Blue Rhododendrons and a White Waratah

Of the many, many plants vying for attention in the garden at the moment, a few of the more unusual ones have caught my eye.

First up is Rhododendron ‘Blue Admiral’ which a friend gave me as a housewarming gift:

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It’s a pretty thing, and its bloom seems a deeper shade this year. Now, while it isn’t ‘true-blue’, the rich violet-lavender shade is very striking and it is totally different from all of the other evergreen azaleas which always display red or white based flowers.

Last autumn I added another ‘blue’ Rhododendron called ‘Florence Mann’, and it too, lives up to the description of lilac blue blooms (the yellow poppy is a nice counterpoint).

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Of course, there is still the red base in both of these Rhododendrons, as these plants simply don’t possess the blue coloured gene. The violet/lavender/lilac shades can more easily be seen by picking out and isolating the main colour of each:

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But as far as blue goes, these are both quite a good job!


Another more unusual plant in my garden is the White Waratah, Telopea speciosissima x oreades ‘Shady Lady’.

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This is a garden cultivar of the Waratah that is endemic to the Sydney region and the standard colour – a brilliant red – is the NSW floral emblem. I also have a couple of these that I have grown from seed, but they are tiny and yet to flower.

To see Waratahs in the bush is quite amazing, and they are most unlike many Australian plants which are demure and subtle.

Out of flower the shrub – which typically grows to about 2m – has an appearance of a cross between an Oleander and a Rhododendron, and in flower, they are possibly the most showy Australian native, so much so that it is hard to believe these plants thrive in terrible, sandy soil.

I recently had the pleasure of re-visiting a garden I designed about 15 years ago, and was pleased to see the Shady Lady Red Waratah still doing very well…here, it is literally sitting atop a sandstone rock shelf with about 40cms / 16″ of soil placed on top of the boulder. So it is a very resilient plant indeed:

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They are reasonably hardy, and look very pretty when covered in spring snow:

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Waratahs are easy to grow – if you have the right climate and soil.

The soil needs to be really light and free draining; heavy clay will kill it.

But the ideal climate range is very narrow: USDA zone 8a-10a / RHS zone H5-H3. These plants really struggle where summers are hot and humid; thus excluding the south-east of the USA.

This plant would work well in California/PNW coast or the southern areas of the UK/Northwest Spain and coastal France.

Waratahs are an understory plant: here they grow in the light, dappled shade of tall Eucalypts; when planting in the garden, if you haven’t dappled shade (from say, a birch tree, dogwood or hawthorn) then at least give them protection from hot afternoon summer sun.

Removing the spent blooms and cutting back older shrubs by about ¼ after flowering ensures they stay bushy and floriferous. As with all Australian natives, don’t use phosphorous based fertilizers: half-strength seaweed based fertilizers are fine.

Happy Gardening 🙂

Happy Coincidence

With the exception of the foundation beds adjacent to the house, I am unfussed about ephemeral flower colour combinations in my own garden. So, I usually just buy a ‘mixed bag’ of seeds or bulbs and enjoy the results, whatever they are….

So it’s nice to see these two matchy-matchy combinations:

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Above: the cool blush of an apple-blossom coloured Rununculus and, well, apple blossom (which belongs to a dwarf Malus domestica ‘Pink Lady’).

Below: an equally matchy-matchy hot combo of mixed Papaver nudicaule and an Exbury-Mollis Azalea ‘Arneson Flame’

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Happy Gardening 🙂

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:

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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:

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

Azaleas and more Narcissus:

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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:

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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

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

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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:

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

And cool:

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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:

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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:

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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 🙂

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).

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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.

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

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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:

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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:

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Erysimum are starting to bloom:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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

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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:

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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:

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

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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 🙂

Spring Stirrings

On this, the last weekend of Winter, a week of showers, sun and mild weather has the garden already looking to the season ahead, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

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To me, Crocus epitomises the first of the spring flowers

All over the garden, plants are warming up for the Spring foot-race that becomes an all out marathon in the weeks ahead.

