Mid Autumn Flowers and more Cockatoos

Despite last weeks’ brief snowfall, there is still a fair bit of floral interest in the garden.

My little free dianthus has relished the cool weather and the highly variable cosmos continue to flower:

Dianthus_etc

Clockwise from Left: Dianthus, Cosmos ‘Candy Stripe’, Impatiens, Japanese Windflower

The impatiens has done virtually nothing all summer long and is now starting to be affected by the cold. I’ll probably dig it up and see if I can over-winter it in a pot as I am sure that there must be some flowers for next year as well, given how little it has grown this spring and summer!

The last of the summer bloomers can always be relied on to extend the display. Here, Penstemon hartwegii ‘Schönholzeri’ keeps up a fine show:

Penstemon

Penstemon hartwegii ‘Schönholzeri’

Achillea millefolium (Yarrow) and Verbena canadensis are still flowering away:

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Achillea millefolium & Verbena canadensis

The Iceland poppies, that used to last about 2 weeks in my Sydney garden are still flowering strongly. They have not been without flowers for eight solid months and continue to amaze me. The Muscari clumps look very healthy and appear to be quite early:

Poppys

Iceland Poppies just won’t quit 🙂

Other late summer plants are putting on a brave face. Miniature dahlias that my neighbour gave me continue to flower despite the chill (and slug damage!). The last of the Helenium ‘Riverton Beauty’ brings a cheery yellow to the chicken wire that has been supporting it. Alyssum and self-sown phlox keep a small blueberry company as it changes into its autumn coat, and the Scabiosa ochroleuca ‘Cream Pincushion’ has the most delightful seed-pods imaginable:

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Counter-clockwise from top: Dahlia, Helenium, Phlox & Alyssum, Scabious – just look at the seed-pods 🙂

Camellia sasanqua ‘Mine No Yuki’ is covered in blossom. With its pendulous branches and blousy form, it makes quite a sight:

Camellia

Camellia sasanqua

Other short lived perennials, like the Argyranthemum frutescens “Crazy Daisy” is greeting the cool weather with increased floral displays:

Marguerite

Marguerites

Australian natives are also getting in on the act. The Brachyscome multifida – a cold hardy (down to -15°C/5°F) and drought hardy native from NSW and Victoria looks great in the softer light of autumn. It is seldom without any flowers, just like the Osteospermums (which are all part of the Asteraceae family):

Brachy_Osteo

Brachyscome multifida and Osteospermums

Another native shrub in the garden, which I have never shown before (partly because it is right at the front of the property beyond an easement line….I never actually spend much time there!) is Banksia spinulosa. This is hardy to at least -12°C/10°F (USDA zone 8a/RHS zone 5 with sharp drainage)

It has magnificent spiky inflorescences and attractive grey-green foliage:

Natives_etc

Banksia, grevillea, hebe and the only ageratum from my seed packet to do well….grown in a pot in at least 6 hours of shade!

The Grevillia always gives such pleasure, although, after such a damp eight months it is suffering terribly from mildew and mould. Surprisingly, we are still short of our normal rainfall totals by almost 100mm/4″: this will give you an idea of how much rain we actually get here in the mountains.

The unknown hebe is continuing to power along…it will be removed as it is surrounded by cotoneaster, firethorn and blackberry, but I have taken many cuttings of it and it will continue on in the garden.

Salvia greggii cultivars are still flowering profusely throughout the garden:

salvias

Counter-clockwise from top: S greggii ‘Sierra Pink’, ‘Hotlips’, ‘Patio White’

They really do earn their keep!

For the Galanthus lovers who would now be going through withdrawals after the winter/spring display has finished, there is an summer/autumn flowering variety – Galanthus reginæ-olgœ.

Now this Galanthus is notoriously difficult to get, but don’t despair….it has a cheaper, more readily available cousin in Leucojum æstivum that might be just what you are looking for to give the ‘snow drop’ appearance during the snowflake off-season.

