Going for green and gold

Sunday, 07 August 2016

A posy of flowers to salute our Olympic team

With the Olympics now underway, I found myself racking my brain for some way of alluding to them in my blog! In the end, I decided to find what flowers of green and yellow/gold hues I have in bloom right now, so that I could pick a patriotic bunch in the colours of the Australian team for my table. A wander in my garden revealed an array of possibilities!

Mahonia japonica

The first plant to catch my eye was shrubby Mahonia japonica, now in full bloom, with upright spires of tiny clustered yellow bells, with a soft scent, held above spiny, leathery leaves of a dark-green hue. This was a recent addition to my garden when I was going through an angst-ridden phase of wanting more permanent evergreen structure. It will grow to 2 m in height eventually and is happy in a shaded spot. It seems to have settled in nicely and I was excited to see its first flowers.

Euryops pectinatus - a long-flowering shrubby daisy

Other yellow flowers can be found with the bright and cheerful daisies of shrubby perennial Euryops pectinatus and Tagetes lemmonii, which bloom throughout winter. They really do lift my spirits during the bleaker days of July and August. Chinese lanterns (Abutilon cultivars) are flowering well at the moment, and include pale and deep yellow forms. They will continue to perform well all through spring until November, when they have a break: which is when I prune them hard! I added in to my bunch the last few remaining sprays of the bright yellow Salvia madrensis, which has given a splash of colour from autumn all through winter.

Philodendron Gold Bullion

Cymbidium orchids are coming into their own now, and include many gorgeous yellow cultivars. Pots of orchids are so decorative in the winter garden and the flowers last for simply ages. As well as these yellow/gold flowers, there is some gorgeous golden foliage in the garden: gold-leaved zonal Pelargonium look particularly good in winter; Helleborus foetidus 'Gold Bullion' has lovely lime-gold fingered leaves; and a plant new to me is another 'Gold Bullion' cultivar: this one being a Philodendron, which I recently picked up at a local nursery. It is said to grow to 75 cm tall. Its dissected leaves look very similar to Philodendron 'Xanadu', which is a superb foliage plant for shade, making a completely low-maintenance drift of cool green: I hope 'Gold Bullion' proves to be as good!

Of course, I could have simply paired my gold flowers and foliage with plain green leaves to make my posy, but I decided to extend the challenge by looking for green flowers as well. I love green flowers, which seem so enigmatic to me, and there are some out in the garden right now. The old faithful shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeeana) has a lime-green flowered form ('Lutea'), which is in bloom all year round, only stopping when I cut it to the ground in mid-August! It grows well in a shaded spot. It looks very effective when grown nearby plain golden or lime-green foliage. Also for shade is the exquisite Corsican hellebore (Helleborus argutifolius, pictured above), which has tall stems holding clusters of large, rounded green flowers in winter, which last for months. The serrated-edged, veined foliage has a similar look and colour to that of the Mahonia mentioned above, and could be a great underplanting for my new shrub, I noted, as I picked the blooms. These hellebores self-seed gently to form a little colony after a few years.

In sunny spots, the luminous chartreuse-green bracts of Euphorbia characias subspecies wulfenii are just starting to open up, and these will also last a long time - throughout spring. I have mine growing near an unusual lime-green perennial Nicotiana (ht 1.2 m) with large, star-shaped flowers (pictured at left). The plant has been blooming for more than 18 months without pause, and seems to be a perennial form. I have no idea of its name, but so far, it is one of the best I have ever grown of this type. These types of Nicotiana can be propagated from stem cuttings, which is very useful for passing them on to keen gardening friends. Some plants of the smaller-flowered annual/short-lived perennial Nicotiana langsdorffii are also in flower at the moment - there always seem to be a few out at all times of the year of the self-seedlings in the garden.

So there was a fair bit to choose from for my patriotic posy; I finished it off with some of the green and gold variegated leaves of a Euonymus japonica 'Aureus'. A much more patriotic posy would include green and gold native flowers out now, such wattles, Correa, kangaroo paw and Banksia blooms, but not growing any of these in my garden, I have had to make do with my eclectic bunch! Any other suggestions?