GBFD September – Foliage Returns

With spring flowers stealing the spotlight, it’s nice to see some of the deciduous trees and shrubs leafing out early this year (the dry, sunny weather means they are about 3 weeks ahead of shedule).

The first leaves are fresh and perfect, and this year, after a very cold winter, I don’t have to contend with an onslaught of aphids keen to get a jump on sucking sap before the ladybugs arrive to feast on them 🙂

Here is a selection of some of the foliage that has opened in the last week or so:

Foliage

L:R Betula pendula ‘Dalecarlica’; Hydrangea quercifolia; Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Monlo’

Foliage1

Clockwise, L:R Spiraea x bumalda ‘Goldflame’; Picea glauca v. albertiana ‘Conica’ & Santolina chamaecyparissus; Rosa ‘Climbing Iceberg’; Metasequoia glyptostroboides

Japanese Maples are particularly effortless in the upper Blue Mountains.

I was able to purchase a few bare-rooted, cut-leaf, weeping varieties at a very good price during winter…so I couldn’t resist.

Once these start to mature, they lend an amazing sculptural quality to a garden; especially one that is steeply sloping like mine. For now, they are just little sticks, but they will fill out over the next few years!

jap_mapl

L:R Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Ever Red’ ; Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Seiryu’; Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Orangeola’

Linking up with Christina at My Hesperides Garden. Do take a look at the foliage that has captured bloggers attention this month!

Happy Gardening 🙂

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.

IMG_2185

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:

IMG_2246

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.

IMG_2140

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:

IMG_2190

Rhododendron sp and a big patch of ice in the background

IMG_2224

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.

IMG_2204

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:

IMG_2193

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:

IMG_2230

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.

IMG_2097

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!

IMG_2101

Sisyrinchium bellum

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

Marguerite

Marguerite

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:

IMG_2107

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:

IMG_2225

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:

IMG_2163

Fuchsia

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

IMG_2206

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


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

IMG_2236

African Daisy

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

IMG_2133

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!

IMG_2253

Tiny confetti-like Witch-Hazel flowers

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

IMG_2250

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:

IMG_2242

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:

IMG_2244

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 🙂

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.

IMG_1274

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:

Brunfelsia

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:

IMG_1272

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.

IMG_1265

Hydrangea

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:

IMG_0538

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:

IMG_1252

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!):

IMG_1263

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

IMG_1276

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:

IMG_1262

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:

IMG_1269

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:

Capture

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:

IMG_1278

Osteospermum

Happy gardening 🙂