Blue Rhododendrons and a White Waratah

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Gardening 🙂

Early October in the Garden

To my mind, October is really when the first stirrings of spring start to become that all-out marathon as most shrubs and trees get in on the act to peak between now and November.

At this time of year in the mountains, the weather is incredibly variable: for the last two weeks we had really cold, wet and blustery conditions (including frost, sleet and even hail) which damaged a lot of flowers – this weekend we are forecast to have a nation-wide El-Niño five day heat wave….yuck 😦

So I do apologise in advance that the pictured flowers aren’t ‘perfect’, but no garden should be perfect anyway…

The cold period has helped prolong the winter and early spring flowering plants:

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In the shadier areas of the garden, it is still winter. L:R Primula vulgaris ‘High Tea Drumcliff’, Cyclamen & Pulmonaria

Daffodils and early tulips are still giving a nice display, but the petals of the poppy took a beating with the sleet/hail:

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

Azaleas and more Narcissus:

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L:R Osteospermum & Tulipa bokassa ‘Baby Doll’ ; Nepeta and Hyacinthoides hispanica; Anemone nemorosa

But the foul weather has made a lot of the azalea flowers rather tatty:

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The flowers of the red and cerise azaleas look a bit bedraggled with the sleet and frost; a De Caen anemone contrasts with the saturated cerise of the Kurume azalea

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

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Rhododendron ‘Robyn’ is still putting on a great display – this is now its sixth week. Primulas against the flowers of Rhododendron ‘President Roosevelt’ and the beautiful new foliage of Heuchera ‘Purple Palace’


Still, there’s warm colours:

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

And cool:

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L:R Dutch Iris; Anemone coronaria ‘De Caen Hollandia’; Viola labradorica

And of course, the big jumble of colours thanks to the ever-popular ‘mixed’ collections that are always offered:

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Lastly, now that parts of the garden are a year old, it has finally started to fill out…don’t get me wrong, because I am using cuttings and tube-stock (plant plugs) there are still plenty of itty-bitty plants everywhere, but for the first time, I can start to appreciate more of what the garden will start to look like as it matures:

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Front Garden looking east this fence will eventually be removed as it isn’t the actual property boundary; Part of the newly-laid terraces in the back garden…this represents only a tiny portion of the garden – there is still much to do!!!!

Happy Gardening 🙂

In the Garden This Week

Since the start of Spring most days have reached at least 12°C / 54°F.

Now while to many folks that doesn’t sound very warm, the garden certainly thinks otherwise. Add to that lots of intermittent rain showers and an absence of heavy frosts, and plants are really starting to wake up.


Here are some snippets from around the garden this week.

Papaver nudicaule lights up the entrance to the Secret Garden area (elsewhere in the garden, Poppies haven’t even begun to bud yet).

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Hopefully I get some yellows and pinks to round out the mix…I seem to mostly end up with oranges and whites 🙂 Regardless, in my climate, these will go on spot-flowering for another year.


Despite the efforts of a single cockatoo who sneaks into the garden without the flock to eat white daffodils, many have lived to flower: WhiteDaffs

I think I may have finally caught the culprit in the act.

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

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I can’t exactly blame the Cockatoo…some of those daffodils have a striking resemblance to a fried egg 🙂


The yellow Narcissus have basically been left alone:

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It’s also amazing how far ahead the sheltered ‘Secret Garden’ area is compared to the rest of the garden… and so many other bulbs are joining in the spring chorus, all weeks early thanks to the sheltered micro-climate:

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Erysimum are starting to bloom:

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Other temporary little sub-shrubs are also putting on a lovely show. While some were killed by winter weather, in the sheltered areas, Osteospermums put on seemingly impossible mass displays:

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Assuming they have sufficient rainfall, these will go on blooming well into summer.

Other Asteraceæ flowers must surely be running out of puff after blooming almost constantly since autumn:

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Limonium perezii is producing lovely new flowers: make sure you dead-head these as they are short-lived if allowed to go to seed. The Limonium will soon be surrounded by Freesia blooms.