I’ve already shown the Muscari armeniacum which have been blooming in the most sheltered area of the garden, but I love them, and they deserve another look.

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Muscari armeniacum

It shows the power of the micro-climate: elsewhere in the garden, the Muscari have only just started to emerge, such as this little pink variety….

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Hard to believe this is in the same garden it is so far behind!


Narcissi are the stalwart of the early spring garden. The dwarf varieties have been flowering for weeks, and while they are fading, still look good enough to bring a smile:

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The taller Narcissus varieties have also started to open

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I’ll have to be quick however, there is a Cockatoo that is visiting the garden who likes to munch on all of the flower spikes. I am finding half-chewed stems everywhere (!)

Unfortunately for the daffodils, the Cockatoo also takes all of the leaves off, which means the bulbs will likely perish, and unfortunately for me, the Cockatoo only seems to like the more unusual varieties, leaving the bog-standard yellow ones untouched 😦


The very first Anemone coronaria has opened.

I adore these flowers.

This was part of a mixed “De-Caan” hybrid pack, so there should also be some red and white ones to follow, but so far I can see only blue buds….

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Ipheon uniflorum have been in flower since mid-winter but continue to look lovely:

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Helleborus continue to impress with their deep, rich colours:

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In the most sheltered areas of the garden, Primulas are in almost full-swing:

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Bellis perennis have kept a vigil all winter-long, and are still lovely:

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Papaver nudicale, normally a short-lived annual for most gardeners, spot flower for most of the year, but the first spring flushes are still a joy to behold.

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Shrubs are also getting in on the act, with the earliest-blooming azaleas starting to make an appearance.

These lovely blooms belong to Rhododendron spinuliferum ‘Crossbill’:

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The ever brash crimson of the early flowering Azalea indica ‘Red-wing’:

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Another early flowering Rhododendron (unknown cultivar) in brilliant magenta:

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And what of the early flowering variety that got caught in a snow-fall two weeks ago as I planted it? Many expressed concerns that it would be okay. Well, here it is; the carmine buds of Rhododendron ‘Robyn’ have turned to a soft lilac-pink:

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The Camellia japonica ‘Hino-Maru’ in the hedge-row along the property line is also delightful:

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And, lastly for this weeks’ wrap-up is the delightful scent of my little Daphne odora in bloom.

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Amazing to think that such a small plant can fill the air with a delightful fragrance!

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:

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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:

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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):

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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:

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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:

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Severe frost burn on mature specimen

Compare it to the same time last year.

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Same plant August 2014 showing no winter damage


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

June:

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July:

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August:

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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):

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

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

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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):

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

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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

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Fatsia japonica gives a tropical feel:

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As does Acanthus mollis:

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

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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:

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

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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:

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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!

This Week in the Garden: Starting the Terraces

The winter weather has returned to more normal conditions (meaning daytime temperatures of about 5°C / 40°F) but the three week mild spell, which saw temperatures consistently hitting about 12°C / 53°F, has caused many plants to start to bud.

However, there is snowfall and very cold weather forecast this weekend and into next week, so hopefully this won’t cause too much damage to the new growth….

That hasn’t stopped the garden. Here, Primula auricula ‘Alice Haysom’ has opened about 14 weeks too soon.

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Primula auricula ‘Alice Haysom’

It is quite an old cultivar, from the 1930s, and I picked it up a couple of months ago at a garage sale of all places!

It’s not the only early Primula – here P. vulgaris ‘Drumcliffe’ is budding next to a Kurume azalea in bloom:

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Primula vulgaris ‘Drumcliffe’ and Azalea

Another of the mixed bag of Jonquils has bloomed next to the Indica azalea which has been flowering since late June. Thankfully it isn’t a repeat of that paper-white from my last post:

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Narcissus & Azalea

The overgrown Hebe that I hacked back has started to flower:

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Unknown Hebe cultivar

And, wait for it…..roses!

