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 🙂

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 🙂

Is it Spring Already?

Not quite.

It’s snowing again and more is forecast this afternoon.

Thankfully it’s not heavy like two weeks ago and is only settling in tiny, icy drifts as it is just too windy for anything substantial to stay on the ground.

The bitter wind-chill is -18°C / -1°F, and, coupled with the actual air temperature still below freezing at midday, it is particularly unpleasant outside.


Icy snow crystals. I’m sure the Inuit have a word for this wind-blown stuff. I have to post this to prove it is still winter as the following pictures look like mid-spring!

But try telling that to some parts of the garden!

In the little sheltered microclimates I have created with fences, under tall evergreens and by enclosing spaces around outbuildings – and mulching all garden beds –  has meant that spring has started in a few select spots in the garden.

Even on a frigid day like today, stepping into these parts of the garden is noticeably warmer; the howling gale is reduced to a noisy breeze and the wind-blown snow hasn’t settled…here I can actually take my gloves off to press the I-pad camera button.

While the rest of the garden is still grey, brown and still stuck in winter, these little micro-climates really lift the spirits and extend the spring blooming season ahead for months!

So here it is….pictures from the most sheltered parts of the garden, that make a liar of my assertions that it is still cold :-).

First up, little dwarf Narcissi ‘Little Gem’ :


Narcissus ‘Little Gem’ near an emerging Spanish Bluebell

Narcissus ‘Erlicheer’:


Narcissus ‘Erlicheer’

The brilliant yellows certainly brighten any dreary day.

Muscari armeniacum in this area have also punched through the chill with their precious little jewel-like grapes:


Muscari armeniacum

 Primulas are starting to put on a great display; first is the annual candelabra variety:


Primula malacoides

The more traditional, Primula vulgaris also joins in. This cultivar is ‘High Tea Drumcliff’ it has fabulous deep green leaves:


Primula vulgaris ‘High Tea Drumcliff’

Ipheon uniflorum – which started flowering over a month ago, is really doing well in this part of the garden. Other clumps elsewhere have not even begun to stir, so it will be great to get months of these delicate blue beauties:


Ipheon uniflorum

A little Nemesia aromatica plug that I planted in autumn has started to perform; it normally smells lovely, but the air is too cold to enjoy the perfume today:


Nemesia aromatica

The same goes for the Daphne odora in this sheltered, warm part of the garden. Even though its first flowers have opened, the chill makes it impossible to smell anything:


Daphne odora

Helleborus are heralding the end of winter. These were all put in as tiny plugs last year, so it is really heartening to see them start to flower so soon:


Helleborus niger


Helleborus niger

But some warm microclimates weren’t created by me. I’ve just taken advantage of them. The front of the house faces due North and gets all-day sun.

Unlike the siding of the rest of the house, the basement wall is brick, and I’ve painted it a dark colour to ensure as much heat as possible is retained.

It works a treat, and I get roses blooming in mid-winter on bare branches:


Climbing Iceberg Roses and Osteospermums love this warm, sheltered spot

It’s quite an odd thing to see, but I’m rather warming to it 🙂

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):


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):


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:


Unknown Hebe Cv.




Osteospermum cv.


Leucojum thriving next to a frost-burnt buxus plant


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


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


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:


Acacia terminalis


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:


Spring stars continue blooming


Azalea cv.


Bellis perennis look like it’s summer


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:


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:


Winter Grasses and Seedpods


Happy Gardening 🙂

Mid Autumn Flowers and more Cockatoos

Despite last weeks’ brief snowfall, there is still a fair bit of floral interest in the garden.

My little free dianthus has relished the cool weather and the highly variable cosmos continue to flower:


Clockwise from Left: Dianthus, Cosmos ‘Candy Stripe’, Impatiens, Japanese Windflower

The impatiens has done virtually nothing all summer long and is now starting to be affected by the cold. I’ll probably dig it up and see if I can over-winter it in a pot as I am sure that there must be some flowers for next year as well, given how little it has grown this spring and summer!