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

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At this time of year in terms of shrubs with impact, the award would still go to the early-flowering Rhododendrons.

The first up is Rhododendron chrysodoron x burmanicum:

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Often considered a little tender, this one did fine in its sheltered spot during the winter…however, late frosts can ruin the buds.

Rhododendron spinuliferum ‘Crossbill’, continues to shine and is slightly more hardy:

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

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Rhododendron ‘Robyn’ is now close to its peak flowering. It will eventually reach about 1.2m / 4′ tall & wide and will really look pretty in this spot close to the porch.

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The resident Magpie wants some food and will keep following me around until I relent. Magpies start nesting in June and they seldom abandon a nest…these two were caught out by a very cold July and August.

If June hadn’t been so mild, they probably would have created a nest lower down the mountain to guarantee food.

Here they were being fed during (what I hope will be) the last snow-fall a couple of weeks ago. If you’ve ever wondered what a cold, wet, pregnant magpie looks like, well wonder no more:

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But back to the Early Rhododendrons.

A ruddy, intense magenta is the colour of choice for most of them.  The smallest of the existing ones is in the hedgerow:

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But this is nothing to the ones below.

Planted well before my time it is stuffed in a 1m / 3′ wide space between the fence and my garage. No wonder it is leggy, but still pretty when in bloom. If it had the space, it would have grown to the proportions of my next door neighbours one:

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I know some people aren’t fans of Rhododendrons, but regardless, they light up the garden at a time of year normally reserved for looking down to get any colour. And they do it unabashedly.

Happy Gardening 🙂

Spring Stirrings

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

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To me, Crocus epitomises the first of the spring flowers

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

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

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Muscari armeniacum

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

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


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

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The taller Narcissus varieties have also started to open

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

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


The very first Anemone coronaria has opened.

I adore these flowers.

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

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

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Helleborus continue to impress with their deep, rich colours:

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

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

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

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

These lovely blooms belong to Rhododendron spinuliferum ‘Crossbill’:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Gardening 🙂

GBFD August – Last of Winters Damage

This GBFD ain’t a pretty one, so look away if dying foliage offends!


Winter arrived in late April this year, and while there were weeks of very mild weather in June, on the whole, winter was cold with weekly snowfalls since the second week of July.

As any Northern American gardener knows, the worst damage is done when the snow is gone and prolonged freezing weather is accompanied by bitter gales which give way to a thaw and then back to frigid cold. This is the sort of weather we’ve had in abundance.

Unsurprisingly, given that a lot of my garden is very new, exposed parts of it look terrible!


But the damage isn’t restricted to just new plantings. Here, x Cupressocyparis leylandii ‘Leightons Green’ that forms part of a mixed hedgerow is completely burnt across the tips:

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Tip burn on 30 year old hedge

Smaller Leylandii that I have put in have turned from green to straw; although with winter ending, I have been nursing them back with a very week seaweed tea:

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Winter discolouration

It’s working, but compare the colour above to a recently planted version that was over-wintered in a pot on the back deck (how all of these should look like through winter):

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Healthy specimen showing no winter damage


Other supposedly hardy foliage plants have taken a hit. Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’ is not looking so choice, and it’s  surprising as this is grown adjacent to the comparative shelter of the house:

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Frost Burn from Freeze/Thaw Cycles

Similarly, the Pieris japonica – which is over 30 years old and supposedly hardy to -28°C / -18°F  – is showing signs of the severe frost damage and looks decidedly worse than the June montage a few photos below.

It should survive, but normally it is a lovely green colour (normally our winters are gentle like England, not destructive like the U.S. mid-west!!!!). At the moment, however, all the leaves are burnt:

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Severe frost burn on mature specimen

Compare it to the same time last year.

