A few of my favourite things

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Echinacea hybrid Cheyenne Spirit

Happy New Year to all! Sorry that I have been very slow to emerge from my post-Christmas torpor this year. The recent hot weather has been very unconducive to gardening and my only contact with the garden has been to try to keep it well watered enough to survive the heatwave. However, there are some wonderful flowers and leaves about at the moment, which seem to be oblivious of the heat - and are cheering me up a lot.

Echinacea purpurea

The purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) has been a joy over the past few weeks. Mine had languished in previous years because they had been overgrown by other plants - last spring, I divided them up and replanted them in a more open, sunny position in one of my borders, and they have flourished and bloomed better than ever. This is one of the tough 'prairie' plants from North America that seem to relish our hot conditions, as long as they have a reasonable amount of moisture. The usual form is a sort of pinkish-purple, and a white version has been sometimes available. Last week, when visiting a great little nursery at Mt Victoria, I came across brilliant orange, red and yellow specimens (labelled as 'Cheyenne Spirit' hybrids), and brought home an orange one (pictured at the start of the blog) to plant with other brightly coloured prairie plants that I grow, including various forms of Rudbeckia and Gaillardia hybrids, all blooming well now.

Hemerocallis August Flame

Daylilies generally flower in late spring, but one of my very favourites, 'August Flame', flowers in January and is one of the most prolific of all. Its name derives from its late-summer blooming season in Northern Hemisphere gardens. It is a rich orange-red hue, with a bold yellow centre, and it is an excellent partner for Dahlia, Canna and Salvia flowers of similar colours. It also doesn't seem prone to the nasty rust that can afflict other daylilies.

Agapanthus Purple Cloud with Duranta Sheenas Lime Glow

Another perennial that is always brilliant in summer is the good old Agapanthus. They seem to survive heat and drought, even being driven over by heavy vehicles, and provide good flowers at Christmastime. Some of my named hybrids flower in January, when plants of the basic species have just about run their course and are begging to be deadheaded. At the moment, 'Purple Cloud' and 'Guilfoyle' are showing their rich blue-purple rounded heads in my garden. I love the contrast of this colour against lime-yellow leaves, such as compact Duranta 'Sheena's Lime Glow'.

A bulb-like plant, my form of Hymenocallis (species name not known to me at this time) is sporting its crisp-white, spidery flowers at the moment. This very adaptable plant will bloom in sun or shade, and seems to cope very well with dryness. I like to grow it near dark-coloured leaves (such as those of Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum', or with white-variegated foliage, such as a lovely form of Duranta I was given a few years ago as a cutting, which is now growing into a sturdy shrub.

Dichroa species

Hydrangea bushes have been wonderful from late spring and into summer but their blooms are starting to fade (or are burnt now from the intense heat), and I will soon be cutting back most of mine. The so-called 'evergreen hydrangea' (Dichroa species), however, is flowering fabulously. The heads of blooms last for a very long time and will be followed by more over the coming months if it is deadheaded regularly. It will grow in sun or part-shade and once established will tolerate dryness quite well. The blooms are tiny stars, massed into large heads. Like Hydrangea plants, the flowers are blue in acid soils and pinkish in alkaline ones.

Sanchezia speciosa with Justicia brandegeeana

A distinctive foliage shrub which I obtained last year at the open garden Tropical Breeze at Seven Hills - Sanchezia speciosa - has been providing much visual pleasure as it grows into a taller shrub. It has large, pointed, green leaves, with bold yellow veins, and will get to possibly 2 m in time. Mine is in part-shade alongside the yellow-flowering form of the ever-blooming shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeeana) and they look great together every single day of the year. Both plants belong to the Acanthaceae family.

There are many other flowers and interesting leaves around at the moment, but these are just a few of my current favourites. Let's hope for cooler weather - and some rain - very soon for our gardens. What are some of your favourite plants for summer colour?

The inspiring garden of Tropical Breeze will be open again this year on the weekend of 15 and 16 March 2014. More details closer to the time.

Reader Comments

  • By Jennifer 2100 Monday, 20 January 2014

    Thanks for your blog Deidre - its a wonderful source of information!! I have a question: Where would I be able to get hold of an "evergreen" hydrangea"? Thanks Jennifer Thanks, Jennifer. See Peta"s comment below re the Botanic Garden Sydney nursery; and another good possibility is at the Collectors Plant Fair at Clarendon NSW on 12 and 13 April this year, where you will find a treasure trove of unusual plants for sale. Deirdre

  • By Peta 2758 Monday, 20 January 2014

    Welcome back Deirdre on this lovely cool Summer morning. Before heading into the garden I thought I"d agree that Dichroa is very useful. Mine flowers for ages. I bought one from The Growing Friends. They are worth contacting. It is certainly a nice cool morning! Glad you enjoy your Dichroa plant. I have propagated a few to have them in different places in the garden. Deirdre

  • By margaret 2122 Monday, 20 January 2014

    Thanks, Deirdre, it is great that the blog is back again. Many of the plants you mention are flowering in my garden, plus the cane begonias, which flourish in the heat, and are now full of flower. Pentas, in pink, red, white and mauve seem to withstand the heat well. My dichroa flowered well, with both pink and blue flowers, but has now lost most of its leaves. Yes - cane begonias, and shrub ones too, are brilliant at the moment (and will be for many months ahead) and do not seem at all worried by the heat! Deirdre

  • By Anne 2518 Monday, 20 January 2014

    Happy New Year Deirdre & welcome back. the orange echinacea looks brilliant - my pink one is providing some colour along with some lovely lilies. Very welcome rain in the Illawarra overnight and this morning. Diggers had some different coloured echinacea advertised over the last couple of years - might investigate! Do enjoy your blogs - thanks - Anne Great you have had rain! No sign of any here yet. The echinaceas are now more widely available now, according to the man at the Bay Tree Nursery at Mt Victoria. Deirdre

  • By Sue T. 2566 Monday, 20 January 2014

    Welcome back Deirdre. I also bought an orange Echinacea Cheyenne Spirit at my local nursery, Tim"s in Campbelltown. I"m thinking about going back for the other colours. Not that I have any room in the garden!!! Sue I don"t have room either but couldn"t resist the orange one and wish I"d bought the other colours too! Deirdre

  • By Sue 2074 Monday, 20 January 2014

    Nice to hear from you again and see what"s blooming in your garden. I have similar plants but am taken with the daylily - gorgeous - will seek one out. My hymenocallis is in part shade and still not flowering, burnt hydrangeas flowers are cut off, however there are echinacea, cleome, liliums, cane begonias,nepeta,and artemisia "Sussanah Mitchell" to enjoy. Could Anne please send the rain north:-) Your garden sounds like it has plenty of colour. Let"s hope for rain very soon. Deirdre

  • By Helen 2154 Monday, 20 January 2014

    Thanks for sharing your flowers with your ardent followers. I love my summer garden. Everything stays in bloom for so long, and if I keep up the mulch, it"s not difficult to maintain. I have a circular garden bordered with Portulaca (the flat "leaf" variety) and they are little Darlings - stunning. Helen Thanks, Helen. I agree that summer-flowering plants are in bloom for such a long time compared to spring ones. The portulaca is a great plant - very tough and pretty. Deirdre

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