The last of the summer bloomers can always be relied on to extend the display. Here, Penstemon hartwegii ‘Schönholzeri’ keeps up a fine show:


Penstemon hartwegii ‘Schönholzeri’

Achillea millefolium (Yarrow) and Verbena canadensis are still flowering away:


Achillea millefolium & Verbena canadensis

The Iceland poppies, that used to last about 2 weeks in my Sydney garden are still flowering strongly. They have not been without flowers for eight solid months and continue to amaze me. The Muscari clumps look very healthy and appear to be quite early:


Iceland Poppies just won’t quit 🙂

Other late summer plants are putting on a brave face. Miniature dahlias that my neighbour gave me continue to flower despite the chill (and slug damage!). The last of the Helenium ‘Riverton Beauty’ brings a cheery yellow to the chicken wire that has been supporting it. Alyssum and self-sown phlox keep a small blueberry company as it changes into its autumn coat, and the Scabiosa ochroleuca ‘Cream Pincushion’ has the most delightful seed-pods imaginable:


Counter-clockwise from top: Dahlia, Helenium, Phlox & Alyssum, Scabious – just look at the seed-pods 🙂

Camellia sasanqua ‘Mine No Yuki’ is covered in blossom. With its pendulous branches and blousy form, it makes quite a sight:


Camellia sasanqua

Other short lived perennials, like the Argyranthemum frutescens “Crazy Daisy” is greeting the cool weather with increased floral displays:



Australian natives are also getting in on the act. The Brachyscome multifida – a cold hardy (down to -15°C/5°F) and drought hardy native from NSW and Victoria looks great in the softer light of autumn. It is seldom without any flowers, just like the Osteospermums (which are all part of the Asteraceae family):


Brachyscome multifida and Osteospermums

Another native shrub in the garden, which I have never shown before (partly because it is right at the front of the property beyond an easement line….I never actually spend much time there!) is Banksia spinulosa. This is hardy to at least -12°C/10°F (USDA zone 8a/RHS zone 5 with sharp drainage)

It has magnificent spiky inflorescences and attractive grey-green foliage:


Banksia, grevillea, hebe and the only ageratum from my seed packet to do well….grown in a pot in at least 6 hours of shade!

The Grevillia always gives such pleasure, although, after such a damp eight months it is suffering terribly from mildew and mould. Surprisingly, we are still short of our normal rainfall totals by almost 100mm/4″: this will give you an idea of how much rain we actually get here in the mountains.

The unknown hebe is continuing to power along…it will be removed as it is surrounded by cotoneaster, firethorn and blackberry, but I have taken many cuttings of it and it will continue on in the garden.

Salvia greggii cultivars are still flowering profusely throughout the garden:


Counter-clockwise from top: S greggii ‘Sierra Pink’, ‘Hotlips’, ‘Patio White’

They really do earn their keep!

For the Galanthus lovers who would now be going through withdrawals after the winter/spring display has finished, there is an summer/autumn flowering variety – Galanthus reginæ-olgœ.

Now this Galanthus is notoriously difficult to get, but don’t despair….it has a cheaper, more readily available cousin in Leucojum æstivum that might be just what you are looking for to give the ‘snow drop’ appearance during the snowflake off-season.

These were here with the house, but they are virtually indestructible. This area has suffered terribly with oxalis infestations, and I can’t tell you how many bulbs I have speared trying to remove the weeds, yet they keep powering along and have multiplied freely since last year:


Autumn snowdrops

They’re fairly variable and will likely keep flowering until early winter and probably have another flush in late spring, they are very old-fashioned, and certainly trouble-free.

Autumn is also always a time that delivers lots of out-of-season flowers:


Azaleas come in for a second flush before spring – R. ‘Blue Admiral’ is always a welcome sight


Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pee-Gee’ in autumn splendour. Daphne genkwa delivers an out-of season flower and the last of the out-of-season rosemary which has been blooming since January

Berries are also a great source for birds at this time of year. Here Rozellas eat the berries of Japanese Privet (I know, it’s a weed, and a shocker at that, but the birds love it; I haven’t brought myself to cut it down yet as it is over 5m/17′ tall and overhanging part of the house!):


Rozellas and Privet….ensuring millions of seedlings for years to come 🙂

And of course, grasses, even those that are mown, provide a lot of seed at this time of year. When not munching on brioche and belgian waffles at the local café, the local push of cockatoos gather en masse to feed:




And lastly, while not yet in flower, I think that my tree dahlia cutting (Dahlia imperialis) soon will be. While it has only reached about 1.2m/3’3″ (it was attacked by slugs at the beginning of spring), it is developing promising buds:


Dahlia imperialis in bud

I do hope it makes it before the frosts – the forecast is for more chilly weather – Monday is supposed to have gales and sleet and a top temperature of 5°C/40°F, so winter is on its way.

