A garden of courtyards

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Potted rhizomatous Begonia in the garden of my sister Holly in Sydney

After a busy but pleasant day on Saturday at the Cottage Garden Club (at which I really enjoyed meeting some iGarden readers!), we spent a delightful evening at my sister's place - and even got to have a sleepover. It was a great relief not to have to battle our way home through the wild, wet weather that Sydney experienced for many hours on Saturday and which continued through the night. Having wracked my brains through the night for a topic for my blog, I was pleased to see and be inspired on Sunday morning by my sister's lovely garden of courtyards swathed in a mass of blooms from numerous pots of cane-stemmed Begonia 'Irene Nuss' - one of the toughest and most decorative of all Begonia plants. It has large, showy salmon-pink bracts amidst jagged-edged bronze green leaves throughout summer and all through autumn. However, at this time of year, they - and all other cane-stemmed and shrubby Begonia - seem to be at their very peak.

Staghorn fern growing on the lattice in the garden of my sister Holly in Sydney

Apparently all the plants came from cuttings from a plant in our mother's Blue Mountains garden many years ago, and were simply stuck into pots and grew vigorously. All my sister's Begonia grow in pots, and some of these robust plants are actually smallish wire baskets mounted on a long section of lattice in one of the courtyards. The Begonia specimens form a wonderful screen, and grow amidst other plants also mounted in similar containers on the lattice, including orchids, Fuchsia, bromeliads and rhizomatous Begonia. A series of mature staghorn ferns provides a unifying element along the lattice. Some climbing foliage plants, such as star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) and trails of Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) on the lattice weave the whole planting together into a very pleasing display.

Potted Begonia Irene Nuss and orchids in the garden of my sister Holly in Sydney

A major feature of the garden is the large number of potted Cymbidium orchids, which provide long-lasting colour with their huge spikes of exquisite sculptured flowers of many hues in late winter and early spring. These are fed diligently throughout the year and given the optimum amount of sunshine: a part-shaded position from September to May and then in full sun for the rest of the year. The colour of the leaves may be a sign of whether they are getting enough sun: they should appear yellow-green, rather than deep green, which is a sign of too much shade. Leaves which are too yellow, however, indicate that too much sunlight may be being received. Epiphytic orchids are tucked into some of the small trees that provide height in the garden, giving further lovely flowers in spring.

Tillandsia usneoides in the garden of my sister Holly in Sydney

Clipped hedges provide great structure in the garden. A long tunnel draped with more Spanish moss leads from one courtyard to another, and the placement of a mirror behind a wrought-iron gate at the edge of the garden cleverly suggests that a further courtyard lies beyond it! A healthy red Dipladenia cultivar grows over an obelisk support in a large pot at the front door, providing a welcoming entry.

Many thanks to Holly and John for a wonderful evening and inspiration for today's blog!