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 🙂

Late Summer Starts – Flowers Galore

As late summer starts, for many gardens the ‘dog days’ often spell an end to much of the colour in the garden. But in a mild climate with no real heat knocking plants about, the flowering season is long.

Case in point: the nodding Hellebore flowers perfectly complement the Fuchsia. (Now there’s two plants not often in a sentence, let alone a photo together!)


Hellebore and Fuchsia…together at last.

And, given the recent rain and weeks-long low temperatures (nights of about 6°C/42°F and days of about 14°C/57°F) mismatched seasonal flowers are not an isolated event.

Here, flowers associated with late winter and late summer sit side by side:

Or a red maple, already wearing its autumn colours despite summer….


Sorry about the quality – taken with a camera phone

But at least the flowers typically associated with summer are in bloom.

The Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) is a charming harbinger of late summer:

Astilbe chinensis ‘Vision in Pink’ is blooming. Even though I took these from the same division, I like the subtle differences between the two:

More of my mixed bag lilies have flowered, I have a pale pink, a spotty pink and a white to add to the hot pink that opened at the start of summer

The Violet-Blue of the Campanula has come in for another flush of flowers. It makes a good companion to the Nepeta cataria ‘Walkers Low’:

Brachyscome multifida, a pretty little ground cover from Victoria & New South Wales, puts on a great display for much of the year, but is especially cheery in the height of summer. I’ve quite a number dotted around the garden:

They can be a little short lived, starting to fail after about 7 years, but propagate very easily from layering (which they do naturally, much like strawberries) division or tip-cuttings in summer. It is hardy to -15°C/5°F (USDA zone 7), but demands good drainage to shake the cold.

Continuing with Australian natives, the Grevillea banksii x bipinnatifida ‘Ned Kelly’ is also giving a nice summer display:

This one flowers continuously throughout the year. It is a little more tender than the Brachyscome, but it survives at least -10°C/14°F in my garden, although it starts to show some damage below -5°C/23°F. To keep these flowering and compact, remove all spent blooms and give it a light all-over trim with hedging shears in mid-late spring.

Despite being from opposite ends of the globe, its colours and form remind me of the fading the Oak-leaf Hydrangea:


Hydrangea quercifolia

The cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus) continue to charm, as do the California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica) and the little Violas. These have been powering along since the first warm days of spring and show no signs of fading:

That packet of seeds certainly has been value for money, with such a long, long flowering season.

Alyssum is always a great flowerer, somewhat weedy, but the bees adore it:


Sweet Alice

It’s in the same family as Wallflowers, and like them, keeps flowering in my climate as long as it doesn’t get too hot.

But another packet of seeds isn’t quite living up to expectations.

I’m not complaining as the seed packets – ridiculously cheap to begin with – were given to me free as they were two years out-of-date. The germination rate was fine (about 75%), but the picture vs. reality doesn’t quite match:

It would take a lot of photoshopping to even come close!

Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’ is blooming. However, I think this one has a little too much summer shade and it will need to moved in a few months to ensure it’s golden foliage stays true…


Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’

And of course, in summer, the expectation is for hot, bold, brash colours:


Nasturtium and Thuja Smaragd conifer

Few plants better capture the feeling of heat than Nasturtiums. Especially in a terracotta pot…(even though I forgot to bring the pot under cover during the winter so the frost cracked large chunks off it.) Oh well…

The Pelargonium has been belting out flowers since October.


Pelargonium domesticum ‘Solstice Lilac Star’

I know these are sold has tender bedding geraniums in the UK, but they are much cold-hardier than credited (the caveat is that the drainage must be perfect; if they have wet feet, even light frost will kill them).

This one has survived plenty of hard frosts and snow storms without even the slightest damage. After each flush of flowers, just give them a light prune, some comfrey or seaweed solution, and it will be covered in flowers again in two weeks. Best of all, the cuttings root ridiculously easily to make new plants.

Here are Pelargonium cuttings that I put in a few weeks ago, straight in the ground next to the plant. As you can see by the dead bits, I didn’t follow any of the traditional rules associated with cuttings (Eg: no flowering parts, remove lower leaves, make sure the cutting isn’t too large, etc, etc). Most of them have taken root, and it really is that easy:


Pelargonium cuttings starting to take

I usually pot these on into little tubes and give them away to neighbours and nice clients.

