Random spring delights

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Tulbaghia simmleri in bloom now

As many readers will have gathered by now, I do not have a spring garden. I enjoy spring vicariously, by admiring the gardens of others: ones that open to the public at this time of year as well as those I pass by on my morning walks. I thrill to diaphanous display of frothy white blossoms on the avenue of Manchurian pears in the main street of our village every September. I rejoice in the smothered mounds of azalea blooms and the cheerful swathes of spring annuals in the gardens of my neighbours. Years ago, I decided to concentrate my garden plantings to those that bloom in summer and autumn, so at this time of year - when all these plants are cut back and yet to fill in - it looks rather ghastly.

However, in recent years, shame has made me plant a few things here and there for spring colour. These by no means amount to anything that could be termed a 'spring display' that anyone else would want to see, but they bring joy to me, and each year I try to improve things, by adding a new specimen or grouping together some spring bloomers in my garden to make a small picture. I've tended to select those that start to flower in winter and go on through spring, to give me the most value.

Polygala grandiflora Nana

One way to have some spring flowers but to still have room for the later bloomers is to use pots. I have two dwarf milkwort shrubs, named as Polygala grandiflora 'Nana' (ht 1.2 m) when I bought them. They are growing in bright blue pots, which form a colourful contrast to the rich purple, pea-like flowers that appear in late winter and early spring. This plant enjoys a dry, sunny position. I am not sure if this is their correct name - the genus Polygala is large and confusing! Note that in some areas, certain species of Polygala are regarded as noxious weeds. I haven't had any problem with mine self-seeding so far, but clipping the plant back after flowering will reduce the risk, as well as making it more compact.

Buddleja salvifolia

Another shrub I have added recently for flowers in late winter and spring is Buddleja salvifolia. This South African species has large trusses of tiny, honey-scented pale mauve blooms held above nicely textured silvery-green pointed leaves. To me it is a warm-climate substitute for lilac, which in general doesn't thrive in Sydney. My specimen has soared to around 3 m in just a few short years; even if cut back hard after flowering it will regrow to this height over summer. It isn't really recommended for small gardens but is a good screen where there is plenty of space. It grows next to an old Rondeletia, in bloom at the same time, with pink clusters of tiny tubular flowers of a similar texture to those of the Buddleja, and it is of a similar height.

Fuchsia arborescens

The tree fuchsia, Fuchsia arborescens, from Mexico and Central America, flowers around the same time and also has clusters of diminutive blooms. It is quite unlike the usual Fuchsia hybrids, and can grow as tall as 5.5 m or more - but mine has never got higher than 2 m. Its rose-purple posies appear in winter and early spring, held above long, dark green leaves. I find it needs hard pruning after flowering, as it can get a bit straggly and woody over time. I have found that it flowers best when it receives a fair bit of sun. This year, I have noticed that the clustered lilac tubular flowers of Tulbaghia simmleri (a large-flowered relative of society garlic), also in bloom from winter to spring (pictured at the start of the blog), are rather similar in shape to those of the tree fuchsia, so I have decided to plant some of these beneath my specimen to form a pretty combination for next year.

Centradenia inaequilateralis Cascade

A small, rambling shrub that I got from a cutting, years ago, provides a profusion of showy, magenta, four-petalled blooms that open from bright pink, pointed buds from late winter into spring. It winds its way through other plants and I have even seen it growing in hanging baskets and urns. It looks a bit like a miniature Tibouchina flower, and for a long time I didn't know what it was, but it is possibly Centradenia inaequilateralis 'Cascade' (ht 80 cm, wide spread). It is quite similar to another shrub I have, called Heterocentron macrostachyum (ht 1 m), which has a more upright form and more bronzy leaves. Both flower best in sunny spots. They (along with the genus Tibouchina) belong to the family Melastomataceae, and they hail from Mexico and Central America.

Viola riviniana Purpurea

Beneath my Centradenia I have sweet violets, in various hues - these too flower from winter into spring. This year has been the first time I have had a good crop of blooms on the cute little dog violet (Viola riviniana 'Purpurea'), which I always thought was a Labrador violet (Viola labradorica). They are a vibrant shade of magenta-purple, and their dainty, deep olive-green leaves provide a good foil to the little flowers. I have generally had more success growing violets in open positions rather than in shade, even in quite dry spots, but this one will also grow in shade. It spreads madly, like all violets, but I love seeing their dainty flowers at this time of year. All the violets are blooming prolifically this spring, perhaps as a result of the recent rainfalls.

