Top ten keepers

Sunday, 19 August 2012

A miniature-flowered camellia

I recently participated in a lively discussion with other gardeners on the topic of which plants we would never part with from our gardens. I am fond of all my plants, so it is very hard to single out the ones that I would always keep, but I did come up with a list.

Salvia Wendys Wish

Shrubby Salvia plants have been my passion for more than a decade, though I am now more selective in the ones that I grow in my garden. They flower over such a long period, are drought tolerant and have so much diversity in their spired flowers that they are a must for my garden. To pick an absolute favourite is difficult, but the cerise-flowered cultivar 'Wendy's Wish' would have to be close to the top of the list.

White form of Plectranthus ecklonii

For shadier sites, I have a passion for Plectranthus. Just like the genus Salvia, they are easy to grow, drought tolerant and have gorgeous spires of flowers. Their main blooming time is autumn, and they really decorate the garden at that time. They are all lovely but I probably like Plectranthus ecklonii the best, as it really makes a statement in the autumn garden.

Helleborus x hybridus in the garden of Pamela and Harry Fowell in Sydney

The exquisite, sculptured blooms of hellebores are a winter highlight for me, and I would never want to be parted from them. Helleborus x hybridus flowers well in the Sydney climate in a cool, shady position, and in time multiplies to form a good clump. These are one of the few 'English-y' plants that do well in my garden and I love all the different colours and patterned forms that are now available, though my favourite is probably the pure white single form. They look particularly good at the moment, and should be available in nurseries to purchase whilst in bloom.

Windflowers (Anemone x hybrida) are another 'English-y' sort of plant that does well in my garden and I would hate to be without those tall wands of simple blooms in autumn. Though they do spread to form a resilient clump after a while, which is almost impossible to get rid of, I would never want to get rid of them. Again, the pure white single is my favourite. I grow mine amongst Hydrangea shrubs, where they can wander around without getting into too much mischief. Hydrangea are another must-have in my garden to give long-lasting flowers in a shaded spot. They make wonderful cut blooms for vases. I love all the different ones, but a double-flowered mop-head cultivar is a very special plant that I cherish.

Clerodendrum wallichii

Other shrubs that I wouldn't be without include the different sorts of Camellia. They do so well in Sydney and provide excellent evergreen screens and backgrounds, with delightful flowers in autumn and winter. I probably love the mini-flowered ones the best, but it is hard to choose between them! Another shrub I treasure is Clerodendrum wallichii, a compact specimen with delicate pendulous white flowers in autumn. Everyone who sees it wants to grow it, and it does well in Sydney in a shaded position.

Justicia rizzinii

The genus Justicia is a particular favourite of mine, and I have a weakness for Justicia carnea, with its large feathered blooms in summer and autumn, and Justicia rizzinii, a small shrub that is smothered in dainty tubular flowers of bright yellow, red and orange throughout winter and spring. It will grow in sun or shade. I like to pair it with another 'keeper' - 'Soleil d'Or' jonquils (Narcissus Tazetta group). These cheery little flowers have an orange cup surrounded by yellow petals and a sweet perfume that reminds me of my childhood garden. They are one of the best Narcissus to grow in Sydney gardens.

As late spring arrives, I will welcome all my daylilies (Hemerocallis cultivars), which I would never want to be without. They offer flowers over a long period of time, in almost every colour of the rainbow. I love them all, though the spidery-flowered types are my especial favourites. They grow best in a sunny position.

I have probably left out plants that I should not have, but these were the ten that came first to my mind as being indispensible to me!

Reader Comments

  • By Anne 2518 Monday, 20 August 2012

    It is hard.I love Clerodendrum wallichii but never had much luck with it in Sydney - gave it to a friend for her garden at Nth Arm Cove - think the wallabies ate it! I did see it growing well at Waterfall Cottage. Have you seen that new range of hellebores in the nurseries at the moment - gorgeous. Thanks, Anne. Yes, I saw some wonderful hellebores yesterday in a nursery and couldn"t resist buying one! The Clerodendrum probably needs a frost-protected position, but once established I have found it robust and free flowering. Deirdre

  • By Ambra 2010 Monday, 20 August 2012

    Couldn"t bear to part with my calla lilies and irises as they brighten up the garden in winter. Had to write about them in my latest blogpost too! Yes they are also great plants! Deirdre

  • By Peta 2758 Monday, 20 August 2012

    So many of your favourites are mine too. I agree about salvias. Have been pulling many out and leaving special ones like S.eigii. Finding that I"m swinging back to old fashioned shrubs, Daphne, Luculia, Hydrangeas (lovely), Magnolias...Here in the mountains, I cherish little bulbs, lots out now. How could I forget Daphne - should have included it! The little cold-climate bulbs must be charming - they don"t do so well in suburban Sydney, unfortunately. Deirdre

  • By Bronwyn 4061 Tuesday, 21 August 2012

    Growing in my garden is the old fashioned variety pineapple sage - Salvia Elegans, and I must make a drink with it like you have suggested. Salvias are brilliant plants and one of my favourites. Yes, there are so many of them available these days - it is hard to choose which to grow. Deirdre

  • By margaret 2122 Tuesday, 28 August 2012

    Very hard to list plants I would not be without. Begonias would be top of my list, the justicia family, hemeracallis, lots of unusual bulbs, e.g. eucharist lily, hippeastrums, scadoxus, crepe myrtles, a fern selection, the gesneriad family, to name a few

  • By stephen 2440 Tuesday, 23 October 2012

    Cant wait for this time of year.Love to grow ,amongst other plants tuberous begonias,rudbeckia,dwarf bi-colour dahlias,dahlias with dark purple foliage.Nearly every year i grow a few trays of rose seeds,mostly rugosas,which cross readily with other roses by courtesy of bees and the wind to transfer the pollen.I nearly always get some worthwhile cultivars to keep and give the other seedlings to friends.stephen. Thanks, Stephen - it is fun to grow seeds and see how the plants turn out - I will be writing about seed-growing soon, I hope! Deirdre

  • By Jennifer 3796 Sunday, 04 November 2012

    You"re a woman of my own heart. I wouldn"t be without salvia and plectranthus. Hot Lips and Mexican sage have been ever reliable plants here. My most recent addition is Salvia Black Knight. Plectranthus ecklonii is the most striking autumn plant I have. I am just about to add Plectrantus argentum. I always forget about my hellebores and am pleasently reminded of them each year when they come into flower during a quiet time in my garden. Both pink and white windflowers thrive in shady areas. Interesting that we have so many in common and you are in Victoria rather than Sydney! Deirdre

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