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:

IMG_3952

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).

IMG_3852

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:

Blues

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’.

IMG_4059

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:

IMG_0322

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

8078941745_fd0e6a814e_b

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:

IMG_3918a

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’

IMG_4084b

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:

Small

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:

DaffRoseTulip

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

Azaleas and more Narcissus:

jonqsAzalea

TulipsBluebells

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:

Azaleas

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

Azaleas1

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

RhodoPrim

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:

Wallflowers

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

And cool:

Blue

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:

Warm

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:

LongShots

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:

Tulip

 

Tulips

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:

Daffs

The Cockatoo has actually left the white Narcissi alone!

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

Daffs2

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

The first Freesias have opened:

IMG_3346

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.

Muscari

I love the contrast between the Erysimum and the Muscari:

IMG_3546

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

Wallflowers

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!

Muscari1

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

IMG_3504

Anemone and Ranunculus are also starting to show promise:

Anemone_Ranunc

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.

Cyc_Pulm

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday Vignette – Cherries on the Mountain

Mt Fuji it isn’t, and I don’t think that the Japanese will be clamouring to enjoy Hanami under the first cherry blossoms  on one of my hell-strips, but to me the view across the valley is just as lovely on a bright, breezy morning.

IMG_3578

We are looking North: the furthest blue hill that we are looking down on just to the right of the power-pole is the Mt Tomah Botanic Gardens.

If you are ever in the Blue Mountains, the Mt Tomah gardens are spectacular, and it is just a short trip to the magical garden village of Mt Wilson.

Linking up with Anna at Flutter and Hum. Do check out what has caught the eye of other gardeners around the globe this Wednesday!

 

Tableland Mirbelia – a Rare Australian Native

Even though so much in the spring garden is clamouring for attention with big bright showy flowers, I thought I’d focus on a somewhat rare and little-known native plant, Mirbelia platyloboides.

This little Mirbelia is native to elevated areas of Australia’s East Coast on fast-draining sandstone based soils and forms an open groundcover/prostrate shrub. Like so much of the lesser-known flora of the world, it is in decline.

IMG_3242

Close up of Mirbelia platyloboides

The flowers of M. platyloboides are small: less than 15mm / ½” across.

In my garden it grows on an embankment in the ‘bushland’ area that separates the public road from the private easement that allows my neighbours to get to their houses: and gives me the dubious pleasure of owning four ‘hell-strips’.

IMG_3406

Standing on the public road looking back to the easement and house: M. platyloboides is in the foreground

With so much mess to tackle in the main garden I haven’t touched this area since I moved in…although now that an El-Niño is bearing down on Australia (meaning less rain), I won’t do anything with this area yet.

But I am excited at the prospect.

The disconnection from the house and the rest of the garden that the easement brings is very unusual in a smaller garden – and allows me the opportunity to do something totally different from other garden areas around the house – and it will have a lot of Australian natives…but that is for much, much later posts!

IMG_3404

Though M. platyloboides flowers are quite intense up close, at standing height, they are much more subtle

M. platyloboides flowers late winter/early spring and has usually gone over by mid October. Its flowers are similar to the (only slightly) more well known Dillwynias.

This winter it survived a lot of severe frosts (the lowest being -10°C / 14°F as well as over 40 mornings of about -5°C / 23ºF) and many days where the temperature didn’t get above freezing and it was undamaged by all of heavy snowfalls and ice.

It is a member of the tough Fabaceæ family and bears the typical pea-flower. The small leaves have the most wonderful texture similar to reptilian skin.

Mirbelia does not tolerate clay and needs excellent drainage. Coming from cool areas, it dislikes heat and humidity, but could probably survive in the higher suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne or Adelaide as long as it had afternoon shade.

This is a very difficult plant to get hold of, but if you are an Australian native plant enthusiast, seeds can be purchased online. To germinate them, you must replicate a light, quick bushfire (I do this by lightly sowing the seeds in a large clay/terracotta/concrete pot, cover thinly with soil and then a thick layer of Eucalyptus leaves and then set fire to it).

IMG_3240

Close-up of leaves and flowers

But for something quite unusual, it is well worth the effort, and, once planted needs virtually no maintenance apart from an occasional light trim after flowering.

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).

Poppy

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.

IMG_3263a

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

IMG_2764

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:

YellowDaffs

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:

IMG_3228

IMG_3230


Erysimum are starting to bloom:

Erysimum


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:

Osteospermum

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:

BellisBrachy


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.

IMG_3256


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

IMG_3056


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:

Rhodo

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:

IMG_3284

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

IMG_3278

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.

RhodoBird

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:

IMG_3062

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:

IMG_3041

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:

RhodoBig

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.

IMG_2842

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.

IMG_3144

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….

IMG_3076

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:

IMG_2820

The taller Narcissus varieties have also started to open

IMG_3013

IMG_3079

IMG_3165

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….

IMG_3152


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

IMG_3118


Helleborus continue to impress with their deep, rich colours:

IMG_3136


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

IMG_3084

IMG_3162

IMG_3122

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

IMG_2872

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.

IMG_3160


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’:

IMG_3154

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

IMG_3086

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

IMG_3106

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:

IMG_3158


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

IMG_3043

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

IMG_3120

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

Happy Gardening 🙂