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Same plant August 2014 showing no winter damage


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

June:

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July:

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August:

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The Boxwood (which will eventually be shaped into a cone) has been given regular doses of diluted seaweed solution and it is picking up. All over the mountains I’ve seen exposed box hedges completely burnt and defoliated by the cold…something I’ve never witnessed before…except in the central areas of Canada.

The Buxus in July (2nd row):

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

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

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Many of the half-hardy plantings have fared considerably worse. This Æonium looks like it has gangrene: I hold no hope for it (I have its pup safely in a pot for future replanting):

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

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Both of these should have survived as they are right next to the house and normally sheltered from the worst weather – including rain – by a weather-proof porch. This has a clear Perspex roof and acts like a large cold-frame. But during the worst snow-storm (we had two very bad ones), the supposedly and normally weather-proof porch looked like this and by the next morning, everything had frozen solid:

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This was where a lot of tender foliage plants like Bromeliads were kept under cover and safe from winter weather, but now look like this. The freeze even cracked glazed pots:

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My drought-hardy scented Pelargonium citrosum suffered badly, but has already rebounded without any help from me; proving they are much tougher than given credit for. A hard trim and a feed in September will restore it:

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And Agapanthus prove yet again that numerous hard frosts, wet snow, icy snow, black ice and death-stares every time I walk past them don’t do permanent damage (sadly).

These mushy leaves have already started to repair….meaning another summer with the mattock and hundreds of dollars in tip fees if I am to ever get their numbers under control:

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But it’s not all bad!

There is nice foliage to enjoy even in a winter damaged garden. Most of it is from the hedgerow along the boundary and most of it from plants that are considered tender!

The pittosporum still looks lovely:

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

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Fatsia japonica gives a tropical feel:

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As does Acanthus mollis:

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

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Heucheras are in various states:

H. ‘Purple Palace’ (looking more like ‘Bedraggled Bungalow’ but a trim will restore it) fared the worst in one of the frostier spots:

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

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And H. ‘Lime Marmalade’ still shines with only a tiny bit of damage ready to give a nice contrast next month to the Physocarpus ‘Diablo’ above it:IMG_2826

Almost all of the Sedums that I had planted are horrible and shrivelled. I’m hoping they will bounce back; but one of the most surprising Sedums is supposedly tender.

Under the stairs, next to the Heuchera, Sedum x Rubrotinctum is showing a lot of tip damage, but otherwise it looks really lovely:

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So there you have it.

In gardening, you take the good and (make the most of) the bad. But with spring only days away…today as I write this we are having a ridiculous hot spell of 17°C / 63°F before heavy rain is supposed to set in, so the foliage plants will mend and once again provide the back-drop to the rest of the garden.

Plenty of my Australian Native plants survived this terrible winter, but that is for another post!

Do check out Christinas blog over at My Hesperides Garden to see what foliage other gardeners around the world are showcasing.

Happy Gardening and Happy GBFD!

This Week in the Garden: Frost and Gales

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

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

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

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Frosty Grass

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

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

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Frost-bitten boxwood

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

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

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


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

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

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

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Fothergilla will provide three seasons of interest against the dark backdrop

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

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

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Rhododendron sp and a big patch of ice in the background

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More Rhododendron & Azalea sp.

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

These rocks were all dug from that garden bed.

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

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

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

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Curved, stack-stone garden bed

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

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

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


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

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

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Iceland poppy

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

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Cistus and Spirea

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

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Sisyrinchium bellum

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

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

Even bulbs are getting in on the act:

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First Spring Stars

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

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

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Very early Jonquil

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

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

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Fuchsia

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

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


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

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African Daisy

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

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Frosty Pansies

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

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Tiny confetti-like Witch-Hazel flowers

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

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Lily of the Valley tree

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

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Brachyscome multifida

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

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

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Grevillea banksii x bipinnatifida

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

Happy Gardening 🙂

A Stormy Week in the Garden

Summer’s arrived with a week of terrible storms in the Sydney area.