Marguerite daisies are back to my garden in recent times; their simple flowers seem to just shout 'Spring!', and they are in bloom for a long time from mid-late winter onwards. I like the single, old-fashioned ones the best and have never had much luck with the fancier cultivars. They do need to be replaced with a cutting every so often. They relish a dry, sunny position. They are natural partners for other Mediterranean-style spring flowers: lavender, Echium candicans, perennial wallflowers and perennial statice, all of which I have introduced into my garden in recent years.

I'd love to know what spring flowers are blooming in your garden!

Reader Comments

  • By noeline 2081 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 15 September 2014

    Hi Diedre I have planted in the last 2 years pieris Temple bells ,Grevillia Superb and Moonlight which have all blossomed beautifully.also 2 kalanchoe a lovely pink colourI think they are blossfeldiana which I got from a neighbour.The bulbs I planted when I first moved into this house fressia alba and white jonquils are filling the house and garden with fragrance along with french lavender.The Clivia I received through plant share are healthy and bright also.I love gardening Sounds wonderful, Noeline! Nice to have fragrance as well as flowers. Deirdre

  • By margaret 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 15 September 2014

    Polygala, not sure which one, as it was given to me years ago, does seed, but unwanted plants are easily removed. The yellow/orange browallia, lemon banksia rose, violets - mauve, white, pink, purple, blue/white, wallflowers, planted as annuals, 10 years ago, as well as the perennial kind, old fashioned gerberas, sparaxis, freesias, geraniums and various poppies, always contribute to the colour and perfume of my spring garden. It sounds a delight, Margaret. Deirdre

  • By Sue T. 2566 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 15 September 2014

    The Salvias seem to be flowering longer this year and give lots of colour, particularly Omaha Gold. i have a yellow Banksia Rose and Wisterias. This year I have masses of colour from patches of annual Linaria. Sue The rose and wisteria must look so pretty at this time. Have never grown the annual linaria - must try it one year. Deirdre

  • By Christine 2429 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 15 September 2014

    Thanks for your blog Diedre - Ilook forward to it and also the comments from other enthusiastic gardeners. Mine is mostly a late Spring-Autumn garden, ie. lots of salvias, but some roses, like Clb.China Doll never seem to stop flowering, even in the frost. Wisteria about to bloom, lots of daisies, violas/pansies,primulas,camellias, and roses not far away. More colour than I thought when I look around. I love my country garden but a move is on the way..... Chris. It all sounds lovely, Chris. Hope the move goes OK and you can take some of your favourites with you. Deirdre

  • By Helen 7256 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 15 September 2014

    Sounds like you have a good spring section now! Polygala myrtifolia var grandiflora very weedy here on King island. It grows to flowering size very quickly & seed is spread by wind, water, and ants!! It is never dry enough or cold enough here to check its growth!! Thanks for that warning about Polygala. Must be an amazing place to live where you are. Deirdre

  • By Carole 2230 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 15 September 2014

    Apricot Angel"s Trumpet flowering as usual, every month:-) but the biggest star is grevillea "Bulli Beauty" it flowers non-stop all year round,we never cease to be amazed. I still miss my violets though :-) and I actually haven"t been up the garden to see how the polygala is getting on - amazing as that may sound - other matters are taking priority grrrr.. Many thanks, Deidre keep enjoying your garden as I love to hear about it :-)

  • By Gillian 2119 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 15 September 2014

    I look out my front window at a beautiful flowering Rondeletia which seems better than ever this year; pink, salmon pink, coral and red azaleas providing a beautiful display, purple & red salvia, white brugmansia, pink loropetalum all contributing to the spring garden and of course my camellias are still in bloom, especially "Bob Hope" covered in blooms. My old "Edith Linton" absolutely covered in flowers. Helleborus, teucrium rhaphiolepis and primulas all flowering - oh joy!! Looks beautiful. Your garden is always gorgeous, but is a delight in spring, Gillian. Deirdre

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