These were here with the house, but they are virtually indestructible. This area has suffered terribly with oxalis infestations, and I can’t tell you how many bulbs I have speared trying to remove the weeds, yet they keep powering along and have multiplied freely since last year:

LeucojumAestivum

Autumn snowdrops

They’re fairly variable and will likely keep flowering until early winter and probably have another flush in late spring, they are very old-fashioned, and certainly trouble-free.

Autumn is also always a time that delivers lots of out-of-season flowers:

azaleas

Azaleas come in for a second flush before spring – R. ‘Blue Admiral’ is always a welcome sight

Hydra_daphne-rosematy

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pee-Gee’ in autumn splendour. Daphne genkwa delivers an out-of season flower and the last of the out-of-season rosemary which has been blooming since January

Berries are also a great source for birds at this time of year. Here Rozellas eat the berries of Japanese Privet (I know, it’s a weed, and a shocker at that, but the birds love it; I haven’t brought myself to cut it down yet as it is over 5m/17′ tall and overhanging part of the house!):

IMG_1505

Rozellas and Privet….ensuring millions of seedlings for years to come 🙂

And of course, grasses, even those that are mown, provide a lot of seed at this time of year. When not munching on brioche and belgian waffles at the local café, the local push of cockatoos gather en masse to feed:

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And lastly, while not yet in flower, I think that my tree dahlia cutting (Dahlia imperialis) soon will be. While it has only reached about 1.2m/3’3″ (it was attacked by slugs at the beginning of spring), it is developing promising buds:

IMG_1543

Dahlia imperialis in bud

I do hope it makes it before the frosts – the forecast is for more chilly weather – Monday is supposed to have gales and sleet and a top temperature of 5°C/40°F, so winter is on its way.

Happy gardening 🙂

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47 thoughts on “Mid Autumn Flowers and more Cockatoos

  1. Thanks for the beautiful pictures of flowers and the information about them. As for the privet – it’s a good idea to plan for its removal by planting more desirable species near it so that there’ll be food for the birds when it goes. Use it as a nursery for the new trees. Meanwhile pull up any privet seedlings as soon as you see them. It is a serious environmental weed. Once your new trees are established, poison the privet. It’ll take its time to die; by the time it’s removed the other trees will be providing shelter and food for the birds.

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    • Thanks! I have removed about 18 privets (and 6 tonnes of jasmine, ivy and blackberry) since I bought the house a year and a half ago, but it is a massive job, as I chip them out by the roots to ensure no regrowth. This one is quite awkward as the base straddles two property lines and leans over the house…so it is definitely one to tackle when I have a few days off (and can bribe friends to hold ropes to ensure limbs don’t come crashing down on the house)

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  2. Your natives always thrill me! I’ve a Grevellia ‘Ned Kelly’ that looks much like yours (winters in the greenhouse) and that banksia is glorious! Autumn is always such a lovely but sad time in gardens as we bid farewell to the growing season passed. Here, we’re enjoying the promise of spring.

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    • I do love autumn – probably my favourite season of all, despite the underlying melancholy. The Australian native plants can be incredibly cool -like you, I am also in zone 8 and this grevillea survives with just a little protection from overhanging trees. It does get knocked about below 15F, but bounces back quite reasonably

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  3. Looks like your garden is almost at its best at the moment with spring, summer and autumn flowers all at once. I’m interested in your Iceland poppies, I have some that have recently germinated in the greenhouse; do you think I should plant them out as soon as they’re large enough or keep them in pots until autumn and plant them then?

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    • I always find that autumn is a mixed bag of all seasons in the flower garden, but it’s fun. As for the Iceland poppies, I think they take about 5-6 months to flower after germination, so I would plant them out in early autumn if they’ve sprouted. They will flower for you in mid-winter, but they are very cold tolerant. I’ve seen them used in mass displays in Canberra in winter where every morning is at least -6C. Until then, maybe grow them on somewhere out of the afternoon sun – the heat tends to shorten their lives

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  4. Great garden tour, we used to just tree form the Japanese Privet because it was so hard to get rid of!
    Love the natives, I am still working my way through Florida natives class.

