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 🙂

This Week in the Garden.

Even though it is cold and wet today, we’ve had weeks of sunny and mild weather, meaning spring continues its early march. And it is mostly the bulbs that are early to flower, especially in the sheltered micro-climate of the secret garden area where Tulips are commanding my attention:

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Clockwise L-R: Mixed Tulips (Monet Series); Species Tulip (Tulipa bakerei) ‘Lilac Wonder’; Bokassa Tulips ‘Baby Doll’

Narcissi in the other areas of the garden have finally started to open:

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The Cockatoo has actually left the white Narcissi alone!

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

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

The first Freesias have opened:

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Muscari still continue to put on a lovely display. The secret garden area was the first to open, and now the rest of the garden is following suit.

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I love the contrast between the Erysimum and the Muscari:

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

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Pink Muscari are something of a disappointment. They have really only just started opening, and the pink is very subtle (to say the least). As they fill out in the next year or so, they may look impressive, but for now, I’ll reserve judgement. The garden centre did however include an unknown bulb in the mix which is far lovelier than the Muscari!

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

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Anemone and Ranunculus are also starting to show promise:

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But not everything in the garden is early. In areas which only receive partial sun, my cold climate wins out.

For instance, when I lived in the UK, Cyclamen and Pulmonaria were considered mid-late winter flowers. However here, they have only just started to open, but are delightful none-the-less.

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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:

Osteospermum

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

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

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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 🙂

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.

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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!):

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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

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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Osteospermum

Happy gardening 🙂