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Rosa ‘Climbing Iceberg’

The middle of winter is a great time to do some of the heavier landscaping tasks, and with the soil not frozen this year, I’ve made a start on terracing part of the back-yard.

I have also set myself a challenge of doing my garden in the most environmentally sustainable way possible: that means severely limiting the materials brought on site and any waste sent off site. As you can imagine, digging the materials needed out of the ground well and truly takes its time :-).

Here is the progress shot of one of the smaller terraces:

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Dry-stone retaining wall

There are another couple of beds to add before this area is finished – a bed in front and two terraces behind, as you can see, I’ve already impatiently started transferring plants from my pot ghetto (but that’s for another post)….

My Chiropractor will be very rich once all of the terraces are done!

Happy Gardening 🙂

The June Garden: Damage and Regrowth

It has been chilly since May.

The lowest temperature I have recorded so far is -9°C/15°F on a couple of occasions and it has been interesting to see which parts of the garden are in protected micro-climates and which parts are exposed to frost.

But, in what should normally be the coldest time of year, we are currently enjoying a respite: the fortnightly forecast is for exceptionally warm weather of about 10-12°C / 50-54°F and no nights much below freezing: despite the last 6 weeks feeling cold, we are actually still running about 1°C above the long-term average….the winters over the last few years have been so mild.

So, with the prospect of a couple of weeks of spring-like temperatures, it’s a good time to see what plants have been killed, which plants will need to be moved and which plants are actually thriving.


First up….some of the more dramatic casualties (click to enlarge):

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L:R. Ajuga, Verbena, Salvia, Diascia, Japanese Windflower

Some of the plants in here are actually somewhat surprising:

Ajuga is supposed to be cold tolerant to -40°C / -40°F: compare this to a few days ago (taken just after the last hard frost and it didn’t look damaged at all)…..I know it will bounce back, but -9°C is a walk in the park compared to -40°C…the Verbena is supposed to be hardy to -20°C / -10°F, not brown mush.

However, it too, should bounce back; many of the plants have already started putting on new growth, like the Japanese windflower which up until a couple of weeks ago had started to fill out as a lovely dense groundcover.

The salvia on the other hand is representative of many of the salvia plants in the garden…blackened, dead sticks or mush; I am not pinning my hopes on more than 50% surviving, but you never know!


Next up….the ‘walking wounded’ casualties (click to enlarge):

Survivors

L:R Salvia Hot Lips, Salvia Waverly, Rhododendron, Pelargonium, Echeveria, Box, Pieris, Leyland Cypresses

The Salvias that have survived have gone a deep purple colour, but they are  showing regrowth. The Rhododendron has also turned an odd black colour.

My scented Pelargonium has had its middle turned to mush; the Echeveria (despite being under the cover of a plastic clear roof) are all pockmarked  in the pattern of the frost and the Buxus is a terrible shade of rust.

The Pieris has swapped healthy green for a sickly yellow tone and many of the Leyland Cypress for the new hedge have turned an unfetching brown shade – compare that to the more attractive green of its neighbour which is in a more sheltered spot along the hedgerow.


But as always, nature continues to surprise: here are the plants not just surviving, but positively THRIVING – and many are considered tender:

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Unknown Hebe Cv.

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Osteospermum

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Osteospermum cv.

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Leucojum thriving next to a frost-burnt buxus plant

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Brachyscome multifidia – a tough little Australian native that is never without flowers

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Erica lusitanica – a terrible weed here in the mountains. Nothing except a determined gardener can kill it 🙂

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Juvenile Daphne odora developing buds – unscathed by the frost


But the stars of the Australian Winter Garden are the Wattles.

These two are in the ‘bush’ area of the garden – a very steep part of the yard in between the private access road and the public road.

In the first photo, you can see the frost damage done to grasses and ferns, but the wattle is completely unscathed. Flowering in the depths of winter, this hardy plant is Acacia terminalis. It has delicate ferny foliage, an open form (although pruning from an early age will encourage density) and beautiful pompoms of yellow sunshine:

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Acacia terminalis

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Acacia terminalis

Note the agapanthus everywhere – also completely unscathed!


