Perfect weather

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Pretty bicoloured Dahlia in bloom in my garden

Having recently re-read (for about the tenth time) the classic book Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier, I was struck by how the unnamed narrator so desperately wanted some of the few wonderful moments in her life to last forever. How that feeling has resonated so strongly with me this Easter weekend, when we have experienced what must have been the best weather for years for the first three days of this particular holiday. Each day has dawned with cloudless blue skies, a warm (but not too hot) sun, and without a breath of wind.

On Sunday morning, I sat outside in my garden, one hand grasping a cup of tea, the other holding a buttery hot-cross bun, and just revelled in a perfect day that I wanted to last forever. There was none of the usual roar of traffic from the huge road just up the hill from where I live; instead there was an incredible peaceful silence. Not a mower nor a leaf blower roared. Poppy the ginger cat stretched out on the warm pavers near my feet, luxuriating in the sunshine as only a cat can do. At that moment, she and I had not a care in the world.

Salvia Meigans Magic and Van Houttei in bloom in the garden

The garden, still in full, lush growth from the recent falls of rain, towered around me. Leaves sparkled brilliantly in the sunlight. Birds wheeled and dived in the sky. Bees and hoverflies darted from flower to flower. Plants themselves seem to love this time of year as much as we gardeners do: all my summer-flowering Salvia plants, such as 'Joan', 'Indigo Spires' and 'Waverly' seem to have a resurgence of bloom now, joined by the true autumn species and cultivars, such as 'Meigan's Magic', Salvia semiatrata and Salvia madrensis. Indefatigable ones such as 'Van 'Houttei', 'Amistad' and Salvia splendens continue on unabated. I am reminded once again how indispensable these plants are in a Sydney garden for long-lasting colour.

Mystery Plectranthus growing in my garden

The many Plectranthus I grow in my garden continue to display their airy flowers - they seem to be lasting longer than usual this autumn, perhaps due to all the rain we received in March. These fabulous plants really help to make a Sydney autumn garden - they range from the tall Plectranthus ecklonii in shades of purple, pink and white (ht to 1.5-2 m), to the medium-sized 'Cape Angels' series (in various hues of pinks, purples and white, ht 60-80 cm), brilliant purple Plectranthus ambiguous (ht 50 cm) and the ever-flowering pale lilac-blue Plectranthus saccatus (ht to 1 m), to groundcovers such as 'Nico' and silvery 'Nicoletta'. One most unusual Plectranthus I was given by a friend last year is about 60 cm tall with chubby, pale blue flowers (pictured above). I'd love to know its name!* It is so pretty intermingled with the pink feathery plumes of a low-growing version I have of Justicia carnea, which I have interplanted with bromeliad Aechmea fasciata, which has shock-headed flowers very like those of the Justicia!

Justicia brasiliana, a lovely small shrub

The many other lovely Acanthaceae flowers that decorate our Sydney gardens at this time of year are also looking fab: Justicia brandegeeana, Justicia brasiliana, Ruellia makoyana, Ruellia brevifolia and Rhinacanthus beesianus. Begonia shrubs still drip with waxy blooms; Dahlia are flowering their heads off, making up for lost time when the summer heat was just too much for them. All of these make for a mad, happy jumble of flowers at this time of year in my front garden.

Anemone x hybrida: Japanese windflowers

Camellia sasanqua blooms fill the air with a gentle sent, and make silken carpets as their petals fall silently to the ground. Japanese windflowers (Anemone x hybrida continue to delight, with the white or pink flowers poised atop graceful, willowy stems. These plants, once entrenched in your garden, can never be got rid of, so if you succumb to their undeniable charm, make sure you put them where they cannot escape into areas you'd prefer them not to go. I have mine corralled by a path - even so they come up in cracks in the path!

I hope all readers have enjoyed similar beautiful weather for Easter as we have had here in Sydney, and been able to spend at least some time pottering in the garden. After the wretched heatwaves of this past summer, and then relentless rain for weeks on end, capricious Sydney this weekend showed her very best side, and at the moment, I feel I can forgive her anything ...

* This has since been identified as Plectranthus zuluensis