Is there any place better in the world to be on a sunny sprinter (ie late winter/early spring) day than in Sydney? Cloudless blue skies, a gentle warm breeze, the aroma of jasmine (or fertiliser) in the air, and the caress of just-the-right-temperature sunshine on bare arms. One just wants to roll on one's back on the lawn and whinny with delight! In our gardens, there are already plenty of signs of new growth and there is that expectant feeling that everything is about to explode in a mad frenzy. In gardens other than mine, of course, there are also lots of flowers coming into bloom! As readers would know by now, I don't have much of a sprinter garden, as a long time ago I decided to concentrate on summer and autumn flowers, but I do have a few little vignettes in the garden at the moment that are pleasing me every time I walk past them.
We had a strange winter this year in Sydney; certainly not as chilly as usual, and as a result, some of my cold-sensitive specimens that usually die down completely have kept some or all of their leaves quite well, resulting in some of little scenes in my garden that wouldn't normally be there! They are all in shaded parts of my garden. One example (pictured above) is a clump of my tall snowflakes (the cultivar 'Gravetye Giant' (ht 90 cm) , which are taller and stronger, and which flower later, than the species) highlighted against the dark foliage of Colocasia esculenta 'Black Magic' (ht to 1 m), which is underplanted with the silvery leaves of groundcover Lamium maculatum 'White Nancy' (ht 15 cm) and an attractive rhizomatous Begonia (ht 20 cm, name unknown, sadly!). I love the dramatic contrast of (near) black and stark white in the garden, embellished with silver, and have used this combination in a couple of spots in my garden. Other flowers out in this bed at the moment include several white Helleborus x hybridus, showcased in last week's blog.
In another spot, I am enjoying the opening of my Belgian Clivia miniata hybrids. I think I love them the best when they are just about to open their deep orange, funnel-shaped blooms. They grow amidst a tall, dramatic fern (which is possibly Microsorum pustulatum, syn. Microsorum diversifolium, ht 70 cm), which has intermingled amongst the Clivia and has lovely lime-green new leaves. Another plant mixed in here is a very attractive bromeliad that comes into bloom at the same time: Aechmea caudata (ht to 1 m), which has yellow flowers held in reddish bracts: a stunning companion to the Clivia. I can gaze at this little spectacle several times a day and never tire of it. It is a rare example in my garden where I have mass-planted just a couple of plants rather than trying to fit in lots and lots of different ones, and I find it rather satisfying.
Elsewhere, I am enjoying the sight of the lime-green bells of Helleborus foetidus 'Gold Bullion' (ht 80 cm) against a backdrop of the enormous, fresh, lime-gold leaves of Acanthus mollis 'Hollard's Gold' (ht 1 m) and a Syngonium hybrid (ht 60 cm). The stripy, grassy foliage of Liriope muscari 'Gold-banded' (ht 40 cm) completes the picture. The flowers of the hellebore are more gold when grown in a sunny spot. I was excited to see a creche of tiny self-sown seedlings of this plant beneath it, when I took the photo!
Not many Salvia are in bloom at this time, but the fragrant-leaved Salvia dorisiana (ht to 2 m) is an exception. It has large velvety foliage, which has a delicious scent of fruit salad, and spires of quite large hot-pink flowers. It is one of the Salvia that can will grow part-shade; in fact, it can look better there than in sun as otherwise its leaves can wilt horribly on hot days. Mine currently grows beneath a crepe myrtle tree that has a huge colony of Billbergia nutans (ht 50 cm) in its branches, and their pretty - if fleeting - slim, pendulous, pink inflorescences provide a curtain behind the Salvia. Bromeliad Aechmea gamosepala is also an excellent plant to grow near the Salvia, as its vivid pink and blue spikes coincide with the Salvia's spires and provide a colour echo.
I enjoy the waxy flowers of the bulb Tulbaghia simmleri (ht to 60 cm, syn. Tulbaghia fragrans) at this time of year. My lilac-hued one is flowering in front of shrubby Strobilanthes dyeriana (ht 1.2 m), with its large, shiny silver and green leaves, overlaid with a lustrous purple sheen that matches the Tulbaghia blooms. Normally, this shrub looks hideous at this time of year (it will be pruned hard in early September), but due to the mild winter, its foliage is still quite attractive. In another garden bed, I have the white version of this Tulbaghia nearby the white flowers of Iris japonica (ht to 60 cm) and the delicious, white-edged young foliage of annual Lunaria annua var. albiflora 'Alba Variegata' (ht 30 cm). I hope you are enjoying sprinter in your garden!
The charm of vintage gardening books
28 Feb 21
A trip back in time
21 Feb 21
Cane-stemmed Begonia cultivars are summer stars for foliage and flower power in Sydney gardens.
14 Feb 21
There are some unusual flowers on my grasses now.
07 Feb 21
These plants bloom for many months in my garden - and some are in flower all year!
31 Jan 21
Many scented flowers are in bloom now.