And then of course, there are the ‘How is that Possible?’ plants in the garden. Those  plants in sheltered spots are acting as though winter hasn’t even occurred:

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Spring stars continue blooming

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Azalea cv.

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Bellis perennis look like it’s summer

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Summery scabious

And, then there is this scene in one of the very sheltered areas of the garden: surely this isn’t a ‘winter’ that has just delivered over 30 nights and 4 full days of sub-zero temperatures:

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Penstemons, Marguerite, Poppies and daisies….could someone remind the plants what season it is?

Aren’t micro-climates just great? 🙂

And, to finish off, some of the native grasses and coreopsis weeds from the kerbside ‘bush’ area look suitably lovely in their winter coat, rustling in the breeze:

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Winter Grasses and Seedpods

 

Happy Gardening 🙂

This Week in the Garden: Frost and Gales

The garden has taken a bit of a battering these last few weeks.

As an El Niño takes hold in the Pacific, the weather here is reacting in an almost text-book way: some very cold nights of -9°C / 15°F, and then yo-yo like temperatures of freezing days followed ridiculously mild ones and weeks of bitterly cold & dry, gale-force winds sweeping from the interior of the continent.

It is such a change from April & May which saw incredible deluges and the onset of early winter weather.

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Frosty Grass

Many plants that I thought were hardy have actually succumbed to the chill.

Buxus macrophylla (Japanese Box) is usually tough and I planted it because it is the most resistant to box blight – which is also in Australia – but it tends to go an unattractive bronze in icy weather:

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Frost-bitten boxwood

Even the Leylandii hedges that are in the exposed areas have taken on a bronze tint, but not as pronounced as the buxus.

There have been a few losses: many of the salvias have been cut to the ground. I won’t know for sure whether these have survived until later in spring when new growth (hopefully) reappears.

The Tree Dahlia, which survived many frosts down to about -5°C / 23°F unscathed, couldn’t make it through the -9°C / 15°F weather and has been cut back for the year. Although I get a number of extra plants from the canes, so I’m not complaining!


As I don’t really feel the cold, winter is a great time for me to get stuck into making new garden beds and reclaiming the grass.

On the western side of the garden in the shade of existing trees, I have dug over and planted up a new garden bed filled with mostly low to medium growing Rhododendrons. In addition to their wonderful spring flowers, these will help block some of the bitterly cold westerly winds that tear through the garden in winter as well as provide a bit of late afternoon shade in summer.

There are a number of lower growing deciduous plants (Fothergilla major, Cornus, Spirea, Mollis Azaleas etc) at the front of the bed as well as larger deciduous plants interspersed (Ribes sanguineum, Linnæa nee Kolkwitza amabilis, Hamamelis x intermedia, Hydrangea paniculata) which will provide more seasonal interest as Rhododendrons alone can be a little gloomy.

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Fothergilla will provide three seasons of interest against the dark backdrop

I also have a lot of foxgloves and poppies that I have grown from seed which will help fill the gaps while the shrubs establish themselves.

Most of the Rhododendrons are species that grow no more than 1-2m (3′-6′) tall and wide…also, you can see some of the daily ice patches still lingering in the top of this picture:

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Rhododendron sp and a big patch of ice in the background

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More Rhododendron & Azalea sp.

This part of the garden will form one of the (yet-to-be-built) retaining walled areas. The rocks that you see below stacked across the top of the photo run the length of the garden.

These rocks were all dug from that garden bed.

In a bid to be environmentally friendly, I am limiting the materials to those found on site, so I have to dig the rocks out first before being able to build the walls. Hopefully for this retaining wall, I will need to bring in no more than 350kg of sand/cement on site.

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View to the yet to be constructed terrace – must remove those plant tags!!!!

I’ve also finished up another garden bed around one of the large gum trees. In this bed there are irises, salvias (those that survived the frosts), primulas, poppies and an assortment of bulbs:

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Curved, stack-stone garden bed

A small growing weeping Japanese maple will eventually clothe the base of the gum tree and provide a sense of enclosure for the seating area behind.