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

After such an average run of summer weather, the start to autumn has been the warmest in over a century.


Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pink Diamond’

I guess the longer summer has suited the Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pink Diamond’ which has now turned to a wonderful deep rose as it begins to fade. What a stunning plant.

One of the plants I truly miss from my Sydney garden is Brunfelsia latifolia (commonly called ‘Yesterday-Today-and-Tomorrow’). It’s strictly a warm climate shrub whose flowers last for three days. They open purple on day one, change to violet on day two and then white on day three, giving this wonderful effect:


Yesterday-Today-and-Tomorrow…not a plant suited to the mountains

But it is for USDA zone 9 and above. And while I took an off-shoot with me before I moved, it has struggled in its pot in my zone 8 garden and constantly looks frost-bitten (even in summer).

However, the Hydrangea paniculata gives a similar effect over a much longer period as these images from January onwards show:

And it fades to pink no matter what the pH of the soil is.

Its leaves are still fresh and green, unlike those of the nearby Hydrangea quercifolia, which are now starting to turn:


Hydrangea quercifolia

I really like the contrast between the multi-coloured leaf and the last, recently opened flower of summer.

The more traditional Hydrangeas (these are Maiko and Nobuko varieties) that I started from cuttings last autumn and planted up in October, have grown nicely and although these are yet to flower, they are also starting to show some nice autumn colours which will add some additional seasonal interest to this border, where they are mass planted with azaleas and primulas.



This was bed back in October, and because this side yard is visible from the front entrance, I have actually avoided my tendency to have ‘one of each’ and go for repetition…I can’t tell you how hard that was:


Hydrangeas – October

Even the Red Maples that I am growing in pots on the veranda before transplanting them to their final home have started to turn:


Acer rubrum

This clear-roofed verandah is where I normally keep tender plants as it is always 5°C warmer than the garden….this certainly proves that cold weather isn’t the only factor in determining vibrant autumn hues.

The wet weather continues to cause an explosion of weeds. Spirea ‘Anthony Waterer’ is flowering away despite being surrounded by paspalum and hundreds of broom seedlings (I must get around to weeding that bed this weekend!):


Spirea and weeds

The long cool spell followed by warmth has tricked some shrubs – here is Viburnum plicatum ‘tomentosum’ starting to flower well out of season


Viburnum plicatum

And all of last years bulbs are starting to come up very early.

This doesn’t concern me too much as many folk (whose soils are better and more moisture retentive than mine) have reported that most of their bulbs have rotted with the endless summer rain.

At least my daffodils seem fine. My saffron crocus, however, rotted entirely after struggling through the wet weather 😦

The Muscari have certainly enjoyed the moisture and have multiplied well:


Grape Hyacinth shoots and never ending poppy flowers

And of course, with autumn, it now means bulbs are available to purchase!

With all of the lovely pictures of spring Irises coming from my gardening friends in Europe and those few parts of N. America not under 5 trillion tonnes of snow, it has prompted me to plant a few of my own.

I’ve chosen Dutch Iris ‘Discovery’, ‘Paris’ and ‘Golden Beauty’ – I’ve already planted these in the drier sunnier parts of the garden.

