GBFD September – Foliage Returns

With spring flowers stealing the spotlight, it’s nice to see some of the deciduous trees and shrubs leafing out early this year (the dry, sunny weather means they are about 3 weeks ahead of shedule).

The first leaves are fresh and perfect, and this year, after a very cold winter, I don’t have to contend with an onslaught of aphids keen to get a jump on sucking sap before the ladybugs arrive to feast on them 🙂

Here is a selection of some of the foliage that has opened in the last week or so:


L:R Betula pendula ‘Dalecarlica’; Hydrangea quercifolia; Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Monlo’


Clockwise, L:R Spiraea x bumalda ‘Goldflame’; Picea glauca v. albertiana ‘Conica’ & Santolina chamaecyparissus; Rosa ‘Climbing Iceberg’; Metasequoia glyptostroboides

Japanese Maples are particularly effortless in the upper Blue Mountains.

I was able to purchase a few bare-rooted, cut-leaf, weeping varieties at a very good price during winter…so I couldn’t resist.

Once these start to mature, they lend an amazing sculptural quality to a garden; especially one that is steeply sloping like mine. For now, they are just little sticks, but they will fill out over the next few years!


L:R Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Ever Red’ ; Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Seiryu’; Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Orangeola’

Linking up with Christina at My Hesperides Garden. Do take a look at the foliage that has captured bloggers attention this month!

Happy Gardening 🙂

GBFD August – Last of Winters Damage

This GBFD ain’t a pretty one, so look away if dying foliage offends!

Winter arrived in late April this year, and while there were weeks of very mild weather in June, on the whole, winter was cold with weekly snowfalls since the second week of July.

As any Northern American gardener knows, the worst damage is done when the snow is gone and prolonged freezing weather is accompanied by bitter gales which give way to a thaw and then back to frigid cold. This is the sort of weather we’ve had in abundance.

Unsurprisingly, given that a lot of my garden is very new, exposed parts of it look terrible!

But the damage isn’t restricted to just new plantings. Here, x Cupressocyparis leylandii ‘Leightons Green’ that forms part of a mixed hedgerow is completely burnt across the tips:


Tip burn on 30 year old hedge

Smaller Leylandii that I have put in have turned from green to straw; although with winter ending, I have been nursing them back with a very week seaweed tea:


Winter discolouration

It’s working, but compare the colour above to a recently planted version that was over-wintered in a pot on the back deck (how all of these should look like through winter):


Healthy specimen showing no winter damage

Other supposedly hardy foliage plants have taken a hit. Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’ is not looking so choice, and it’s  surprising as this is grown adjacent to the comparative shelter of the house:


Frost Burn from Freeze/Thaw Cycles

Similarly, the Pieris japonica – which is over 30 years old and supposedly hardy to -28°C / -18°F  – is showing signs of the severe frost damage and looks decidedly worse than the June montage a few photos below.

It should survive, but normally it is a lovely green colour (normally our winters are gentle like England, not destructive like the U.S. mid-west!!!!). At the moment, however, all the leaves are burnt:


Severe frost burn on mature specimen

Compare it to the same time last year.


Same plant August 2014 showing no winter damage

My poor Ajuga reptans ‘Burgundy Glow’ has become progressively worse:….







The Boxwood (which will eventually be shaped into a cone) has been given regular doses of diluted seaweed solution and it is picking up. All over the mountains I’ve seen exposed box hedges completely burnt and defoliated by the cold…something I’ve never witnessed before…except in the central areas of Canada.

The Buxus in July (2nd row):


Now – tinges of green/yellow have emerged thanks to seaweed tonic (similar to the Leylandii) and a final let up in the cold:


One of the ‘Blue’ azaleas (Rhododendron ‘Blue Admiral’) has turned into more of a Blackbeard:


Many of the half-hardy plantings have fared considerably worse. This Æonium looks like it has gangrene: I hold no hope for it (I have its pup safely in a pot for future replanting):


What’s left of the Crassula looks more like Dracula 🙂


Both of these should have survived as they are right next to the house and normally sheltered from the worst weather – including rain – by a weather-proof porch. This has a clear Perspex roof and acts like a large cold-frame. But during the worst snow-storm (we had two very bad ones), the supposedly and normally weather-proof porch looked like this and by the next morning, everything had frozen solid:


This was where a lot of tender foliage plants like Bromeliads were kept under cover and safe from winter weather, but now look like this. The freeze even cracked glazed pots:


My drought-hardy scented Pelargonium citrosum suffered badly, but has already rebounded without any help from me; proving they are much tougher than given credit for. A hard trim and a feed in September will restore it:


And Agapanthus prove yet again that numerous hard frosts, wet snow, icy snow, black ice and death-stares every time I walk past them don’t do permanent damage (sadly).

