Early October in the Garden

To my mind, October is really when the first stirrings of spring start to become that all-out marathon as most shrubs and trees get in on the act to peak between now and November.

At this time of year in the mountains, the weather is incredibly variable: for the last two weeks we had really cold, wet and blustery conditions (including frost, sleet and even hail) which damaged a lot of flowers – this weekend we are forecast to have a nation-wide El-Niño five day heat wave….yuck 😦

So I do apologise in advance that the pictured flowers aren’t ‘perfect’, but no garden should be perfect anyway…

The cold period has helped prolong the winter and early spring flowering plants:


In the shadier areas of the garden, it is still winter. L:R Primula vulgaris ‘High Tea Drumcliff’, Cyclamen & Pulmonaria

Daffodils and early tulips are still giving a nice display, but the petals of the poppy took a beating with the sleet/hail:


L:R Narcissus; Tulipa sp. & Papaver nudicaule; first spot flowers of Rosa banksiae in the hedgerow.

Azaleas and more Narcissus:



L:R Osteospermum & Tulipa bokassa ‘Baby Doll’ ; Nepeta and Hyacinthoides hispanica; Anemone nemorosa

But the foul weather has made a lot of the azalea flowers rather tatty:


The flowers of the red and cerise azaleas look a bit bedraggled with the sleet and frost; a De Caen anemone contrasts with the saturated cerise of the Kurume azalea


More battered flowers – but the pale pink of Azalea ‘Inga’ seem to do just fine


Rhododendron ‘Robyn’ is still putting on a great display – this is now its sixth week. Primulas against the flowers of Rhododendron ‘President Roosevelt’ and the beautiful new foliage of Heuchera ‘Purple Palace’

Still, there’s warm colours:


L:R Erysimum; Eschscholzia californica hybrid; Indica Azalea ‘Goyet’

And cool:


L:R Dutch Iris; Anemone coronaria ‘De Caen Hollandia’; Viola labradorica

And of course, the big jumble of colours thanks to the ever-popular ‘mixed’ collections that are always offered:


Lastly, now that parts of the garden are a year old, it has finally started to fill out…don’t get me wrong, because I am using cuttings and tube-stock (plant plugs) there are still plenty of itty-bitty plants everywhere, but for the first time, I can start to appreciate more of what the garden will start to look like as it matures:


Front Garden looking east this fence will eventually be removed as it isn’t the actual property boundary; Part of the newly-laid terraces in the back garden…this represents only a tiny portion of the garden – there is still much to do!!!!

Happy Gardening 🙂

This Week in the Garden.

Even though it is cold and wet today, we’ve had weeks of sunny and mild weather, meaning spring continues its early march. And it is mostly the bulbs that are early to flower, especially in the sheltered micro-climate of the secret garden area where Tulips are commanding my attention:




Clockwise L-R: Mixed Tulips (Monet Series); Species Tulip (Tulipa bakerei) ‘Lilac Wonder’; Bokassa Tulips ‘Baby Doll’

Narcissi in the other areas of the garden have finally started to open:


The Cockatoo has actually left the white Narcissi alone!

Compare this to the Narcissi in the secret garden area which are so far ahead:


The scent in the secret garden is heavenly on still, sunny days…let me tell you!

The first Freesias have opened:


Muscari still continue to put on a lovely display. The secret garden area was the first to open, and now the rest of the garden is following suit.


I love the contrast between the Erysimum and the Muscari:


Most of the Erysimum in the garden have started blooming and I really adore some of the burnt reds and oranges:


Pink Muscari are something of a disappointment. They have really only just started opening, and the pink is very subtle (to say the least). As they fill out in the next year or so, they may look impressive, but for now, I’ll reserve judgement. The garden centre did however include an unknown bulb in the mix which is far lovelier than the Muscari!


Ipheon continue to give a lovely display and have been going since mid winter which is quite incredible.


Anemone and Ranunculus are also starting to show promise:


But not everything in the garden is early. In areas which only receive partial sun, my cold climate wins out.