Here in the mountains, this pattern forms a daily ritual: bright, humid mornings that fuel the growth of giant cumulonimbus clouds. These clouds rumble incessantly from early lunch-time, obscuring the sky as they build in strength and spew torrents of rain before barrelling down either side of the mountain towards sea-level. There, the rising heat of the coast or inland plain only increases the storm’s ferocity: they become electrically charged monsters unleashing thousands of lightning strikes.

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It starts as this at around 10am….

 …lunchtime…

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….lunchtime darkness and pelting rain…

 …by late afternoon ends up as this in Sydney…

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Timeline Image of Afternoon Storms in Sydney –  courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald

And then it continues again all night!

We’ve clocked over 20cm/8″ of rain in 7 days and all of it Nitrogen-rich; refreshing the garden. In some cases, spring flowering plants have had a second flush, and in other, summer plants are blooming very early.

The Weeping Bottlebrush (Callistemon viminalis – hardy to USDA zone 8 if given a sheltered spot) has started its summer display very early:

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Weeping Bottlebrush, Rhododendron and Deodar

Here it can be seen next to Rhododendron ponticum: it’s unusual to see these flower at the same time. Hopefully it should continue to produce flowers between now and April.

Incidentally, I love the golden flush of the new growth on the Himalayan Cedar, Cedrus deodara ‘Aurea’, which features in every one of the pictures of my house. It is one of three large golden varieties of conifer planted on the property when the house was built- I am grateful for the afternoon shade it provides (even if the needles are a pain to clear from the gutters)!

The climbing rose, ‘Pierre de Ronsard’ is weighed down by heavy blooms. Though these have lost their pink blush that featured in my early spring post:

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Climbing Rose ‘Pierre de Ronsard’

It isn’t of concern, as the cream is equally delightful.

The rain and storms have meant some of the azaleas have already had a second flush. This is a White Indica in front of Rhododendron ‘President Roosevelt’:

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Indica Azalea with another flush of flowers

While Azaleas spot flowering isn’t unusual, you can see how the combination of summer sun/rain have burnt the edges of the petals.

A little Aquilegia vulgaris ‘White Barlow’ makes a dainty combination with the Oak-leaf Hydrangea and Osteospermum ‘Lemon Power’

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Hydrangea, Columbine and African Daisy

This is but a fleeting combination. Soon the Aquilegia and Osteospermum will go over and the foxglove will open in shades of strawberry (which will still work with the hydrangea). Then of course, in seasons to come, the Oak-leaf hydrangea will fill this entire space and obscure the fence line.

Lastly, an update showing some of the cuttings taken last summer-winter that have started to perform.

This one is Kolkwitzia amabilis.

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Chinese Beauty Bush cutting and Japanese Maple seedling

Known as the Chinese Beauty Bush, this will be a spectacularly graceful, arching shrub in a few years’ time:

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Mature Chinese Beauty Bush – image courtesy Google

Deutzia x hybrida ‘Magicien’ has also flowered and is putting on strong growth since being struck last summer. Here it is given some afternoon shade by the Lupins which is actually beneficial while the cutting establishes itself. As I have light free draining soil, I often place cuttings straight into the ground to root:

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Deutzia Magicien

I love the dual pink and white stripes!

And lastly, the cutting of the Tree Dahlia, Dahlia Imperialis, I took in June has started to give some reasonable growth. It was taller a week ago, but sadly the strong central leader received tip-pruning courtesy of a slug 😦

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Tree Dahlia

The slug’s feast won’t do lasting damage. Even though plant is a quick grower and this is a warm, sheltered spot in front of a sunny fence, I’m not expecting any flowers until autumn 2016…so that’s forward planning!

Happy Gardening 🙂

Something Borrowed, Something Blue

The birds are at it in my garden again: making use of the everyday.

This time it is the very shy Satin Bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus) that inhabits wet, heavily forrested areas of the east coast of Australia, including the mountains west of Sydney.

The male of the species is what you might call an obsessive-compulsive bachelor.

