Mid-summer vignettes

Sunday, 08 January 2017

Impatiens walleriana not affected by downy mildew

Discombobulated by all the Christmas and New Year festivities and a lack of normal routines, I've hardly known what day it was for the past few weeks, and I had lost touch with my garden completely. This weekend, however, has allowed me time to wander in the garden and see what has been going on. I have enjoyed finding some little scenes in the garden that have revived my flagging spirits and inspired me to take up my trowel and secateurs once more.

One discovery that has thrilled me is that some old-fashioned busy lizzies (Impatiens walleriana, pictured at the start of the blog) - given to me as cuttings by a friend last year - have really settled in and started to bloom madly. These plants, once a stalwart in my garden, self-seeding from year to year and lighting up shaded areas, were hit by a horrible fungal disease a few years ago and basically wiped out. Whether the current success of my cuttings means the disease has been conquered (which I hadn't heard about) or that these particular ones might somehow be immune to it, I don't know. In any case, I am enjoying the return of these simple but floriferous plants to my garden!

Pennisetum setaceum Rubrum (centre) with Hymenocallis bulbs (at right)

I've been experimenting for some time with a part of the garden that combines dark leaves and flowers with Omo-white blooms. At the moment, I am enjoying deep purple grassy Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' with the brilliant white flowers of an unusual bulb called Hymenocallis. The flowers last only a few weeks but their long, drooping petals and the bulbs' broad leaves repeat the form of arching leaves of the grass, and the tonal contrast between the two plants is quite intense. Other dark-leaved plants such as Alternanthera dentata and Euphorbia cotinifolia continue the theme through the border, and white flowers such as Pentas lanceolata and Shasta daisies give long periods of bloom. I also include silver foliage in the mix as it combines so well with white and dark purple/black, and softens the strong contrast between the two here and there in the border.

Sanchezia speciosa (left) with Justicia brandegeeana

In another part of the garden, I enjoyed seeing the quaint inflorescences of the lime/yellow-coloured shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeeana) intermingling with the striking yellow-veined foliage of shrubby Sanchezia speciosa. I love to use such colour echoes in the garden, where the hue of the flower of one plant matches the colour in the leaf or stem of another. Whilst the shrimp plant is in flower all year, the Sanchezia is a warm-climate shrub that doesn't like our Sydney winters much, and it takes a while for it to get going each summer and produce its dramatic leaves. Once it does, however, it is a fabulous foliage plant. Both these plants belong to the Acanthaceae family of plants. The combination will look good until the end of autumn, as the shrimp plant inflorescences are composed of long-lasting bracts rather than actual flowers.

Lacecap Hydrangea macrophylla (left) with Dichroa febrifuga

In a shaded part of the garden, I was delighted to notice that the stems of a pretty lacecap Hydrangea macrophylla, with white florets and a central pincushion of tiny blue flowers, were now juxtaposed with those of Dichroa febrifuga, a hydrangea relative that has as its entire flower-head a cluster of petite, deep blue flowers just like the middle of the Hydrangea blooms. The Dichroa blooms for a number of months, longer than the actual Hydrangea shrubs, and is a most useful addition to a shady area as a background planting. It is taller than most Hydrangea, being capable of growing to 3 m in height.

Old-fashioned Gerbera (right) with Euphorbia cyathophora

My final discovery was the combination of an old-fashioned, fine-petalled Gerbera with a most unusual Euphorbia plant I was given last year. Said to be a self-seeding annual (potentially weedy in very warm northern areas of Australia), the Euphorbia has kept going for almost 12 months without stopping flowering in that time. It seems to be Euphorbia cyathophora and it is like a miniature form of the traditional poinsettia that blooms in winter. Mine is coloured a vibrant apricot-orange, that almost exactly matches the hue of my Gerbera. I love the contrast of the intricately cut Gerbera petals with the chunkier form of the Euphorbia 'flowers', the showy part of which are actually long-lasting leafy bracts. I have developed a fondness for the old-fashioned Gerbera in recent times, and have been fortunate to receive some from kind neighbours, who grow a range of colours. These perennials love sun and good drainage. Make sure the crown of the plant is not covered with mulch, or it may rot.

