Finding new treasures

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Hippeastrum growing in the garden of Kerry Mitchell at Kurrajong

Readers of this blog may recall (and may even have shared) my sorrow when Belrose Nursery closed last year. With the disappearance of many of the boutique nurseries run by dedicated and knowledgeable plantspeople in Sydney, it has become hard for us keen gardeners to find unusual sorts of plants, as they are simply not stocked by the big franchise establishments that dominate the market at the moment.

So I was delighted to discover on Saturday that a new nursery has opened, within easy reach of the metropolitan area, which stocks a range of rare and interesting plants. The nursery, run by Kerry Mitchell, is set within her large and beautiful garden at Kurrajong, framed by some statuesque old trees and with sweeping views to the Blue Mountains. The enterprise is the culmination of 30 years of plant collecting and acquiring practical gardening knowledge.

An effective combination of Plectranthus argentatus (left) with Ajania pacifica in the garden of Kerry Mitchell at Kurrajong

Kerry focuses on plants that do well in our Sydney climate - I was surprised to learn that Kurrajong experiences the same problems with humidity that those of us living closer to the city have to deal with. It is a joy to be able to wander around her lovely garden borders and to be inspired by the way Kerry has arranged her plantings in pleasing combinations of colour, form and texture. The garden is beautifully maintained but also has a very relaxed, informal feel, with self-seeding annuals and perennials popping up here and there, and plants spilling over garden edges. Attractive vegetables, such as a red-stemmed silverbeet, intermingled with the ornamentals in places.

Salvia microphylla Sensation in the garden of Kerry Mitchell

One of Kerry's passions is the genus Salvia. She has one of the most impressive collections of these plants that I have seen in Sydney, and sells many species and cultivars in the nursery. She has learned how to grow them well, and is happy to share her knowledge with visitors. Salvias are wonderful for our climate and offer endless possibilities for planting schemes. I was pleased to be able to buy a new addition for my own collection - pretty red Salvia adenophora, said to flower over a long period in sun or part shade. Salvia microphylla 'Sensation' (pictured above), which has dainty apricot pink flowers, was much admired by our group.

Rosa Crepuscule in bloom in the garden of Kerry Mitchell in Kurrajong

Kerry also has a huge number of old roses growing in the garden, well integrated into plantings of other shrubs and perennials. A bright blue trellis used as a support for roses is a focal point in the garden. She has a keen interest in unusual and species Camellia, including scented ones, which she has collected from a number of enthusiasts over the years.

One of many the many Pelargonium specimens growing in the garden of Kerry Mitchell at Kurrajong

She includes many drought-tolerant plants, as water is precious in this region. A number of Pelargonium specimens - zonal, ivy, regal and scented - were flourishing in dry spots, all flowering their heads off. South African bulbs such as Hippeastrum and Sprekelia, which do well in parched places, were also to be seen in full bloom, as were tough groundcovers like Gazania and Nemesia, along with many silver-leaved plants that thrive in these conditions - including Artemisia and Lychnis coronaria. In shadier dry places, massed bromeliads, many different Begonia and a variety of Plectranthus are grown and cope well with these conditions. I was able to purchase an attractive groundcover Plectranthus with very furry green leaves and spires of blue flowers, which I had never seen before, and a lovely silvery rhizomatous Begonia.

To grow plants that like moisture, such as some of the water-loving Iris and Hosta, she uses an ingenious technique of burying a plastic household bucket in the ground, half-filling it with water then plunging a potted plant into the bucket, so that a water supply is guaranteed for a long time. Some mulch tucked around the edge of the bucket means that the plant looks for all the world as if it is growing directly in the ground. This also enables her to remove the pots as the plants finish flowering so that something else can be put into the bucket to replace it.

My companions (all keen gardeners) and I all left with some new plant treasures along with fresh ideas for our own gardens. Intending visitors should phone ahead to get directions and to make sure that Kerry knows to expect you: (02) 4576 0349.

Reader Comments

  • By Jill 3941 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 01 November 2010

    Thank you for more inspiration. Yesterday I was inspired by a friend's garden where eupatorium are in full flower and a tall - 1 1/2 m - salvia with red flowers added a special dimension. Jill

    Thanks, Jill. It's a wonderful time of year! Deirdre

  • By Frances 3941 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 01 November 2010

    that sounds dangerous to me! ;-)

  • By Gillian 2076 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 01 November 2010

    I am a new reader, what amazing information I am receiving from your blogs. I am learning so much. Thank you very much indeed. Gillian

    Thanks and welcome, Gillian! Deirdre

  • By Helen 2154 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 01 November 2010

    Dierdre, how clever of you, to find such a nursery. Just what all keen gardeners need, particularly if you lead a group of Garden Lovers as I and many others do. I shall be following up your instructions in Autumn next year. Local nurseries seem to be sadly lacking in individuality. Helen.

    I agree that the chain nurseries are pretty much all of a muchness. I like to go to a nursery where the owner really loves and knows plants. Deirdre

  • By Margaret 3777 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Tuesday, 02 November 2010

    Looks like I will have to take a trip to NSW! I have Lychnis coronaria, the pink variety, in abundance, but does anyone know where I can get the white one?

    Thanks, Margaret. I used to have the white Lycnhis and occasionally see it in gardens - but haven't seen it in a nursery for many years. Probably something you could get if you belong to a garden club that has a swap table, or at a rare plant fair. Deirdre

    HI Margaret, one of the readers has sent in some information about the Lychnis if you check this blog page. Deirdre

  • By Robin 2121 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Wednesday, 03 November 2010

    Must get to Kurrajong for an outing this Spring! How lovely to find another nursery incorporated into an established and loved garden to inspire us all. Thanks for the heads up. Robin

    Thanks, Robin - yes it is definitely worth a visit and Kerry is very generous with her gardening knowledge. Deirdre

  • By margaret 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Saturday, 06 November 2010

    great to hear of a new nursery, thank you for informing us, Deirdre. The range of plants sounds very enticing.

    Thanks, Margaret! Deirdre

  • By Ann 2120 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 17 January 2011

    Hello Deidre, I have phoned nurseries all over Qld and NSW looking for the Plumbago Rosea (Red or Pink Plumbago) but no-one has it or knows where I can get it. I was wondering if you, or any of your readers might have a plant fron which I could take a small cutting? Ann (Sydney)

    Hi Ann, I don't know this plant though one of my plant books says its name is now P. indica. Maybe anyone who has this plant and could offer a cutting could get in contact with me. Deirdre

  • By Dominic Wong 2575 (Zone:8-9 - Cool Temperate to Alpine) Monday, 17 January 2011

    Responding to margaret 3777.I have the white lychis coronaria & also a white one with a pink eye.I own a garden in mittagong Chinoiserie with a small nursery.As I specialise in tree peonies,i also have some rare plants for sale.I can be contacted by email or ring me on my mobile phone 0411 783883.D

    Thanks, Dominic. I have enjoyed several visits to your nursery and garden and will try to pass on your message to Margaret. Deirdre

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