Top ten keepers

Sunday, 19 August 2012

A miniature-flowered camellia

I recently participated in a lively discussion with other gardeners on the topic of which plants we would never part with from our gardens. I am fond of all my plants, so it is very hard to single out the ones that I would always keep, but I did come up with a list.

Salvia Wendys Wish

Shrubby Salvia plants have been my passion for more than a decade, though I am now more selective in the ones that I grow in my garden. They flower over such a long period, are drought tolerant and have so much diversity in their spired flowers that they are a must for my garden. To pick an absolute favourite is difficult, but the cerise-flowered cultivar 'Wendy's Wish' would have to be close to the top of the list.

White form of Plectranthus ecklonii

For shadier sites, I have a passion for Plectranthus. Just like the genus Salvia, they are easy to grow, drought tolerant and have gorgeous spires of flowers. Their main blooming time is autumn, and they really decorate the garden at that time. They are all lovely but I probably like Plectranthus ecklonii the best, as it really makes a statement in the autumn garden.

Helleborus x hybridus in the garden of Pamela and Harry Fowell in Sydney

The exquisite, sculptured blooms of hellebores are a winter highlight for me, and I would never want to be parted from them. Helleborus x hybridus flowers well in the Sydney climate in a cool, shady position, and in time multiplies to form a good clump. These are one of the few 'English-y' plants that do well in my garden and I love all the different colours and patterned forms that are now available, though my favourite is probably the pure white single form. They look particularly good at the moment, and should be available in nurseries to purchase whilst in bloom.

Windflowers (Anemone x hybrida) are another 'English-y' sort of plant that does well in my garden and I would hate to be without those tall wands of simple blooms in autumn. Though they do spread to form a resilient clump after a while, which is almost impossible to get rid of, I would never want to get rid of them. Again, the pure white single is my favourite. I grow mine amongst Hydrangea shrubs, where they can wander around without getting into too much mischief. Hydrangea are another must-have in my garden to give long-lasting flowers in a shaded spot. They make wonderful cut blooms for vases. I love all the different ones, but a double-flowered mop-head cultivar is a very special plant that I cherish.

Clerodendrum wallichii

Other shrubs that I wouldn't be without include the different sorts of Camellia. They do so well in Sydney and provide excellent evergreen screens and backgrounds, with delightful flowers in autumn and winter. I probably love the mini-flowered ones the best, but it is hard to choose between them! Another shrub I treasure is Clerodendrum wallichii, a compact specimen with delicate pendulous white flowers in autumn. Everyone who sees it wants to grow it, and it does well in Sydney in a shaded position.

Justicia rizzinii

The genus Justicia is a particular favourite of mine, and I have a weakness for Justicia carnea, with its large feathered blooms in summer and autumn, and Justicia rizzinii, a small shrub that is smothered in dainty tubular flowers of bright yellow, red and orange throughout winter and spring. It will grow in sun or shade. I like to pair it with another 'keeper' - 'Soleil d'Or' jonquils (Narcissus Tazetta group). These cheery little flowers have an orange cup surrounded by yellow petals and a sweet perfume that reminds me of my childhood garden. They are one of the best Narcissus to grow in Sydney gardens.

As late spring arrives, I will welcome all my daylilies (Hemerocallis cultivars), which I would never want to be without. They offer flowers over a long period of time, in almost every colour of the rainbow. I love them all, though the spidery-flowered types are my especial favourites. They grow best in a sunny position.

I have probably left out plants that I should not have, but these were the ten that came first to my mind as being indispensible to me!