"Random musings on a walk"

Lots of plants caught my eye on a walk.
Sunday, 03 January 2021        

Mopheaded Hydrangea in bloom

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.


 Reader Comments

1/10  Bren - 2540 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 04 January 2021

Nice to see your blog back! I too have had no luck with Ixora. I used to work in central Africa, and I saw it growing there very successfully in full sun; I suspect it prefers a more tropical climate. I did have a corm of Gloriosa superba, but something nipped off the rapidly growing first shoot, and it never recovered. My Hoya bella is currently flowering beautifully; full shade and crowded roots seem to work! Thanks for your comments on Ixora. Perhaps a warm microclimate in the garden may suit it. I do like hoya and am keen to know more about growing them. Thanks for your tips! Deirdre


2/10  Geoff - 2323 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 04 January 2021

Thank you very much for your interesting commentary on your walk. That's just the thing I like to do most days, looking at local gardens as I pass them, admiring plantings as well as getting inspiration. My Ixora is performing the best it has for years. Maybe it's the extra rain as it's growing in a dry area with lots of plants nearby, including a very tall Swane's Golden Pencil Pine, near a driveway, and receives sun in the middle of the day. Thanks, Geoff. It is so helpful to look at gardens and plants on walks! Your ixora sounds as if it is doing well. I will try again with one! Deirdre


3/10  Patricia - 2100 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 04 January 2021

A lift to the day, sharing your walk and having a dose of the soul's magic medicine which plants and gardens give so generously. Thank you and best wishes for more happy gardening and walking times. Thanks so much, Patricia. Deirdre


4/10  Colin - 4220 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 04 January 2021

Here on the Gold Coast now; my Ixora always died in Sydney but have three colours growing like crazy; on the other hand, I loved Gloriosa in my Sydney garden but it is a weed of verges here. Ixora certainly seems to like heat. Re gloriosa - even here in Sydney it can certainly spread a bit via its underground tubers but I imagine in warmer climates it could indeed be quite a pest. Deirdre


5/10  Ken - 2203 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 04 January 2021

I enjoyed your piece about Flox paniculata, which I have always liked. Some time ago I looked for them on the internet and was delighted to find an extraordinary variety for sale on one website. I then realised that it was a nursery in the USA. I reigned myself to enjoying the couple that I have. Thanks again for all your writing, and best wishes for the New Year . Ken Thanks, Ken. The old faithful ones do quite well in Sydney; occasionally they get struck by mildew but I try to replant them regularly and immediately get rid of any that get the mildew on them. Deirdre


6/10  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 04 January 2021

So pleased to read the blog, again! The hydrangeas, agapanthus and now, the crepe myrtle, are all looking wonderful. Plants, and especially flowers, do lift one's mind from the Covid disaster. My penstemons, perennial phlox and cane begonias are reaching for the sky, all in full flower. Your walk was a lovely reminder of how plants can make us feel so happy.The rain we have had over the past few weeks has made our gardens go quite crazy with growth! It really is a joy to be in the garden at the moment. Deirdre


7/10  Kerrie - 2104 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 04 January 2021

Happy new year Deirdre. I just adore my Gloriosa rothschildia vine grown in a pot. The trick is to keep them dry over winter. I also grow Ixoria & Justicia betonica & several hoyas that twist & wind all over my pergola built specifically for my shade loving plants.The rain has been wonderful! Sure hope a gardener bought your neighbour's house. Yes, Gloriosa is so beautiful, isn't it. I've never grown it in a pot but that is a good tip to keep it dry when dormant. Your shade-plant pergola sounds fantastic! Deirdre


8/10  Keith - 4350 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 04 January 2021

I had never known the name Gloriosa Superba -its always been Rhodesian Flame Lilley to me. Mine is currently flowering on Gold Coast. It originally came from a beach in Brunswick Heads. A lovely name for the flower! Deirdre


9/10  Zenda - 2119 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 04 January 2021

thanks Dierdre, good to hear some gardening talk. I can almost see the plants growing at my place with the gentle weather. I am trying to get lots of plants established this rainy summer so they will get their roots down. Yes, this weather has been amazing! Deirdre


10/10  Carmel - 2219 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Wednesday, 06 January 2021

Happy New Year! Thank you so much for your blog. I look forward to it and find so much information in it. So enjoyable to share your walk. Thanks so much for your feedback, Carmen! Hope you have a great year ahead. Deirdre


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