Autumn rambling

Sunday, 07 May 2017

Leaves of Liriodendron species in the garden of Georgia Cameron and Brett Gardiner in Sydney

Over the years, I have come to believe that autumn in Sydney is the best of all our seasons. The weather is pleasant - warm but not too warm, with no horrid humidity - and generally with many beautiful sunny days. Our gardens have so much to offer at this time of year - foliage, flowers and berries - and it is the ideal time of year for a garden ramble. And so, on Sunday, an absolutely perfect day, I set off to see some gardens opened by some of our local garden club members!

Japanese maples in a courtyard, in the garden of Georgia Cameron and Brett Gardiner in Sydney

May is the month when we see autumn tints in deciduous trees in Sydney, and on a sunny day, these leaves can glow like stained-glass windows. Of course, we can't really grow the classic cool-climate autumn-colouring trees, but we do have a number that will do well here, including some of the Japanese maples, crepe myrtles, Chinese pistachio tree (Pistacia chinensis) and crab apples such as Malus ionensis 'Plena'. In the garden of Georgia Cameron and Brett Gardiner, I admired a superb courtyard setting with butter-hued autumn leaves of Japanese maples behind a stunning blue pot: an eye-catching scene. A huge tulip tree (Liriodendron species) that straddles the garden boundary has started to change colour, and I enjoyed seeing its fallen golden leaves, with their uncannily tulip-flower shape (shown at the start of the blog).

Pennisetum setaceum Rubrum in the garden of Georgia Cameron and Brett Gardiner in Sydney

Ornamental grasses are still holding their flower stems and I enjoy seeing autumnal light caught in these feathery plumes. Miscanthus species and cultivars are amongst the best ornamental grasses for Sydney; as is Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum', with its burgundy leaves and soft inflorescences tinted in the same colour, which I admired in Georgia and Brett's garden. I liked how they grew green-leaved grasses nearby the Pennisetum to provide a contrast. In one of the other gardens, owned by Warren Duff, I and my gardening friends were struck by an attractive fine-leaved Lomandra cultivar, called 'Lime Wave', which we'd never seen before.

Salvia in the garden of Warren Duff in Sydney

There are just so many flowering plants in autumn in Sydney. At the moment, sasanqua Camellia shrubs are definitely amongst the stars. Perhaps due to the heavy rainfall in March, the abundance of bloom this year is truly spectacular, and I enjoyed seeing many specimens in the gardens I visited during the ramble, including some mature hedges using this plant. Shrubby Salvia are also brilliant throughout autumn, seeming to get a new lease on life at this time, and there are myriad species and cultivars in bloom right now, ranging from the petite to the massive, and providing rich colour. The pretty purple one I captured in Warren's garden was simply glowing in the afternoon sun.

Zygocactus plants in baskets in the garden of Georgia Cameron and Brett Gardiner in Sydney

There are also many Acanthaceae plants still flowering profusely, and I liked an island bed in Warren's garden (with paths on either side) featuring some tall Acanthaceae such as Odontonema and Brillantaisia providing a tall dividing screen. There are many smaller plants in flower too. In Georgia and Brett's garden, I was impressed with spectacular specimens of zygocactus in handsome conical baskets, suspended in tree branches. These interesting epiphytic plants have delightful silky flowers over a long period, and grow quite well in shade. They can also be grown actually attached to trees.

Clivia x cyrtanthiflora in the garden of Warren Duff in Sydney

I was intrigued to see delicate white jonquils in flower in Georgia and Brett's garden (surely a little early this year?) and Clivia x cyrtanthiflora in bloom in Warren's garden. This hybrid between Clivia miniata and Clivia nobilis and has pale to medium orange flowers in large clusters of narrow, pendulous blooms, and though it flowers when Clivia miniata does, in late winter and early spring, it can also appear at other times of year too, including in autumn.

Berries of Nandina domestica in the garden of Warren Duff in Sydney

Berries are one of the delights of autumn. Warren grows Nandina domestica, which was sporting its brilliant red berries. Other berry-bearing plants that do well in Sydney include Ardisia crenata, Callicarpa species and some of the Liriope and Ophiopogon species.

With colder weather apparently on its way this coming week, we were so very lucky to have such a gorgeous day to look at gardens in all their autumn glory on Sunday, and to spend such a pleasant afternoon with fellow gardeners. I can thoroughly recommend autumn garden rambles!