I’ve added to the daffodil bulbs (I’ll plant these out in mid-May otherwise, going by the other daffodils already sprouting in the garden, they will end up blooming in the middle of winter):

Daffodils and Tulips

All gardeners know where hard earned cash goes….bulbs 🙂

And, I snuck in some tulips for good measure. In my Sydney garden, tulips were just a frivolous waste of money. Here it’s cold enough for Tulips naturalise as long as I can keep the bulbs dry through summer….I’m always up for a challenge 🙂

Autumn is also tree planting time. Regular blog readers will know that I have very odd-shaped block of land with a dividing fence that is in the wrong spot, cutting off a large area of the garden. I fixed that with 50m of Leyland cypress:


The new property boundary

I’ve been clearing this part of the yard for many months, there is still much to go, but it’s a long way from what it used to look like when I bought the place:


Google street view 2010 – you can imagine how much worse it was in 2013 when I bought the house!

The Leyland cypresses will be kept clipped to a formal hedge, and, once they have grown to 1.8m/6″ the timber fence will be removed. The new hedge isn’t quite the property boundary, but as the land survey showed sewerage pipes running along the boundary I decided to keep the hedge 2.5m/9″ closer to the house to avoid any problems later.

And, to finish off this post, a quick shot of one of the garden Osteospermums starting its cool-season flowering spree:



Happy gardening 🙂

Late Summer draws to a close

In the final days of summer, there’s still a huge amount flowering, but I’ll try to show plants that I haven’t already posted pictures of this season, so as not to bore you, my dear readers 🙂

Even though last winter was one of the mildest on record, the frost still managed to knock many of the so-called ‘hardy’ Salvias about, so I decided to give Agastache a trial and planted a couple of little plugs in late spring.

They have come along very nicely. These are far more cold-tolerant than most of the readily available Salvias,  and so far the Agastache have been almost as long flowering & dry-tolerant as, and sharing the lovely colours and tubular inflorescences of, their better-known cousins. This makes them a great complement in the exposed areas of the garden.

Not that these similarities should be a surprise: both Agastache & Salvia belong to the massive Lamiaceæ (Mint) family.

The first one is Agastache aurantiaca ‘Salmon Pink’:


Agastache aurantiaca ‘Salmon Pink’

The two-tone, hot coloured flowers just epitomise the summer garden. The next Agastache is more typical of the habit normally seen of the garden Hyssops; this one being the ‘Blue Fortune’ cultivar of Agastache rugosa x fœniculum:


Agastache rugosa x fœniculum ‘Blue Fortune’

I’ll certainly be searching out many more of these plants as they have been really good value this summer.

But some of the other Salvias have really started to fill out. Salvia x microphylla ‘Hot Lips’, while not much to look at yet, has put on a fair bit of growth. It should fill out to be dense and bushy. This is a reasonably cold-tolerant Salvia; taking at least -15°C/8°F:


Salvia x microphylla ‘Hot Lips’

Another little Salvia that has flowered is S. greggii ‘Pink Raspberry Royal’:


Salvia greggii ‘Pink Raspberry Royal’

This one is not as cold tolerant as S. microphylla, so it is in a north-facing enjoying all day sun and radiant warmth from the brickwork.

Moving away from hardy to quite tender is Limonium perezzi (otherwise known as Statice). This is in a protected area; it survived last winter and has given the first flowers:


Limonium perezzii

Typically, this plant can’t stand frosts lower than about -7°C/20°F – here it is growing in the otherwise difficult shelter of a few large Eucalypts and the Macrocarpa Cypress, so it should be fine, and will hopefully spread. If you are in a mild area, this is a pretty good plant for the dry, dappled shade.

The Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pink Diamond’ shown in an earlier post is now living up to its name with glorious two-toned bracts:


Pink Diamond


Pink Diamond

Cuttings of the ivy-leaf pelargonium/geranium (Pelargonium peltatum) have flowered. This was taken from a clients’ garden, so I’m unsure of the cultivar.

In a warm spot, P. peltatum are amongst the most trouble-free Pelargoniums, being largely untroubled by diseases or humidity which makes them suitable in mild dry climates as well as the humid subtropical ones. The cuttings I used were almost 30cm/10″ long, pushed straight into the ground, which shows just how easily they strike.

P. peltatum is very frost tender (taking only a few degrees below freezing) so in my garden it is growing next to the lemon tree and passionfruit vine under the permanent warmth and protection of the polycarbonate roof which acts like a giant cold-frame.

