dislike the paling fence, as it is in the wrong spot, so rather than tear it down, then have to send it to the tip and get a new one put up along the property line, I thought I would do something and have a living, green, carbon sequestering wall that will house all sorts of animals, even though it will be clipped formally between 6-7′ high 🙂


    • I reckon the daffodils will be blooming in the middle of winter given how early they’ve come up, so it shouldn’t be too long to wait! The Brunfelsia flowers for about 6-10 weeks in Sydney, but gets its common name from the fact that each flower lasts 3 days, changing colour as it ages (which gives such a lovely multi-toned effect to the shrub). It really is pretty – in the US, it can only be grown in California or the more Southern states outdoors


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