For instance, when I lived in the UK, Cyclamen and Pulmonaria were considered mid-late winter flowers. However here, they have only just started to open, but are delightful none-the-less.


Happy Gardening!

In the Garden This Week

Since the start of Spring most days have reached at least 12°C / 54°F.

Now while to many folks that doesn’t sound very warm, the garden certainly thinks otherwise. Add to that lots of intermittent rain showers and an absence of heavy frosts, and plants are really starting to wake up.

Here are some snippets from around the garden this week.

Papaver nudicaule lights up the entrance to the Secret Garden area (elsewhere in the garden, Poppies haven’t even begun to bud yet).


Hopefully I get some yellows and pinks to round out the mix…I seem to mostly end up with oranges and whites 🙂 Regardless, in my climate, these will go on spot-flowering for another year.

Despite the efforts of a single cockatoo who sneaks into the garden without the flock to eat white daffodils, many have lived to flower: WhiteDaffs

I think I may have finally caught the culprit in the act.


Luckily no two cockatoos look alike, so catching this killer should be easy (yeah right!)


I can’t exactly blame the Cockatoo…some of those daffodils have a striking resemblance to a fried egg 🙂

The yellow Narcissus have basically been left alone:


It’s also amazing how far ahead the sheltered ‘Secret Garden’ area is compared to the rest of the garden… and so many other bulbs are joining in the spring chorus, all weeks early thanks to the sheltered micro-climate:



Erysimum are starting to bloom:


Other temporary little sub-shrubs are also putting on a lovely show. While some were killed by winter weather, in the sheltered areas, Osteospermums put on seemingly impossible mass displays:


Assuming they have sufficient rainfall, these will go on blooming well into summer.

Other Asteraceæ flowers must surely be running out of puff after blooming almost constantly since autumn:


Limonium perezii is producing lovely new flowers: make sure you dead-head these as they are short-lived if allowed to go to seed. The Limonium will soon be surrounded by Freesia blooms.


In the Photinia hedgerow that runs along the Western boundary, a solitary Prunus cerasifera lights up the gloom with pretty pinkish-white flowers:


At this time of year in terms of shrubs with impact, the award would still go to the early-flowering Rhododendrons.

The first up is Rhododendron chrysodoron x burmanicum:


Often considered a little tender, this one did fine in its sheltered spot during the winter…however, late frosts can ruin the buds.

Rhododendron spinuliferum ‘Crossbill’, continues to shine and is slightly more hardy:


The first buds have opened on the largest of the Kurumes; more will continue until October, when it becomes a blinding mass of colour:


Rhododendron ‘Robyn’ is now close to its peak flowering. It will eventually reach about 1.2m / 4′ tall & wide and will really look pretty in this spot close to the porch.


The resident Magpie wants some food and will keep following me around until I relent. Magpies start nesting in June and they seldom abandon a nest…these two were caught out by a very cold July and August.

If June hadn’t been so mild, they probably would have created a nest lower down the mountain to guarantee food.

Here they were being fed during (what I hope will be) the last snow-fall a couple of weeks ago. If you’ve ever wondered what a cold, wet, pregnant magpie looks like, well wonder no more:


But back to the Early Rhododendrons.

A ruddy, intense magenta is the colour of choice for most of them.  The smallest of the existing ones is in the hedgerow:


But this is nothing to the ones below.

Planted well before my time it is stuffed in a 1m / 3′ wide space between the fence and my garage. No wonder it is leggy, but still pretty when in bloom. If it had the space, it would have grown to the proportions of my next door neighbours one:


I know some people aren’t fans of Rhododendrons, but regardless, they light up the garden at a time of year normally reserved for looking down to get any colour. And they do it unabashedly.

Happy Gardening 🙂

This week in the Garden

In a word: changeable!