I do exactly the same for boxwood, but here I have at least used a pot. In truth, any pot-plant I ever have ends up being over-taken with garden cuttings, or larger seed that I am germinating. These two pots have Quercus robur and Camellia sasanqua seedlings in amongst the Buxus, Osteospermum and Erysimum cuttings….

Happy Gardening 🙂

This Week in the Garden

The Summer Solstice was a glorious day.

A bit of sun, a bit of cloud and just a quick, passing shower, a nice strong breeze and a top of 21°C (70°F).

As you would expect at this time of year, the garden is starting to fill with colour.

More Lupins have opened – this time, I’m getting my wish with the more stellar combinations. Each bush has many more spikes, so with a bit of luck I will be enjoying these through summer



The foxgloves, such a mainstay of so many gardens, have come into their own, shown here with the hydrangea:


Digitalis x mertonensis ‘Strawberry’ and Hydrangea quercifolia

I love the combination with the Wallflower:


Erysimum and Digitalis

I don’t know about you, but these flowers always invite me to have a closer look, so….


Digitalis x mertonensis ‘Strawberry’

The other Hydrangea quercifolia, planted in an awkward spot under the stairs, is doing very well:


It certainly appreciates the shade provided by the treads and should fill the space without needing cutting back (the stairs are 2.5m/8′ tall). Additionally, this should keep its burgundy throughout the winter, which will make a nice contrast to the grey and white of the house.

Some of the blue shades in the garden:

Ajuga reptans…a little late to flower, but it is in a fairly shady spot:


Blue bugle

A little Campanula portenschlagiana, given to me by my neighbour is flowering away:


Campanula portensclagiana

Nigella damascena is always a star, but it is one that you have to look for closely:


Nigella damascena

But for an intense blue at this time of year, it is hard to go past the cornflowers, Centaurea cyanus, which are taking centre stage:


Centaurea cyanus

Of course available in other shades, such as light blue and pink:



Here in purple, going well with the Heucheras and the Violas. Pity that all the storms last week flattened a lot of the flowers, but such is life in the garden!





This little wildflower seed packet sown direct in the soil in September, has given months of mileage:



The poppies are still powering along:



Coreopsis ‘Salsa’ picks up the hot colours of the poppies:



Hope you enjoyed seeing what is on show this week…as always, 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 🙂

New garden bed

We’ve been having some rather blustery winter weather. For the last two weeks, almost day and night have been continuously blowing a gale at 80kmph/50mph. The highest gusts have been about 130kmph/80 mph and have brought down a number of trees across the upper mountains.

And it’s been chilly.

The mornings have been windy and between -3°C and -7°C (26°F – 19°F) with black ice forming on the odd days of patchy rain/sleet or snow flurries. Black ice is not photogenic like the pretty white stuff; it just makes for very slippery driving!

Despite that, I’ve made some progress on the little garden bed in front of the house.


You can see the two roses (one patio and one climbing) from my earlier post and I’ve added three Choisya ternata shrubs which will grow and form a bushy evergreen – and in summer – fragrant hedgerow.

You can also see I’ve put the infernal rocks that I dig up by the thousands to use: they form a small raised bed. As there will always be lawn in the front yard, I’ve created a straight edge from some old timber fence palings. This should keep the couch and kikuyu at bay.

Additionally, I’ve planted some Achillea millefolium “summer pastels” crowns which will give some ferny summer colour. It’s also very frost tolerant (but as this wall faces due North, frost won’t be too much of a problem)

Lastly, a couple of salvia and campanula complete the front of the bed for now.

It doesn’t look like much, but I’m sure it will take off in spring.

Despite the cold, the garden is still blooming:


The Osteospermum ‘lemon yellow’ seems unbothered by the chill, and provides a nice contrast to the oakleaf hydrangea still carrying its purple foliage.

The foxgloves grow bigger each day and I hope to get some flowers by late spring.

Oddly enough, the wallflower that I planted from tubestock in March (Erysimum ‘bowles mauve’) has been hardest hit by the frosts and freezing winds. None-the-less, it is still in flower…..


I must confess that I’m using it as a bit of a nurse plant while the variegated Hebe and the Arizona Cypress in between the two establishes themselves in a couple of years, but I’m quite chuffed with how compact both of these are, and hope that the frost hasn’t cut them back too hard.