Male and Female Bower Bird – image courtesy of google

It makes an elaborate tent from sticks and surrounds this with (somewhat) concentric, rigidly arranged blue items. This is all in the hope to lure a female, who shows a preference for males who can arrange objects of a similar size and shape. Here it has made a bower in one of the corners of my garden.

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Male Bird guarding his Bower

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Inspecting the tent

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Close up of the tent and bower

I suspect that this is one bird that is actually thriving on all of the rubbish made by modern-man. Prior to European settlement, there were only a handful of blue flowers and berries in Australia, and I know of only one or two that are in flower/fruit at this time of year, so all of the detritus must make for very eye-catching displays to the female Bower Bird.

In this Bower, there are clothes pegs (only the clothes pegs came from my yard), pencils, pens, drinking straws, bottle-caps, bits of packing tape – collected, I suspect, from near and far – it certainly is a lot of effort for courtship!

I do hope this bachelor is successful and I have a Bower Bird family to join my Wattlebird family

Australia certainly has some very interesting wildlife, and it’s always such a wonderful privilege to have so much wildlife in the garden.

Happy gardening 🙂

Early ‘late’ flowering Rhododendron

While the rest of the world tips into winter, here we have just endured a record breaking heatwave.

Last Sunday we reached 34°C/93°F, smashing the old record of 33°C/91°F to become our new hottest day ever…(the day-time average here at this time of year is 19°C/66°F)

So, after a warm October, a warm November and then a heat wave, the garden thinks it’s in summer!

I know that many readers in the western parts of the UK will be horrified to see a post about Rhododendron ponticum given how weedy it is in that part of the country, but here it is only moderately inclined to self-seed.

Normally, this would be in flower around Christmas, but this year it is a month early. I love its pale purple blooms: but you can see how warm it has been by the substantial amounts of new growth…

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Rhododendron ponticum

Certainly, whatever your experience with this plant, it is hard to deny the joy that the last of the Rhododendrons bring as the garden signals the change to hot weather…

Happy Gardening 🙂

Spring Snowstorm and Snowball Tree

I imagine most people don’t think of heavy snow when they picture Australia in the middle of spring, but last night, as a massive storm swept across the Sydney area, we had some of our heaviest snow of the season :-/

A news summary can be found on this link (ABC news) or just some pictures here (The Sydney Morning Herald)

Given that the storm was mostly a rain event, the snow was all but washed away within a few hours, and with the temperature remaining above freezing even while it snowed, it was mild enough to build a snow-man (taken with a cell-phone – sorry about the quality).

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October snow-man

And this is after temperatures on the weekend in the 20°’s (mid 70°F)!

Thankfully the rain washed the snow away fairly quickly: with all of the trees and shrubs in leaf and blossom at the moment 20cm of heavy, wet snow would have caused a lot of limb damage had it remained overnight. Gardeners a higher up than me will not be so lucky 😦

However, yesterday before the storm, I took some photos of areas in the garden in bloom. October is mostly the month that shrubby plants start to shine, and they certainly brighten the garden.

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Azalea brightens the fence

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Delicate White and Pink Cultivar

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Two-tone Pink

I’m only guessing at the cultivars, but I think the first is ‘Splendor’, the second is ‘Gyokushin’ and the third is ‘Splendens Pink’

In another corner of the garden that I still haven’t even got around to clearing yet (I’m only a quarter the way through the yard yet), wisteria has come into bloom:

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Wisteria

There are some nice plants in this area and I have taken cuttings of all the ones I want to keep, but mostly the wisteria is just covering a lot of weeds and lanky shrubs that need clearing….I had to angle myself behind a shrub to get the most flattering shot – from any other angle it just looks like a mass of overgrown weeds!

Lastly, and quite aptly, the ‘Snow-Ball’ (Viburnum opulus) tree has just started to bloom along the dividing fence.

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Viburnum opulus

The Fatsia japonica belongs to next door, but I think the comparison and contrast between it and the Viburnum is especially nice!

Happy gardening wherever you are! 🙂