A day of searing heat of 30°C/86°F gave way to some pretty dramatic storm clouds as a cold change blew in:


Lightning dramatically illuminates the inside of storm clouds

The lightning for this storm seemed to stay within the clouds, occasionally arcing between the towering cumulonimbus clouds and sucking in bands of fog from the coast but seldom striking the ground.

After the change, the following day reached just 9°C/49°F!

Late into the growing season most summer perennials start to look bedraggled; many autumn flowering plants are only just coming into flower and the deciduous trees haven’t really started to change hue.

In such a transitional time, there is often little available for wildlife to feed. I’ve tried to incorporate as many plants as possible that flower between March and May to keep not only the visual interest but also keep something for wildlife.

The Callistemon viminalis (which always struggles with the cold) has put on some new flowers which have attract all sorts of critters. Here a few butterflies line up for nectar:


Callistemon viminalis and butterflies

A rarer visitor to the garden, the beautiful Crimson Rosella enjoys the seed pods:


Crimson Rosella

Despite needing pruning every year from frost damage, it certainly is a lovely small tree to have right outside the lounge-room window!

With many of the native nectar-producing plants dormant at this time of year, my resident Wattlebirds have been enjoying the larger Salvias:


Wattlebird enjoying Salvia ‘Waverley’

But, unlike dainty hummingbirds that typically sup from the salvia cup, these clumsy brutes snap off each of the stems as they fly away 😐

This border still looks passable (just – the Achillea are starting to look ratty) despite the fact that it was at its peak a few months ago.



Front border in early summer

Late March:


Front bed late March – really must cut the grass…

The Agastaches & smaller tubular salvias that are flowering attract much smaller birds which do far less damage. This one is a VERY special visitor which I’ve never seen before and it’s VERY, VERY, VERY far from home.

It is a female Olive-backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis) and it is mostly comes from the Philippines, but is also inhabits a small corner in the far northern tropics of Australia, some 3,000km/1,900mi away. It has taken to the Agastaches & tubular salvias.


 IMG_1367IMG_1372IMG_1375IMG_1376IMG_1378This is a close relative of the hummingbird with which Northern gardeners are familiar. It loves the Agastache, but I can’t get a decent shot of the two together, however…


Agastache aurantiaca ‘Salmon Pink’

….I really like the curls that these tubular flowers get as they age.

In a part of the garden that I haven’t made a start clearing yet, a neglected Hebe is flowering:


Unknown Hebe cultivar

This one is leggy and will be removed with all the Ivy and Firethorn that is growing around it. I’ve already struck cuttings, so it will certainly keep going on in the garden.

The variable little cosmos are still powering along; no two flowers even remotely similar or close to the pictures on the seed packet. Bless ’em:


Cosmos Candy Stripe

In other areas of the garden, I’m preparing for a late spring display with Aquilegia – these did so well last spring – flowering from early October to late December – that I’ve decided to add a number more (about 100 actually, the amount in the seed packet) to fill in gaps while the shrubs establish. They are so easy to germinate:


Aquilegia seedlings (with Brachyscome)

I’ve put them into a few beds in the back garden in large drifts and should look quite lovely come spring and will provide a nice linking effect as we head into summer 2016 after the azaleas and bulbs have finished.


More Aquilegia seedlings


And some more Aquilegia seedlings

Autumn has its own beautiful flowers and many of them now start to shine. Anemone x hybrida (Japanese Windflower) lights up the shade under the Japanese Maple:


Japanese Windflower

These are quite slow to get going, but be sure to place it correctly. Once it is established, it is almost impossible to remove if you change your mind!

A little Daphne x transatlantica ‘Eternal Fragrance’ that I purchased in summer has given a couple of spot flowers. It’s near the back porch and hints at the scent that is to come this spring:


Daphne x transatlantica ‘Eternal Fragrance’

The Helenium ‘Riverton Beauty’ which keeps getting bashed about by the storms (despite being tied to a wire supports) is flowering prolifically:


Helenium ‘Riverton Beauty’

Where would the autumn garden be without roses? My favourite, ‘Blushing Pierre de Ronsard’ is flowering again:


Rosa ‘Blushing Pierre de Ronsard’ with salvia seed-heads

I’m amazed the leaves haven’t been affected by black spot after all the endless rain this summer. I love the contrast between the freshness of the rose and the decay of the Salvia seed-heads.

