Sunday, 16 April 2017
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 ...
- By lillian 3951 Monday, 17 April 2017
Do we still say "right on", Deidre? Here in Gippsland we"re also enjoying a succession of incredibly beautiful autumn days. And as in your area, Plectranthus are putting on their best show in years. Especially one sad little scrawling scrap that I wouldn"t have missed had it left me. It now has pale lilac flowers- enormous. My knowledge of the species is limited and for years, on and off, I"ve sought a reliable, pictorial reference. Do you or our reader colleagues have any suggestions? Cheers! Glad you had such good weather too! Your lilac Plectranthus saccatus is one of my favourites -- flowers for ages here! Deirdre
- By Valerie 2121 Monday, 17 April 2017
Yes it has been such a lovely few days in Sydney. You put it so well. We"ve been enjoying lunches outside and the way the light is falling gently (at last) on the garden. You"ve reminded me about planting some more Salvias for this time of the year. The dark purple Salvia "Black Knight" I bought from the RBGS Friends plant shop is going really well and it could do with a few more "friends" around it. Thanks too for the notes about Plectranthus - another favourite! Yes, sitting outside at this time of year is such a joy. The light is wonderful at this time of year. The garden just seems to glow! The RBG nursery has a good range of salvias to choose from. Deirdre
- By Betty 3104 Monday, 17 April 2017
I have a few big pots of Plectranthus "Mona Lavender", all in flower at present (and beautiful). I loaned them to my daughter recently for a gathering at her home after a funeral. They looked lovely near the front door and were admired by all. Now I have to be mean and bring them home soon! I have a couple of small ones that she can have when they are bigger. Some neighbours thought she may be selling! Those pots must have looked so lovely. A favourite Plectranthus of mine. Deirdre
- By lillian 3951 Monday, 17 April 2017
Hello again I"ve answered myself by using you know what. Deidre, you did a great blog - Plect. Shady Characters- March 31/09. I now suspect my big flowered mystery is a form of P.saccatus. I"m tracking down your suggested book - Ernst van Jaarsveld"s S. African Plectrantus. Amazon has a lot of his other many works. On the trail! But not at this moment on this gorgeous day. Thanks. Thanks, Lillian. If you ever do come across that Plectranthus I would love to know its name. It is such a pretty one. Deirdre
- By Janna 0 Monday, 17 April 2017
It sounds idyllic, Deirdre! We"ve had some sun, some cloud here but have been back to really wintery temperatures which we didn"t pack for. But exploring the stunning Norfolk countryside has more than made up for it. I hope your lovely weather continues. Your Easter trip to Norfolk sounds a delight. We have had another gorgeous warm day here! Deirdre
- By margaret 2122 Tuesday, 18 April 2017
Thank you, Deirdre, we have had an ideal Easter period, although I have not had as much time as I would like to spend in the garden. Over the past month or so, the garden has been resplendent with Plectranthus, Michaelmas daisies, Dahlia, Clematis and the lemon coloured Cosmos, which has reach 70cm.I have spent time on the front verandah, admiring the riot of colour - the scene brings much pleasure and appreciation. It all sounds gorgeous, Margaret. Thanks for sharing the scene with us. Deirdre
- By Gillian 2119 Tuesday, 18 April 2017
Thank you Deirdre for painting such a lovely picture of your Autumn garden.I agree the weather was magnificent over Easter as were the fabulous sunsets if you caught sight of them late afternoon - shades of pink and lemon, truly beautiful. My garden is in full bloom with different varieties and colours of Camellia Sasanqua everywhere, Plectranthus ecklonii, Cane begonias growing through the Camellias as mine do, all varieties of salvia flowering, Rose Mutablis with it"s varied coloured blooms. I did catch a sunset one evening -- it was so pretty. Your garden looked marvellous at the moment. So lush and full! Deirdre
- By Helen 7256 Thursday, 20 April 2017
Beautiful weather here too. My favourite time of year. After autumn rains , cool enough for planting & shifting. Plectranthus very good here this year too. Just have some new plants of Plect Mona Lavender. Its leaves are a much darker green than the others I have. Do you know - can it take a bit more sun or wind than the other softer leaved ones? Am really enjoying salvia guarantica ( sky blue one) now - it has been flowering for months. Glad you are enjoying good weather too. I think most of the plectranthuses can cope with some sun but they are very shade-tolerant also. They probably wouldn"t like very strong wind as most are rather brittle. Deirdre
- By Adelina 2477 Thursday, 20 April 2017
I totally agree, the rainfall and cooler weather has sparked renewed enthusiasm for gardening. Only problem is that it is still raining where I live in the Northern Rivers Districg of NSW. We had a lovely Easter weekend acnd managed to burn our piles but since then it has been rainig. I a m desperate to create 3 new succulent garden beds in my garden. So please stop raining.