These mushy leaves have already started to repair….meaning another summer with the mattock and hundreds of dollars in tip fees if I am to ever get their numbers under control:


But it’s not all bad!

There is nice foliage to enjoy even in a winter damaged garden. Most of it is from the hedgerow along the boundary and most of it from plants that are considered tender!

The pittosporum still looks lovely:


An evergreen Euonymus has shaken off any cold with tough, waxy leaves:


Fatsia japonica gives a tropical feel:


As does Acanthus mollis:


My little Aucuba japonica cutting has successfully survived its second winter and lights up dense shade under half-a-dozen trees:


Heucheras are in various states:

H. ‘Purple Palace’ (looking more like ‘Bedraggled Bungalow’ but a trim will restore it) fared the worst in one of the frostier spots:


H. ‘Berry Smoothie’ looks happy under the stairs where it is very sheltered:


And H. ‘Lime Marmalade’ still shines with only a tiny bit of damage ready to give a nice contrast next month to the Physocarpus ‘Diablo’ above it:IMG_2826

Almost all of the Sedums that I had planted are horrible and shrivelled. I’m hoping they will bounce back; but one of the most surprising Sedums is supposedly tender.

Under the stairs, next to the Heuchera, Sedum x Rubrotinctum is showing a lot of tip damage, but otherwise it looks really lovely:


So there you have it.

In gardening, you take the good and (make the most of) the bad. But with spring only days away…today as I write this we are having a ridiculous hot spell of 17°C / 63°F before heavy rain is supposed to set in, so the foliage plants will mend and once again provide the back-drop to the rest of the garden.

Plenty of my Australian Native plants survived this terrible winter, but that is for another post!

Do check out Christinas blog over at My Hesperides Garden to see what foliage other gardeners around the world are showcasing.

Happy Gardening and Happy GBFD!

GBFD July – Any Port in a (Winter) Storm

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:


Juniper and Chamæcyparis

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)!:


Chamæcyparis pisifera ‘Boulevard’

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:


Sisyrinchium bellum

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:


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’:


Liriope muscari ‘Alba Variegata’

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:


Dutch Iris

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:


Cymbidium Orchid

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!


GBFD June – Coloured Foliage

The 22nd means Garden Bloggers Foliage Day, hosted by Christina at My Hesperides Garden.

Being winter, foliage is more important than ever to define the structure of the garden as flowers have all but retreated during the chilly weather.

Here are just some of the ones that are looking great despite really cold weather that has damaged so much of the garden – I think that the variegated pittosporum (Pittosporum eugenoides) looks particularly lovely after a light dusting of snow about a week ago:


Variegated pittosporum

It has also been unharmed during the present weeks of frosty weather and is easily hardy to USDA zone 7/8 (RHS zone H5)

One of the conifers in the garden is this beauty: Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Gracilis’ – the dwarf Hinoki Cypress


Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Gracilis’

I just love the parsley-like foliage on this one and the fact that it retains its pretty lime green foliage even in the coldest weather. It was here when I bought the house, and despite being about 40 years old, it is only approx. 2.5m (9′) tall. This plant has a wide hardiness range: USDA 5 – 11 (RHS Zone H7).

Another brightly coloured plant in the garden is the common bugle weed. But this is a brightly variegated sport that appeared in a clients garden – they didn’t want it, so I took it:


Ajuga reptans ‘Variegata’

In spring it will have the typical bugle-weed flowers, which will probably clash hideously with the foliage, but it will make a pretty groundcover for most of the year. Again, this is a tough plant and is hardy between USDA zones 3 – 9 (RHS Zone H7).

It isn’t one I imagine most people would rush out and get, but once it starts to fill out, it will look striking as a multi-coloured ground cover!

Happy Gardening 🙂

Last of the Autumn leaves – GBFD May 2015

It’s the 22nd and that means Garden Bloggers Foliage Day hosted by Christina at Creating my own garden of the Hesperides

While the best of the displays finished a few weeks ago, there are still a couple of autumn-hued plants in the garden and this late into Autumn, it would appear that brown, in any shade, is the garden’s coat of choice.

The Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) is always one of the last trees to loose its leaves and this was one of the reasons I planted it: to ensure that I had as long an autumn season as possible in years to come.

Its delicate needles turn a lovely old-gold/peach shade, which complement the other browns in the autumn garden. It has put on a good amount of growth since planting, in fact, doubling in size in year – you can see the comparisons at this link:


Metasequoia glyptostroboides

Curiously, the Copper Beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘purpurea’) has also held onto its leaves really late this year. All of the other Beeches around town were at their peak a week or so ago, yet this one has only just started turning. This tree has had lovely midnight leaves all spring, summer and autumn long and these only reverted to green (which can be seen in some of the leaves) about two weeks before it changed to its autumn colours.

Like the Dawn Redwood, it is an exercise in browns. But unlike the Dawn Redwood, this plant hasn’t grown one new leaf since planted over a year ago:


Fagus Sylvatica ‘purpurea’

While I know beeches are slow to get going, this one has taken that a bit too far….I’ll keep an eye on it this year. If it still refuses to grow then I may have to replace it.

The Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pink Diamond’ is also a set of browns, but I love the coppery tones of this one in the morning sun:


Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pink Diamond’

Autumn is always too short…Happy GBFD and Happy Gardening 🙂

Garden Bloggers Foliage Day – March 2015

Today is garden bloggers foliage day (GBFD) – a day dedicated to celebrating the backbone of the garden – foliage!

GBFD is hosted by Christine at Creating my own Garden of the Hesperides, and it’s a great time to check out the foliage in gardens all across the globe.

As summer fades into autumn, I thought I would share some of the last of the summer foliage trees before they start to change hue.

This year, I am most surprised by the little Copper Beech I planted (Fagus sylvatica ‘purpurea’) – it has had the most shimmery purple, almost black leaves all summer long. Normally at this time of year, the Copper Beech reverts to green before changing to the oranges and browns of autumn, but so far I still have almost midnight foliage.


Copper Beech

You can just see the first hints of green creeping back into the leaves which have made it through the summer unburnt and remarkably only infrequently chewed.


Copper Beech

As it has been such a slow grower (it has been in the garden for over a year and has not put on any new growth) I’ve religiously fed it with a liquid seaweed mix each week; that may have something to do with the healthy foliage – although there still has been no growth 😦

Not too far away from the midnight tones of the copper beech is the rosy burgundy shade of a Japanese Maple still in its summer leaf.

This one is Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ :


Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’

Its leaves are obviously more tasty to insects, but it still looks good with its summer coat 🙂

Happy GBFD and happy gardening 🙂

GBFD – Acer palmatum ‘Red Pygmy’

To celebrate Garden Bloggers Foliage Day (GBFD), hosted by Christina at Garden of the Hesperides, I bring you Acer palmatum ‘Red Pygmy’.

This is an unusual Japanese Maple cultivar has incredibly long, often twisted and deeply cut leaves that open deep maroon in spring (and on new growth) and then turn to red/bronze in cool-summer climates like mine in summer: however, if yours is an area with warm-hot summers or if the plant receives too much shade then the summer foliage will simply be dark-green.

In autumn the leaves change to shades of yellow-orange rather than the fiery reds typically associated with the genus, so it makes a nice contrast alongside other maples or against dark green foliage plants.


Acer palmatum ‘Red Pygmy’ Close-up of new growth


Acer palmatum ‘Red Pygmy’


Acer palmatum ‘Red Pygmy’

As with any of the dissected Japanese Maples, protection from strong wind is essential as winds will desiccate the leaves and can dehydrate the plant, even if the soil is moist.

This need for shelter is made more difficult by the fact that most of the cut-leaf cultivars have red/purple leaves, meaning they need ample, yet gentle sunshine to retain that leaf colour (and let’s face it, a full sun position that receives afternoon shade and shelter from winds is often mutually exclusive!).

‘Red Pygmy’ will take about 20 years to get to about 2.5m tall by 2m wide (9′ x 6′) so is great for small spaces, large pots and sheltered courtyards.

Happy GBFD and happy gardening 🙂

GBFD – Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’

To celebrate Garden Bloggers Foliage Day (GBFD), hosted by Christina at Garden of the Hesperides, I bring you Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’.

Otherwise known as Ninebark, the ‘Diablo’ shrub is normally a deep blackish-purple, but backlit by low summer sun as it is here this morning brings out the underlying red tones in a prelude to autumn that makes it especially fiery, almost diabolique….


Ninebark ‘Diablo’

Happy Gardening 🙂