Rounding out the autumn flowers is a sasanqua camellia. This was one of the few plants in the garden when I bought the house.


Camellia sasanqua ‘Mine No Yuki’

I’m pretty sure this is Camellia sasanqua ‘Mine No Yuki’. In a few weeks it should be covered in blooms.

And of course, the first of the proper autumn foliage is starting as well. The Horse Chestnut was yellow until the hot day turned it brown:


Horse Chestnut

The blueberries are starting to put on a lovely display:



As are the Hydrangeas, which are not normally associated with glorious autumn tones so early:



But the star of the show at this early stage is the Witch Hazel:


Hammelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’

This one is near a pathway and should be good for providing a bit of winter interest and a light fragrance.

And, as I started the post with a picture of storm clouds gathering, I might as well finish with one of storm clouds clearing.

This view may change permanently – every day there are cranes and chainsaws and about a dozen of the large Radiata Pine on the closest hill have already been felled. I certainly hope they don’t cut down the whole lot as I love seeing the deep green of this little pine forest. But I suspect it will soon be gone 😦


Storm Clouds

Happy gardening 🙂

This week in the garden

As September draws to an end, the weather is certainly warming. Days are no longer single digits but in the mid teens (≈ 60°F) and the midday sun has a real warmth to it: while all of the bulbs are still going strong, the garden is now starting to wear the more vibrant colours associated with the middle of the season.

Of course there are still subtleties:


Woodland Anemone – Anemone nemorosa

These are all along the shady side garden….but I have to be quick to catch a photo – they close their petals the minute the sun disappears. They are not a particularly common flower here in Australia, but these appear to have naturalised in this part of the garden. I think they are especially charming. I overplanted this area with Tiarellas and the combination of foliage will be especially pleasing when they start establish.

Ones that I did plant nearby are a half-a-dozen English Primroses. This little cultivar is called ‘High Tea Drumcliff’. The seed packet promised white flowers on chocolate-green leaves. I guess, like the ‘Blue Admiral’ Rhododendron, that this might be overly-creative marketing?


Primula vulgaris

Still, I like the pink and yellow. The colour palette is remarkably similar to the clump of freesias which are still powering along:


If only this were “smell-o-blog” – the scent is amazing!

As the days and nights are warmer, the scent fills this corner of the garden.

But now, to the bolder colours of spring. Here are two of the perennial wallflowers, which do quite well in my Zone 8 garden, despite having acidic soils:


Erysimum ‘Fragrant Sunshine’


Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’

The Iceland poppies have finally decided to open, after displaying their furry buds since July:


1st Iceland Poppy

The Diascia, which I have in sheltered rockery facing due north has started the first of what should be a display until April. Here in my garden this is a perennial that can survive the winter as long as it has some sort of protection/radiant warmth:


Diascia ‘Coral Belle’

Next up a Camellia japonica that was already here when I bought the property. I’m pretty sure this on is called ‘Hino-Maru’ but please correct me if I’m wrong 🙂 At any rate the single red petals and yellow stamens are particularly eye-catching:


C. japonica ‘Hino-Maru’?

And lastly, the Karume Azalea that was liberated from under the tangle of Ivy and Jasmine is such a saturated, intense punch of colour on a sunny day that my camera lens, and my eyes, find it difficult to adjust!


I really need shades…..

Happy Gardening 🙂

Japanese Anemone

Japanese Anemone (Anemone hupehensis var. japonica) is one of the subtle joys of the autumn garden.

Normally quite slow to establish, this one has really taken to its position under the shade of the Japanese maple tree. I was only able to get the basic single variety, but it is one of my favourites, none-the-less.

You can see it here with another shade lover, Foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia ‘Jeepers Creepers’)  from the US