I must confess that when I first moved here, I tired of the never-ending stone that foiled every effort to cultivate the soil without spending hours digging out heavy rubble….I was left wondering what on earth to do with it all…these dry-stack walls, while rustic, certainly give a sense of place and I have learnt to love them.

As an added benefit, insects shelter between the cracks and the rocks slow down water which drains away on this very steep site, and they radiate warmth which can actually be the difference between a plant living or dying….all in all, quite useful!


Despite the ice, with fast draining soil, there is still a bit in flower. Especially where the garden is sheltered. In fact, with the sunshine, some parts of the garden think it is spring, even though the days are freezing.

I guess it shows the power of creating mini micro climates:

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Iceland poppy

The Iceland poppies – normally just a spring annual – have not stopped since they were planted last year (Spring, Summer, Autumn and now Winter), which is amazing. They do so well here, with no additional water, that I have added many, many more around the garden.

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Cistus and Spirea

I rather like the Cistus and Spirea combo – each of the reds complementing the other….and it isn’t something you normally see side-by-side!

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Sisyrinchium bellum

Sisyrinchium bellum, sheltered against another rock retaining wall, enjoys the additional warmth by giving extra flowers.

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Marguerite

As does the Marguerite, which is really lighting up this part of the garden with its out-of-season display.

Even bulbs are getting in on the act:

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First Spring Stars

The Triteleia (spring star) is blooming many months early in this sunny, sheltered spot.

As is this Narcissus. It is normally an early one, but this is amazing:

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Very early Jonquil

This was resurrected from a clients’ garden, so I don’t know what variety it is.

The Fuchsias have also escaped the worst of the frost, but you can see a bit of damage. Despite this, they are still powering along:

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Fuchsia

Spirea ‘Anthony waterer’ is putting on an odd display:

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“This was moved from a sheltered spot and then hit with frost…yikes


And course, there are the actual winter flowering plants. Osteospermum:

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African Daisy

Pansies look pretty with their little dusting of ice melting in the sun:

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Frosty Pansies

The Hamemelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’ is not only full of buds very early thanks to the prolonged cold, it has also started to flower. This is the first time I’ve grown witch hazel (my Sydney garden was too warm and my London garden was too small) and not only did it have a stunning early autumn display, but it also give these lovely little translucent flowers which are very difficult to photograph!

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Tiny confetti-like Witch-Hazel flowers

The Pieris japonica, also a little frost-bitten, is putting on a nice early display:

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Lily of the Valley tree

But the some best flowers of winter belong to the Australian Natives. Anyone who is in a garden that doesn’t regularly drop below -15°C should consider at least one of these plants for winter interest:

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Brachyscome multifida

The Brachyscome multifidia is blooms most of the year but gives its best display in winter/spring. It is hardy to -15°C / 5°F and as you can see it is undamaged by the recent frosts.

Another stalwart of this winter garden is the Grevillea, Grevillea banksii x bipinnatifida: this shrub had been covered in mildew all summer long from the rain. The frost has cleared that up nicely:

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Grevillea banksii x bipinnatifida

This one has not been damaged by the ice, and even though the literature says it is hardy only to about -5°C / 23°F, it has survived many hours well below that temperature for weeks now without skipping a beat.

Happy Gardening 🙂

This Week in the Garden….I can see clearly now (!)

With apologies to Jimmy Cliff, but after weeks of heavy rain, wind and storms, this week’s forecast is for fine weather. We have had over 500mm / 20″ of rain since the second week of April with only about 3 or 4 days without rain in-between.

So what a difference a bit of sun makes to the spirits.

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Acer palmatum and morning sunlight

As you can see, water is still draining out of my yard: everything is slushy underfoot.

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Water, water, everywhere

My little pine forest that I look out at from the study, is still in tact – so far – they took about 10 trees from within this area, and I certainly hope they have finished. Compare above (after the trees have been felled) and below – not too much difference, thankfully, but the rain may merely have delayed the operation.

