One morning, just two weeks ago, I set off to deliver a card to a friend on the other side of my village. It was a day when fears of a Christmas lockdown in Sydney - or at least a very curtailed 25 December, which would affect my family, amongst many, many others - looked very likely to be realised. I made a decision NOT to think about any of this during my walk, but to focus purely on what I could garner with my senses during the perambulation. It was a cool, overcast morning. I noticed how well the Agapanthus were doing throughout the suburb, and reflected once more on what marvellous flowers they make for Christmas vases. Hydrangea shrubs in many gardens looked wonderful still, because we hadn't had any more terrible hot and windy days for a few weeks. Combining the two blooms in an arrangement would look good, with their similar rounded heads - perhaps using some pink hydrangeas - along with some foliage for contrast. In a pretty garden on the main road, I admired pale yellow petunias with some very dark plum ones, and enjoyed the contrast, and was inspired to add some dark purplish leaves to a section of my garden with pale yellow and blue flowers.
I walked along a street with some beautiful historic homes, with a variety of gardens. Some were mainly lawn, with a hedge at the front - quite formal. I realised anew how I wasn't really drawn to these sorts of gardens as though they are very neat and structured, they essentially look the same all year round. I preferred those that had some generous borders of flowering shrubs with perennials. I noted a few specimens of Ixora along the way. This is a warm-climate shrub with brilliant orange flowers and glossy leaves. The few times I had tried it have always ended in the demise of the plant. I have never known what conditions it wants - it seems like a shade-dweller but one of the best specimens I ever saw was grown (by a non-gardener) in blazing hot sun. I vowed to look into the needs of the shrub and try again. Nearby I encountered a tall tree that had leaves like a magnolia and creamy flowers rather like an emaciated magnolia, with a nice scent - possibly Michelia champaca? I vowed I would look it up when I got home. I passed several gorgeous old homes with amazing gardens that I had visited with the local garden club a few years ago, which had been designed to use all the warm-climate plants I love, instead of the classic cool-climate plants that predominate in the area, due to the slightly higher elevation of the suburb. Amongst other interesting shrubs, I spotted Justicia betonica, one of the lesser-known Justicia, in one of the gardens and felt a surge of happiness that this Acanthaceae plant was being used - it is a wonderful, long-blooming shrub with white spires of bracts, and thrives in Sydney's warm, humid summers.
I passed the house of a friend in the street and noted a lovely display of epiphytic plants in a tree on her front boundary, which included bromeliads and a hoya growing in the angle of a branch. I remembered again how I don't understand hoyas very well and vowed to ask my friend about them next time I saw her, as she grows a number of interesting specimens from her grandmother's garden. I noted that she grew some of her epiphytes in baskets attached to the tree, which I thought was a good idea I could adapt to my epiphytic tree stump at home. I passed the house of another friend, in the same street, with a 'sold' sign out the front. I had seen this friend the week before and heard about her move north. I felt sad about it all as I loved her home and delightful cottagey garden, from which I had been given several unusual plants for my garden over the 23 years I had known her, including the Gloriosa which winds through various garden beds and is about to display its unusual blooms this month.
My card finally delivered a little further on in the street, I backtracked on my journey and admired the houses and gardens on the other side of the road. By chance, along the way, I met my friend with the epiphytic tree, and I was able to ask her my questions! All in all, a successful walk, and I didn't think about the pandemic situation once! Thank goodness for plants and gardens.
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.