    Do you grow pansies as winter annuals?

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    • I know, I keep looking at this bugger of a tree thinking, ‘I have to get rid of it, maybe tomorrow’ Tomorrow never comes 🙂 The rosellas at least eat the berries green which means they don’t have the chance to germinate as easily. The banksias would definitely grow in florida, but beware of cultivars like ‘birthday candles’ which can be notoriously short-lived. I have planted some pansies, but usually the snails and slugs finish off any seedlings at this time of year, so I’ll see if any actually make it 🙂

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      • I have never seen a Banksia in Florida. Will have to look harder?!
        The Privet tree my mother had ended up filled with hanging baskets of flowers and we grew to love it. Go figure.
        Beer and Red Pepper flakes for the pansies. If that doesn’t work you can eat them…

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      • Oh yes, I know about the beer traps, but this humanoid slug prefers not to share his beer with the other slugs 🙂 I have actually put a few of the pansies in pots, so I should have a nice display – assuming this looming cold snap doesn’t wipe out all of my seedlings!

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    • I try to keep interest in the garden as long as possible – I can do it here because the summers are very cool (temperatures are similar to early May in the US) which means the flower displays can last a long time. But for most parts of the world, the garden is generally flowered out by the end of summer!

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  5. I think cockatoos are so funny, with that curly pretty haircut and that clumsy walk they have, seeing them en-masse must have been a fun! I smiled watching the pictures.
    That Banksia is stunning, I have a soft spot for Australian natives, shame they don’t love me back and they are bloody expensive here, so I stick with those who works and thrives!

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    • Thanks Alberto, the banksia is great, isn’t it! I imagine that only a few Australian plants would work well in Northern Italy as you guys are Mediterranean but have quite cold winters – we only have a few parts of the country which match that climate, and our most cold hardy plants come from the East Coast or Tasmania which has summer rain, so you are right to stick with what thrives for you 🙂

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  6. Another wonderful post! The flowers are so beautiful.. Some I’ve never seen before. Australia really is very exotic and different to me. It’s so odd to see such big and brilliantly colored birds . The flock of cockatoos in a field.. Unbelievable! So cool:)

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    • Thanks Cynthia! Would you believe the field is actually a grassy verge behind a petrol station adjacent to the highway? 🙂 I don’t think that the banksias and grevilleas would survive being buried under snow for 4 months, while we get a bit of bad weather here, it’s nothing compared to what you guys go through!

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    • Thanks Julie! My climate is RHS zone H5. Last winter (which was the 7th mildest on record) we still got down to -7C and have about a week each winter where the maximum temperature doesn’t get above 0C. I think the coldest temperature in recent years was -14C, but the main reason I can grow plants that aren’t considered fully hardy in the UK is because the soil is very sandy and free-draining, so the plants don’t sit in water over-winter which, together with even light frost will kill most things quite quickly

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  7. The seasons seem to be all mixed up in your garden, you have so much to enjoy. I love the Banksia and the Grevillea particularly. I have had Dahlia imperial is in my greenhouse for two years. It grows enormous but never flowers before it gets cut back by frost. I would love to see the flowers.

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    • It’s great isn’t it? It’s wonderful to have so much in flower and also to have the most fiery autumn leaves (that’s my next post assuming the impending gales don’t blow everything away!). I’m not holding too much hope for the dahlia, though – if the forecast top of 5C on Monday is correct then we will almost definitely have a black ice event (where the wind is so cold it freezes water even if the ambient temperature is over 0C) which means good-bye to anything tender 😦

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  8. A friend recommended I grow penstemons as nothing eats them and they are as hardy as stick. She gave me a white penstemon and it is growing like crazy inside Sanctuary but I also got given a clump of purple penstemon and dumped it on the ground where it is now growing after not being watered all summer long. I call that hardy! We have anemones here but the wallabies graze them to the ground when they can find them. I am going to plant yarrow as that seems to do well here and I have seen it on the road verge so it must be wallaby proof.