It has a trailing habit and will be treated like a climber/groundcover in this area. I love the white flower and glorious leaf-shape.


Pelargonium peltatum

The Convolvulus sabatius plug that I planted in April last year and thought was actually on a sabbatical, has finally given one flower. I can add this to a growing list of plants that others find easy to grow but struggle in my cool summers 😉


Convolvulus sabatius – back from sabbatical (just)

But I haven’t lost hope – these little Cosmos that I whinged about at the start of February have gone from this:

To this:

Still variable, but much, much better 🙂

I moved the little Dianthus away from a similar, but to my mind, clashingly hued Pelargonium…it is doing very well:


Dianthus cv.

The last two pieces of the Achillea millefolium have finally flowered in shades of pink:

In the foreground is a recent purchase, Ptilotus exaltatus ‘Joey’. This somewhat tender perennial is a cultivar of an Australian plant whose natural habitat is in semi-desert areas. It’s low-growing:, never attaining more than about 30cm/12″, so very useful at the front of the border.

It will tolerate cold nights (about -10°C/14°F) but I’m not sure how it will go in my climate where the days often fail to get above freezing after heavy frost, so this winter will be the test. I imagine in climates like California or Southern Spain, this plant would romp away effortlessly.

It is relatively new-ish on the garden scene (it was used in a few gardens at last years’ Chelsea show): but the flowers are so unique – they look as though they belong in a Victorian era parlour!


Ptilotus exaltatus ‘Joey’

Helenium ‘Riverton Beauty’ announces the transition from summer to autumn with vibrant yellows:


Helenium ‘Riverton Beauty’

It’s a stunner, but at about 1.6m/5′ tall, it needs staking and protection from strong wind. The bees love it, and it’s nice not to have to bend down to photograph flowers!

With the shorter days of late summer, the Osteospermums are getting ready to burst into prolific flower. This is one of the first I planted, ‘Cinnamon Trade Winds’ :


Lastly, to show I can actually grow things in pots without giving the entire space over to cuttings, a Begonia tuberhybrida has flowered. These are notoriously tricky to grow as they need summer warmth, but not heat, with mild nights above 15°C, filtered light but not shade and moist but not damp, soil. Here, I have the pot sitting on the top of the hot-water heater to ensure that it survives my cool summer nights.

Once the leaves die back in autumn, the tuber needs to be lifted and stored in sawdust over the winter period away from frost.

Fiddly, but look at these flowers:


Begonia Tuberhybrida ‘Old Gold’ and a grumpy garden gnome

Happy Gardening 🙂


Late Summer rolls on

The three week cool spell (with days in the teens and single-digit nights) is over with temperatures back in the low twenties (70°s) during the day. The garden certainly has relished every second of it!

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pink Diamond’ is in flower.

The bees love this one. It opens white, but should soon fade to a striking, rosy pink. H. paniculata is still somewhat uncommon in Australia and I had to hunt around for this plant.

Autumn seems to continue to want to take an early hold, which is  worrying as there is still potential for hot weather between now and late March…further, it means that when the real autumn comes around, half the plants will be out of leaf 😦

Here, an Acer japonicum (Full-moon Maple) in a neighbouring garden is already in autumn colour:


Too early for Autumn! I do like the white agapanthus though….

Most of the Achillea millefolium (Yarrow) divisions have flowered:

I’m not sure about the apricot/beige one (even though the bees like it). It’s an unusual colour and I’ll see if it grows on me, if not it can be moved to a different spot.

There are still two Yarrow pieces yet to flower, so it will be interesting to see what colours I get from them!

Salvias are a great performer in the more frost-protected areas of the garden. Here are but some of my current plants…

The deep purple Salvia x hybrid ‘Amistad’ is quite tender; I nearly lost the seedling to frost this last winter, but it has since tripled in growth and finally produced some very stunning deep purple flowers held on almost black calyxes.

Likewise, the showy, yet, horribly named ‘Sallyfun Bicolour’ (yes, that really is its name) has flowered much better since I moved it towards the front of the house where it has radiant warmth from the brick-work. Despite the name, with its three-tone dark blue, light blue and white frothy flowers, I think it is one of the nicest Salvias I have yet seen.

