Plant stars

Sunday, 05 February 2012

Brugmansia x candida

This seems to be the time of year when awards are handed out to movie stars and so on, so I decided to look at my garden to see which plants I could give accolades to - for being the longest bloomers through the year. Since last January, I have been recording what is in flower in my garden every month - as can be seen in the 'What's out in my garden' feature of this website. Call it obsessive-compulsive, but the resultant data has been fascinating (to me, at least) and I now have some evidence for choosing plants that have the most flower power in our Sydney climate.

Whilst it is wonderful to have flowers that truly signify each of the seasons, which I look forward to keenly every year - such as the first jonquils and Daphne of winter, the Freesia of late winter/early spring and the Jacaranda of late spring, it is instructive to know the plants that are in bloom for an extended period, as these give continuity and ensure colour in our gardens, and really earn their keep, especially where space is at a premium.

Ageratum houstonianum

I was amazed to find that several plants were actually in bloom all year - the scarlet Salvia splendens (regarded by many gardeners as an annual, but I find that self-sown seedlings turn into small shrubs that last for several years and flower in sun or shade); the dramatic angel's trumpets Brugmansia species (which have flushes of flower in every month: I have a white and an orange/yellow one, shaped like trees by developing a trunk early on in their lives); the so-called shrimp plant Justicia brandegeeana (with its lime-yellow or brownish-red long bracts); the dainty cigarette plant (Cuphea ignea) with its tiny orange tubular flowers; shrubby Euryops chrysanthemoides (never without some of its golden daisies); and a perennial Ageratum houstonianum (which has fluffy pale blue flowers and winds through a border). With all these plants, I trim bits of them off every so often to try to keep the shapely and thus avoid having to do a major prune.

Dianthus, species unknown

In flower for 11 months is a lovely hot pink Dianthus (species unknown) which I was given many years ago. It is only not in bloom in September because I hack it back hard in late August to keep it compact. The same applies to the lightweight climber Manettia, which has a profusion of tiny red and yellow tubular flowers the rest of the year. I like to have it twining through other plants in the border, as it doesn't do any harm and somehow reminds me of a string of tiny lights on a Christmas tree.

Salvia Van Houttei

Two of my shrubby Salvia flower for 10 months of the year: the burgundy Salvia 'Van Houttei' (which grows in sun or shade) and the slim-spired cerise Salvia chiapensis. These are usually pretty ratty by the end of winter so I cut them back very hard and they start to flower again in October, but possibly progressive pruning throughout the year might enable them to be in flower in every month.

Abutilon hybrid

Some other Salvia flower for nine months in the year: the brilliant blue Salvia guaranitica Large Form; the dark blue Salvia 'Indigo Spires', the sultry navy blue Salvia discolour and the bright blue Salvia 'Costa Rica Blue', which has a rest over the summer months. The Chinese lantern shrubs (Abutilon) also flower for nine months, also having a natural break over the summer months. The pretty self-seeder Linaria purpurea carries on for eight months, as does the fragrant sub-shrub Heliotropium arborescens.

A number of others - Dahlia hybrids, Pentas lanceolata, cane-stemmed Begonia, Amaranthus caudatus, Nicotiana langsdorffii, Nicotiana mutabilis and Justicia carnea - bloomed for seven months in my garden last year, which is pretty good going. Many other plants bloomed for between three and six months - not to be sneezed at! The flowering months for all the plants in my Plant Reference can now be seen beneath the plant information.

We are so fortunate to live in a climate that allows all these flowers to give us such a prolonged display. All are easy plants to grow; however, regular deadheading really does help to prolong the blooming period, as does the occasional application of fertiliser.

Reader Comments

  • By Carole 2230 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Sunday, 05 February 2012

    Ah than you for that. I agree about the brugmansia, in particular my single apricot flowers every month roughly. I have a white but it is not so frequent and I am waiting to see what happens with my pinks. Very exciting.We have some good flowering coming over the next few months. I have noticed there is often a very good flush after a rainy spell so we should have a good flowering to look forward to, as you have noted. Thanks for your feedback. Deirdre

  • By Robin 2121 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 06 February 2012

    A timely blog, as always, Deirdre. Perhaps now I can make decisions about what to plant out and what to throw, based on the length of flowering period. More planning and a critical eye needed! Thanks for your advice and website tools like "What"s out" and Plant Reference. Invaluable. Thanks for the feedback, Robin. Deirdre

  • By valerie 4160 (Zone:11A - Sub-tropical) Monday, 06 February 2012

    I too have pruned my Salvias hard apart from getting leggy, this year it has been bad for grasshoppers that have decimated the leaves of many of my plants and herbs, but that is Queensland this time of year. I also had a lot of trouble with grasshoppers earlier in summer. There is a nasty little black beetle that is getting to some of my salvias too, at the moment! Deirdre

  • By Peta 2758 (Zone:9 - Cool Temperate) Monday, 06 February 2012

    I love all these favourites of yours, particularly the Brugmansias. I understand that there will soon be a new book out just about them. Can"t wait to add it to my library. I would add Geranium "Rozanne" to your star list. Fabulous plant and a cranesbill that is fine for Sydney and the cooler areas. Thanks, Peta, I had heard there is a book soon to be published. And you are so right about Geranium "Rozanne"! I completely forgot about that one - it flowers for 11 months in my garden - only stops in September because I have hacked it back. A truly great plant for our region. Deirdre.

  • By margaret 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 07 February 2012

    agree totally with your comments. I, too, keep a record of what is out in my garden, and have many of the plants you commented upon. Of course, I have to add cane begonias, a white, which flowers the whole year, and another, "Juanita"s Jewel; which flowers continuously. Great blog, as always. Thanks, Margaret. The cane begonias are very good value in the garden. Deirdre

Add your comment

* Only previously registered iGarden members can post comments on Blogs. If you are already registered please go to the Home page and login first. If you are not an iGarden member please click here to register now.