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Same view about a month ago

After a lot of chilly weather (which isn’t going to get any warmer), most of the bigger floral displays have well and truly finished, anything that would still be flowering is a mushy, hail damaged, frost-bitten mess, so it is a case of enjoying subtle beauty.

The Camellia sasanqua ‘Mine No Yuki’ has been beautiful, although its blooms have suffered in the storms with a lot of brown spots:

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Camellia sasanqua ‘Mine No Yuki’

I love how the shrub holds its delicate double blooms back-to-back. Quite stunning!

During the weeks of inclement weather, Rosellas sought refuge in the bottle brush (Callistemon viminalis) tree: eating the seed pods that form along the branches. This made for excellent bird-watching on otherwise grey days:

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If only I weren’t an indoor cat?!

Like the Grevillea, these Australian natives bloom when most others stop and are great to ensure visitors to the garden:

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….Raindrops on Roses Grevilleas….

The rain has also flushed out some interesting bugs. Here is a rather unusual wingless fly (Boreoides subulatus) native to Australia: only the female is wingless. She uses that pointy tip to lay rows of eggs in damp crevices:

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Even the damp-loving insects need a break from the rain

Salvias continue to be the mainstay of the bloomers, bravely enduring the rubbish weather, although these, too are looking like they need a rest after flowering since December:

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Salvias are now starting to slow down for winter

Of course, there are still some other stragglers from late summer:

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Clockwise: Achellia, Osteospermum, Cosmos, Verbena, Bellis perennis, Papaver nudicale, Argyranthemum, Rosa ‘Iceberg’, Felicia ameloides, Penstemon, Sisyrinchium and Brachyscome

Then of course, there are the confused spring bloomers. In the warm shelter of the front veranda, these little pansies have started to bloom well ahead of schedule. Outside, they haven’t even started:

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Pansies and Bamboo…don’t ever plant this type of Bamboo in the yard unless you want the world’s worst headache!

Or the azaleas:

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Spring and Autumn….just look at that Hydrangea….!

The Hydrangea has been in glorious leaf for about a month now. I am definitely going to take more cuttings from this one, and probably sell it via a friend at the plant markets as it’s just so unusual to have such beautiful autumn colour on a basic hydrangea: it really makes for a superior type of shrub!

This is one of the ‘Mai-Ko’ types, on a shrub that I took  a cutting from two summers ago.

Of course, autumn colour isn’t unusual on Hydrangea quercifolia and this has also been going for quite some time as well:

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Hydrangea quercifolia


For those of you in the Spring, it’s not too late to rejuvenate old evergreen shrubs.

I cut this old Hebe back hard last September and it has really bounced back. It was about 2m / 8′ and probably 30 years old.

It is as tall as the railing in this year-old photo, and although it is difficult to see, it was very leggy and only gave a few flowers despite its size. It is to the right of the stairs:

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From a year ago: the Hebe is next to the stairs and the house is still only half-renovated

It was cut within 20cm / 6″ of the ground last spring – this is about a month afterwards:

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Recovering from a hard-prune

And here it is now:

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Healthy, and even a little flower 🙂

At least now, I can keep it bushy and start to re-shape it.

And speaking of Spring, it’s nice to have that snow-drop look in Autumn: Leucojum autumnale is a dainty little bulb at this time of year, but it is tough:

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Leucojum autumnale

Of course, there is still a lot of autumn foliage around:

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Clockwise: Enkianthus, Acer palmatum near the secret garden, Acer palmatum over the garage, Quercus rubra showing fantastic patterns

Even though the colour isn’t brilliant (it’s still in a pot waiting to be planted out) the Quercus rubra certainly has wonderful patterns!).

Lastly, the little Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Seiryu’ has given some nice colour. It goes well with the larger maple behind it:

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Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Seiryu’ dissolves into the larger Acer in a fiery display

Happy Gardening 🙂