I have only the one Penstemon in the garden so far – I intend to add more – this one is Penstemon hartwegii ‘Schönholzeri’ and is finally starting to put on a show:

Of course with all of the rain this summer, weeds are prolific. Here in the Blue Mountains, combinations of yellow tickseed (Coreopsis lanceolata), montbretia (Crocosmia X crocosmiiflora) and Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus praecox) feature along every road and empty lot……….as an interesting aside on Latin vs. common names, did you know that Horticultural convention dictates that you need to use common names when referring to weed species?

Anyway here are some random ‘pretty’ weed photos around town. These were all taken on a camera phone, so forgive the quality:

I love the goat tied to the fence to control weeds on the nature strip 🙂

Anyway, here is my patch of Crocosmia X crocosmiiflora in flower. This is in another part of the garden that I haven’t shown and haven’t even made a start on yet – you can see this weed keeping good company with agapanthus, blackberry, privet and so on….

I have also planted a Coreopsis, but this garden cultivar is sterile:


Coreopsis ‘Salsa’

Tulbaghia violacea variegata (Variegated Society Garlic) has put on a display, with yet more Papaver nudicaule (Iceland Poppies) behind it preparing for their gazillionth bloom.

It’s also heartening to see how much growth the Cupressus glabra ‘Blue Ice’ (Arizona Cypress) row has put on this summer, they’ve more than doubled in size. You can see here, how tiny they were when planted in April 2014:


Variegated Society Garlic, Arizona Cypress and Iceland Poppies

The Tulbaghia flowers are remarkably similar to the Agapanthus, which, having bloomed early, are now starting to go over. However, I found a slightly different variety in the garden which has a far more pronounced stripe to the flower:


Agapanthus variety

I’m assuming this one is a chance variation. Maybe it’s actually unique and I can give it naming rights with a hideous name like the Salvia? Agapanthus praecox ‘Mattfun Bicolour’ anyone? Ugggh.

Sisyrinchium bellum (California Blue Grass) has put on a few flowers. This has been rather slow growing since I put it in at the start of summer; this area that I reclaimed had a lot of wild sheep-sorrel (Rumex acetosella) which I have struggled to remove. 

With its tiny roots wrapping around everything, I suspect it has slowed this plant down. S. bellum is hardy to USDA zone 7/8 and will take temperatures down to at least -15°C/5°F.


Sisyrinchium bellum 

I do like the strappy leaves that these flowers provide: while much of the world is using grasses (a trend I like), I have to be very careful about what I choose as many of the foreign grasses could have an utterly devastating impact on the Blue Mountains environment, given that flowers/seeds are pollinated and dispersed entirely by the wind.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t have the tried-and-true grass-like plants such as the Tulbaghia violacea, Sisyrinchium bellum and this one, Zephyranthes candida (Autumn Crocus), which as an added bonus all produce great flowers:


Zephyranthes candida

A plug of Stachys officinalis ‘Rosea’ (Betony) has given me it’s first little flower:


Stachys Officinalis ‘Rosea’

It has a long way before it is redolent of Piet Oudolf’s deft hand:


How Piet Oudolf does Stachys

But it’s a start 😉

And though I’ve shown them before, the roses provide such dreaminess to the garden:

These have seldom been without a bloom all season.

And what would late summer be without Dahlias?

My next door neighbour gave me these tubers from her garden last winter when I helped dig out some blackberry that had taken over. Therefore, I haven’t the faintest idea what the cultivar names are, except to say that all of them are low-growing varieties that don’t need staking.

The slugs and snails seem to be having a field day with the foliage and flowers, snapping everything off at the base; I suspect my neighbour uses bait to keep hers in such good condition 🙂

Despite being slug magnets, I love them, they are old-fashioned and remind me of my grandparent’s tiny front garden. However, the tree Dahlia cutting has not grown much at all; it was cut back by a slug attack at the start of summer, and the recent cool weather is hampering its growth. By now it should be at least 1.2m – 2m (4′ – 7′) tall:


Tree Dahlia – not much growth

Verbena Canadensis is in flower. These are very short-lived perennials, but put on a reasonable display during their life. Dead-heading will extend the life and flowering. These continue the low-growing, white frothy theme that Iberis usually perform during spring.


