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 🙂

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.


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.


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….


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:


The taller Narcissus varieties have also started to open




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….


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


Helleborus continue to impress with their deep, rich colours:


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




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


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.


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’:


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


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


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:


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


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


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

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!

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.


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:


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:


Narcissus & Azalea

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


Unknown Hebe cultivar

And, wait for it…..roses!


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:


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 🙂

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 🙂

Sweet Aromas

Spring bulbs bring some truly heady scents to the garden on a mild day. Like the overwhelming sweetness of Erlicheer Jonquils:


Sweet Jonquils

Or the vanilla tones of Freesias:


Freesia refracta

I love the mix of cream and lemon colours, and being right by the gate to the garage, I am always greeted by a lovely smell.

Picking up the yellow and white mix on the other side of the garden, many of the daffodils have a sweet perfume. The smallest daffodils seem to be the most pungent.

IMG_0425 IMG_0423

Drawn by the warmer weather and abundance of flowers, bees return to the garden. I watched this little fellow make short work of every Primula flower:


Bees and Primula

Even though the season has just begun, I am always looking to the next season….here is a little seedling tray of English Daisies (Bellis perenis) which should be ready to go into the ground in a few weeks’ time:


English Daisy seedlings emerge

Happy gardening!

The First Spring Bulbs

What a difference a week can make in the garden.

With the weather going up and down like a yo-yo, it’s interesting to see the first real stirrings for the season ahead.

First up is Ipheon. I planted this up last autumn; it has a lovely pale blue flower. There should be quite a number more to come. Here it makes a nice contrast with the red-twigged dogwood.


Spring Star

Next to make an appearance is the Muscari. Again, this was planted last autumn, so I will be keen to see any improvement as the spikes emerge.


Grape Hyacinth

Lastly, even though it’s not a bulb, the first little Primula flower has also opened, so it can have a place here too, as it is probably one of my favourites 🙂



The first stirrings of spring (even in a mild climate like mine) are always so subtle and call for a keen eye, but I guess that is part of the fun!

A Change in the Weather

Despite the low temperatures and ice/snow of the last few weeks, July will probably end up about 2°C above the long term average and will manage to be in the top five warmest on record.


Rainy morning


Rain obscures the view to the mountain

But the last few days has seen rain and much warmer mornings above freezing. Record warmth or not, it certainly makes it much easier to get out of bed!

Taking advantage of the wet, but no longer frozen top layer of soil, I’ve made a start on expanding the bed for the food garden.


Reclaiming more of the grass

Half of this garden benefits from being under the overhanging polycarbonate roof (hence all of the pots that I am over-wintering as well!), so has been spared frost-burn and damage from the recent chill. In addition to the items in previous posts, I have added strawberries:

  • ‘Fragoo’, which has very pretty pink flowers and is very low maintenance, and
  • ‘Alinta’, which is an Australian bred variety – apparently a cross from ‘chandler’.

You can also see the blueberry collection which is starting to take shape as a hedge on the right hand side of the border. The evergreen blueberry varieties survived the cold unscathed, so I am very pleased. The potted plants to the left are to continue the hedgerow the length of the house (once I dig the grass and prep the soil).

The blueberry varieties I have in this small space should give a fairly long season of munching:

  • Denise – early
  • Northland – early/mid
  • Blue Ray – mid
  • Sunshine Blue – mid/late
  • Nellie Kelly – mid/late

I also planted a bare-rooted semi-dwarf, self-fertile cherry ‘Starkrimson’ in this bed. I bought this one reasonably advanced so I don’t have to wait too many years before getting my first crop.


High hopes for the cherry tree….

As it is winter, I took advantage of the bare-root specials available; often the mail order nurseries have varieties not easily obtained locally.


Trees are good for the soul

I have potted these fourteen little treelings up until ready for planting later this year.

Most are destined for the front and side yards and some on the nature strip. Left to right we have:

Around the front, I planted a cut-leaf maple (Acer palmatum dissectum ‘seiryu’) in the front of the spare room window. As this will only get to about 3m/10′, this won’t block the view, but will certainly help soften the bare brick wall.


Acer palmatum dissectum ‘seiryu’

Looking around the garden, I am still amazed to see so much in flower:


Yellow African Daisy


White African Daisy

I swear this little dianthus never stops flowering….



The Coreopsis is starting to flower


Coreopsis bursting into bloom

A pretty little Hebe in the front yard has made itself known for the first time since I moved in…



The Brachyscombe – a pretty little Australian groundcover – has basically been in flower since it went in as tube stock last summer and was unfazed at being ice bound.

Here you can see it with another dianthus and a Wallflower (fragrant sunshine) getting ready for a spring display.


Purples and pinks

The diosma shrub at the front of the house has finally burst into bloom


Confetti bush

I’m not sure if I will keep it. Despite the pretty flowers, it is very straggly and attracts wasps – which is not good at the front steps!

A beautiful Pieris japonica, non-descript for the bulk of the year, really stands out in the shade of the bottle-brush.


Pieris Japonica

I think this one is called ‘Christmas Cheer’, but I could be mistaken. It certainly is a tough plant, given how neglected the garden had been.

Rosemary bushes are always a mainstay of the winter garden:



Other plants aren’t doing so well after the ice and desiccating winds.

The Rhodoendron has adopted the classic cold wilt….it should come good soon. Surprisingly, the azalea beneath it is flowering away….



But the normally indestructible weed, agapanthus, has had a really difficult time with the frosts…leaves are burnt and turned to mush. It will be removed at any rate as it is a terrible weed and forest invader….but it is a big job digging these out.



My patio rose that I hacked to pieces a month or so ago is still going strong and has developed many new shoots, most of which were unaffected during the cold snap. A real trooper!


Must move those rocks…..

And still others are gearing up for spring….


Iceland Poppy


Freesia getting ready to bloom


Chatham Island Forget-me-not pushing up through the leaves

Some of the Achillea cuttings I planted are starting to sprout. This variety is ‘Summer Pastel’





Lastly, I planted a little Daphne odora about 4 months ago as tube stock. These things are notorious for dropping dead, but this one seems happy enough to even have put on a few new shoots.


A rare shot: a living Daphne plant….

Here you can see it with Triteleia ‘spring star’ bulbs starting to emerge.