A perfect start

Monday, 01 September 2008

September means spring (even though the exact date for spring to commence is debateable) so today's perfect sunny day seems the ideal time to start my garden musings! Our garden is situated in Sydney, NSW and we have a warm, temperate climate. It is not cold enough in winter here to grow many of the beautiful European and North American plants that need a prolonged chilly period in order to flower well; nor is it hot enough in summer (or mild enough in winter) to grow truly tropical plants. However, there is a huge range of plants which grow wonderfully well here, and my goal is to try as many of these as possible! Many of them come from South America, South Africa, Southern China and Mexico and they can form a garden which is a little different from the usual.


Whilst the traditional icons of spring around here usually include azaleas, ornamental Prunus and wisteria, I grow none of these. Because such springtime flowers last a relatively short time, I prefer to devote most of my garden to plants which flower in summer, autumn and winter; but I still have two sections for spring. One is a semi-shaded corner at the bottom of the garden, and the mainstay of this area is a collection of Chinese lanterns (Abutilon x hybridum), which grow to between 1 and 2 metres in height.


They flower from early autumn until November and during this time they are smothered in pretty bell-shaped blooms, which come in a variety of colours. The ones in this part of my garden are red, tangerine, yellow and bright orange, as they form the backdrop to massed clumps of orange and yellow forms of clivia (Clivia miniata).

Justica rizzinii

Another pretty shrub nearby is firefly (Justicia rizzinii) which is just under a metre tall and covered in dainty trumpet-like flowers shaded red, orange and yellow. It flowers from June until October. This combination of plants gives much visual pleasure for a long time and will soon be added to when other plants begin to bloom.