Verbena Canadensis with out-of-season azalea

Case in point, re: dead-heading…the Lupins are preparing for another show. However, these flower spikes are no where near as fat or prolific as they were at the start of summer, but they look great with the background Astilbe:


Late flowering Lupins and Astilbe

Not everything is successful. I sowed a crop of Ageratum in early spring. Almost all were eaten by snails and the one that is left has taken five long months to do this:


One sad customer

Same deal with Impatiens, this is the best out of the seedlings I planted four months ago:


A slightly less sad customer

The rest still look like this:


More sad customers

I put in some annual Wallflowers; no growth and not one flower.

Even the Bellis perennis, (English Daisy) while successful in terms of numbers germinated + survival, have been slow to take. September:


Bellis perennis – September…can anyone spot the error on the seed packet?

I have only just had the first flowers, and the plants are still fairly small after five months:

I must be one of the only gardeners struggling to get these oh-so-basic plants to grow!

At least most of the Aster family co-operates….Osteospermums still bloom away:

Felicia amelloides is repeat flowering:


Felicia and Dianthus

Abelia x grandiflora (Glossy Abelia) is in bloom. This forms part of an semi-formal hedgerow along the neighbours boundary (one that has an eclectic mix of Cypress, Erica, Philadelphus, Pittosporum, Photinia, Prunus, and so on) so it has always been clipped at times that probably don’t suit its flowering habit:


Abelia x grandiflora

I’ve taken a few cuttings of this shrub as they do very well around here (although the winter makes them loose their leaves) and it will make a much nicer specimen in the garden rather than crammed into the hedgerow with all manner of other plants.

Happy Gardening 🙂


Front Foundation Bed – Progress Shot

Some of you may remember when I dug one of the foundations bed in winter.

Originally just grass and a scruffy half-dead miniature rose that was completely trampled during the building works, it went from this:



To this in July – a garden of cuttings, plant plugs and bare-rooted plants (and hope!):


Bare-rooted plants, tiny plant plugs and cuttings

And now five months later, it is really starting to take shape:


Still a lot of growing to do, but it’s a lot more colourful

Obviously there is a lot more growing to go, but the climbing iceberg rose in the corner has been the star performer. Given that the wall is North-facing and receives all day sun, the salvias have also done really well:


Salvia ‘Waverly’

Trying to ignore the annual diascias (granted, this is difficult but I haven’t the heart to rip them out), I really like the combination of blue-ish pinks and mauves against the blue-grey wall:


Soft pinks, whites, mauves and catastrophic colour clash!

The mauve Osteospermums are temporary – they live but a few years, but they more than adequately compensate by being in flower for 90% of the year.

The Achillea and Salvias at the front of the bed will provide a nice contrast floral and foliage to each other: at the moment they are not much to look at because the plants are still so small, but fingers crossed by next summer I will get the tubular flowers and spikes of the salvia floating above the ferny yarrow…..


Achillea millefolium ‘Summer Pastels’

Again, like so much in my garden, the Achillea ‘Summer Pastels’ was a lucky dip purchase – i.e. mixed, so this combination was another happy coincidence. I could just as easily ended up with orange or terracotta and then, dear reader, there would have been no photos at all (!)

However, the real stand out lesson in this bed for me (apart from the fluroscent dianthus), are the two climbing iceberg roses. One was put in as a bare-rooted plant in mid-winter and the other as a pot grown plant in late winter.

The rose in the corner was put in as a $12.95 bare-rooted plant: you can see how small it was in the second photo. It has grown 6′ in five months.

Even though I wanted two of these, the supplier only had one left. Because I was impatient to get at least one bed planted up – especially at the front of the house, and against my better judgement, I bought a pot-grown specimen for $23.95 and has done almost nothing (it is the rose to the left of the third photo).


So much growth

I guess I should have been patient and waited until this winter to get another bare-rooted rose, they really are the best way to establish roses. Even though still small, at least the flowers are lovely:


Delicate white and pink

Happy Gardening 🙂