Reader Comments

  • By Janna 0 Monday, 09 January 2017

    What lovely vignettes! I especially love the oranges and lemon shades. Happy New Year, Deirdre. Lovely to hear from you, Janna. Hope all is going well and that you have a great year ahead. Deirdre

  • By Vicki 2069 Monday, 09 January 2017

    I thoroughly enjoy your blogs Deirdre! I thought of you yesterday as I discovered my new very small tree begonia (mentioned a few blogs ago) is suddenly flowering madly in a hidden shady spot. Love it.... Thank you and happy new year and happy gardening! So glad you are enjoying the tree begonia - they are wonderful plants and flower for so long. Deirdre

  • By Marilyn 2250 Monday, 09 January 2017

    Welcome back, and may your garden prosper in 2017. I am impressed there was not one word about the time spent on the end of a hose during these prolonged hot and dry spells! I have the Euphorbia cyathophora in my garden having collected seed from a National Park in Noosa many years ago. It is pretty but I have to be ruthless in taking out mature plants or it would take over. I have indeed spent a lot of time watering over this horribly hot period. It certainly is a chore. Thanks for the info on the euphorbia; I suspect it may start to self-seed this year. Deirdre

  • By Barbara 2580 Monday, 09 January 2017

    When I lived in Sydney I had Dizzy Lizzies throughout my garden. I love whiter than white flowers so my compost bin was regularly topped up with the pink and red ones. I know them as Busy Lizzies, and they certainly are busy at this time of the year. I used to love sitting in the garden at this time of the year, listening to the little soft pops when a spring-loaded seed pod shot off the mother plant. Good to know they are growing well in your garden. Hopefully the fungal disease may have disappeared. Deirdre

  • By Densey 2446 Monday, 09 January 2017

    Deirdre-Re gerberas - I brought the dble pink one from Dural 16 years ago and visitors seem to love it. But like you I"m back to the old fashioned ones with fine petals and have a gorgeous cerise pink . Disaster last week. My enormous crepe myrtles were in full flower with several colours, then I woke one morning - not a single flower. left. Other shrubs too. The dreaded Monolepta beetle had done its worst; my garden transformed overnight.One has to be stoical. . .Densey Clyne Those beetles sound horrific -- I have never heard of them before! I hope there is some way to combat the pest? Deirdre

  • By Zenda 2119 Monday, 09 January 2017

    Like the idea of colours intensifying each other. Must take my daphne cuttings now. Love the blog Thanks. Zenda S-P I do think colours play off against each other and look different depending what other colour they hare near. Great time to take daphne cuttings! Deirdre

  • By Anne 2518 Monday, 09 January 2017

    since moving to the Illawarra have noticed lots of the old fashioned gerberas which are so much more reliable. saw some in a garden in Concord west the other day too. Occasionally see punnets of them. Another interesting blog thanks. and Happy New Year to you both. I hope those gerberas may make a comeback. They seem well suited to our climate. Deirdre

  • By Kerrie 2104 Monday, 09 January 2017

    What a lovely blog! Really enjoyed it. I like to get out into the garden first thing after my coffee in the morning & inspect everything. It"s a new garden only 9 months old so it"s lovely to see what pops up & when. I"ve spent a lot of time protecting it from the heatwaves with lots of watering! So far so good! It is wonderful to wander round the garden in the morning when everything is fresh. I hope your new garden flourishes. Deirdre

  • By margaret 2122 Tuesday, 10 January 2017

    So pleased to see the blog back! The hot and humid weather has not been pleasant, for working, but my garden is loving it. Plants are roaring away, and the place has a jungle-like appearance. I love going out early in the morning and just looking around - it is surprising the plants you find, which you had almost forgotten you have. Busy Lizzies, given as cuttings from a friend, are flourishing, although I only have three colours. Good to hear that quite a few people seem to have the impatiens growing well. I agree wandering around in the morning in the garden is a joy. Deirdre

  • By Helen 2154 Wednesday, 11 January 2017

    I recently had a set back and was faced with never being able to garden again, but to my great joy & thanks to a great physiotherapist, I have proof that "You can take the woman out of the garden but you can"t take the garden out of the woman". Your blogs have been a huge help. Thank you Deirdre Hi Helen, so sorry to hear you have not been well. Having faced several physical challenges myself in recent years, and having been helped so much by physiotherapy, I can really empathise with how you feel. And isn"t it wonderful when you can get back into the garden again! I hope you have a great year ahead. Best wishes, Deirdre

  • By Diane 3788 Thursday, 12 January 2017

    Wondering how your mackaya bella hedge is going. Mine have had the most magnificent flowers this year. As we are in cool area they are still flowering now. Along with deep blue hydrangeas up here in the Dandenongs. Happy New Year! Hi Diane, Mackaya bella flowers in October here - how lucky you are to still have it blooming! Deirdre

  • By Janice 2780 Friday, 13 January 2017

    Happy New Year to all, I am new to your blog I find it very informative & inspiring to do more gardening, I too love mornings in the garden. Janice. Welcome, Janice; thanks for your feedback. Deirdre

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