I almost thought that I wouldn’t have much to share this month as the snow was quite stubborn to melt in many places: with a new garden and small plants, nothing is as uninspiring as snow-covered blobs for a post 🙂
The garden has taken a real beating this winter.
Even typical structural plants like Buxus have turned a horrible straw colour from the cold. Hard frosts have killed many plants; wild temperature swings have caused others to behave like it is spring (only to be wrecked by subsequent frost) and then heavy snow that turned to ice snapped shrubs and trees, so ANYTHING that is looking fresh and green at the moment is exciting to me!
Of the evergreen things in the garden not frost-bitten or snapped, it is hardly surprising that this post is about conifers and grass-like plants.
In one corner of the garden there were already a couple of conifers: Cupressus sempirvirens ‘Swanes Golden’ and Chamæcyparis obtusa ‘Nana’.
Both of these were about 40 years old. All of the conifers that I inherited with the house have shades of yellow. Wanting to introduce blue tones, I found a couple of dwarf species that can fill the spaces:
The conifer on the left is Juniperis chinensis ‘Pyramidalis’ and is the taller of the two, topping out at 1.8m (6’0″). It is normally a silvery-blue, but in winter adds a bit of purple to its coat.
The conifer on the right is Chamæcyparis lawsoniana ‘Elwoods Gold’. It should reach 1.5m (4’9″). This Chamæcyparis is interesting in that it is flushed with gold on the sunny side and this will help tie these different colours together.
The fence behind it will ultimately be removed as it isn’t on the property line (I am waiting for a hedge to grow before tackling that job).
Over on the newly constructed terrace, I have added another dwarf conifer: Chamæcyparis pisifera ‘Boulevard’.
This should reach 1.2m – 1.5m (3’9″ – 4’9″). Unlike many conifers, it’s a really tactile plant, with soft, touchable needles. It is placed near the steps that cut through the terrace will make quite a feature in time.
Again, with the cold of winter, it goes slightly purple (much like us if we stay out too long)!:
Grasses are also very, very on trend in the design world, and, being able to bend, they don’t snap in wind or snow.
However, the Blue Mountains is a world heritage area and grasses with their trillions of wind-dispersed seeds can quickly become unwanted weeds in this delicate eco-system. Therefore, I have had to be a little more creative in getting the effect of grasses with species that have been around for some time and have not proven weedy here.
Sisyrinchium bellum is one such strappy plant and has the added benefit of spot-flowering for much of the year. It has breezed through the winter so far:
Another plant that has taken all of the snow and ice in its stride while still providing good form is the Autumn Crocus, Zephyranthes candida:
These are lining both sides of the steps down the garden and in time I will be able to divide these for a really bold effect, similar to Mondo Grass, but with pretty late summer/early autumn flowers.
There are also plenty of Australian Native grasses which are hardy. Here is a variegated Liriope, Liriope muscari ‘Alba Varieagata’:
There is a pair flanking the bench: these will get to about 30cm (8″) or so and in summer are covered with little clusters of white flowers which then turn into shiny blue berries.
Other grass like plants unscathed are the Dutch Iris: before they flower they have the most wonderful metallic sheen – seen here with a clump of freesias:
BUT, probably the most surprising of all is the Cymbidium Orchid. This is in a well-rotted, bark-filled pot buried in the ground (Cymbidiums don’t grow in soil as a general rule) and it is completely unscathed by the bitter weather.
A friend gave me this division from her Katoomba garden, where she has grown them outside for the past 15 years….these are one of the plants that are much hardier than most give credit for:
Happy Gardening, and Happy GBFD, hosted by Christina at My Hesperides Garden: do check out what other gardeners around the world are showcasing in their foliage gardens!