    I know that poppies are hardy but they are also tasty. The only poppies that make it past the wallabies are the Californian variety. Someone in our neighbourhood must have grown scabious as it is all over the place here. I even threw some seed into the side garden where I got a bit of success but it hasn’t reseeded this year. Back to the drawing board! We have camellia, rhododendron and azalias and all of them are very hardy and need no additional water. I have 2 weeping camellia that I uncovered from a mass of blackberries that are situated underneath a big conifer that sucks all of the moisture out of the soil and they are STILL going strong. Again, another very hardy plant.

    As easy as osteospermums are to grow I hate them. I don’t know why but I do. I used to hate agapanthus but have now learned the error of my ways. Not so with osteospermums. Conditions were so tough last year that we lost most of the hebe’s growing here but they are also incredibly resiliant plants and there are some really pretty varieties. I see you have a little Japanese maple seedling growing in pot with your ageratum. Nice combination :). We have a mystery grevillea growing on the property. It has unusual leaves and a strange white, blue and orange flower on it. It isn’t a native and I thought that I had killed it by cutting it off as it was on it’s last legs but that only seems to have given it a new lease on life. I love plants that are able to adapt. The flowers remind me of a bird of paradise and are quite showy and interesting.

    I agree with you about salvias. They have to be some of the best plants for our Aussie conditions. As Californian natives, they have had to adapt to even tougher conditions than our own. We have a few white cockies here but mostly black cockies and pink and grey galahs that graze on lawns. We had a tree dahlia but when we cleared it free of honeysuckle and blackberries the wallabies found it. Enough said about that! Steve asked me why I followed your blog the other day. It’s very different to just about every other blog that I follow but my answer was simple. “Matt has the garden that I wanted here and most probably will never get so I am living vicariously through his garden! ;)” Keep up the good work, you are working for two 😉

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    • Thanks, I’m glad you like it! Thankfully I seldom get wallabies around here as I am in town which saves the garden….those gardens on the edges of town suffer similarly to you. The possums can do a bit of damage if they are hungry, but they’ve got nothing on the wallabies 🙂
      I have never seen a grevillea with blue, white and orange flowers…that would be so interesting to see!
      Yesterday after work, I actually pulled out about 20 Japanese Maple seedlings – they grow like crazy here) and there must be another 40 or so to weed out. I never thought I would use the word ‘weed’ and ‘Japanese Maple’ in the same sentence!

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    • Thanks – with the high rainfall, they pretty much look after themselves…they only thing I tend to do is improve the soil and then dead-head them. The cockatoos are really cool – we also have black cockatoos which are about twice the size, but are a lot more shy…I’ll be pleased if I manage to get a photo of them!

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  9. There’s a lot going on in your fall garden! I always enjoy seeing your bird pics – cockatoos and Rozellas are so much more interesting than pigeons and lesser goldfinches. The photo of Iceland poppies had me sighing – none of those I planted in the fall/winter did anything this year (except perhaps make me feel a miserable failure as a gardener). I’m going to blame the usual culprits, unseasonal heat and lack of rain/water.

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    • It is actually the heat that does them in, when I lived in Sydney (similar temperatures to LA but it has high rainfall) they used to bloom once (maybe) and then die as early spring temperatures often used to hit 90-95F, so there was just no chance of delicate flowers like poppies 🙂

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  10. okay-I love your “pinks” and your amazing flowers, but I have to say-WOW!!! those birds all over your grass eating in a mass…that is a site to see. I love all your flowers, but your birds just continue to “stun” me….You live in paradise! What an amazing place to live:-)

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  11. I’ve never heard of a tree dahlia. I’ll need to Google that one. 🙂 I can’t imagine a flock of cockatoos just strolling around. We only see them at zoos here or in pet stores. Salvia always seems to throw out one last great flush of flowers in cooler weather. Such great plants!

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    • Tree dahlias are great, but they are not terribly hardy – I am surprised that mine survived the snow as frosts and low temperatures kill them. I love the salvias as well, but alas, it’s another tender plant, so has to be sited well to survive!

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