"Oriental spring blooms"

Many plants from East Asia bloom now.
Sunday, 23 August 2015     

Ornamental pear blossom in Beecroft village

I have long been interested in where different plants come from in the wild. I have found that plants from some parts of the world do better in my garden than others: not many plants from Europe really thrive, for example. Time of flowering often seems to vary depending on where plants come from, and in late winter/early spring in Sydney, it seems very apparent that so many classic plants in bloom are from what might be loosely termed 'the Orient' - China, Japan and thereabouts.

The many of the ornamental fruit blossom trees - including Prunus species, some flowering pears (Pyrus species, pictured at the start of the blog), quince (Chaenomeles species) and crab apples (Malus species) - that are starting to open their delicate confetti-like flowers everywhere, and the flamboyant Magnolia trees (pictured at left) with their gorgeous tulip-shaped blooms on bare branches, all hail from that part of the world, and give Sydneysiders the feeling that spring has arrived. I don't grow any of these in my own garden but I thoroughly enjoy seeing them on my walks around the neighbourhood.

Evergreen Azaleas were one of the traditional oriental shrubs for Sydney spring gardens and are truly wonderful when smothered in their large, colourful blooms. They were one of the first plants I could put a name to, and my first garden had many of them in it. Now I have only a couple of tough old specimens at the top of my driveway as they seem to suffer from so many potential pest and disease problems nowadays that require chemical treatment, which I do not want to be have to do. However, I have some other oriental shrubs that I enjoy in early spring, which are easy to grow and trouble free, including the may bush (Spiraea cantoniensis), with its mass of white frothy flowers in September, and the so-called Indian hawthorn (Rhapholepis indica, pictured above), which like the may bush, hails from China and belongs to the Rosaceae family. I have pink and white specimens, and they provide pretty spring flowers that remind me of the ornamental fruit blossom trees, to which they are related.

The Chinese fringe flower bush (Loropetalum chinense) is another stalwart shrub for spring in Sydney and it is coming into bloom right now. I have the pink-flowered, burgundy-leaved one, but there is also a cream-flowered version. I like to place low-growing, spring-blooming oriental plants around these shrubs, as because they come from the same part of the world, they seem to 'go' together well, including the pretty woodland iris (Iris japonica), which has the advantage of growing in shade. Iris wattii (pictured above) is similar, with larger, pale blue flowers.

The dainty annual Primula malacoides is also of oriental origin, and is a useful plant to grow beneath some of the spring shrubs. It self-seeds from year to year and forms a lovely haze of white, pink or purple blooms.

The common white and pink jasmine seen everywhere in Sydney at this time of year, spilling its delicious fragrance (and swamping all in its path!) is Jasminum polyanthum, a climber from China. I don't grow it in my garden but I love to inhale its perfume when I encounter it - one single whiff takes me immediately back to the garden of my childhood, where it grew in a glorious tangle over our back porch.

As spring progresses, more oriental shrubs will come into bloom, including species of Deutzia, Philadelphus and Weigela. All these plants can make an important contribution to Sydney gardens at this time of year. Another region of the world which is a source of good spring flowers for Sydney is the Mediterranean region: see here for my previous discussion of these.

 Reader Comments

1/3  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 24 August 2015

Of the many plants mentioned, only have Philadelphus, Weigela , Spriaea, and, of course, Primula, which obligingly self-seed, year after year. I do admire Magnolia, Loropetalum and others mentioned, in gardens around me. I used to grow Azaleas, but the constant spraying required to keep them in top condition, defeated me, altho" the older varieties are worth growing. Will have to think about adding a few more spring blossoms - they are so pretty, and herald spring. Thanks, Margaret. Some of the really old azaleas do seem more resistant to all the pests and diseases. Deirdre

2/3  Gil - 2037 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 24 August 2015

Peter Valder is noted as saying that more than 50% of our ornamental plants originate in China. Author of the beautiful multi-award-winning book, Garden Plants of China, now RRP $50.00.

3/3  Carole - 2230 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Strangely enough, apart from grevilleas and the odd hibiscus, not a lot flowering in my garden at the moment however driving through my "backyard" the Royal National Park is a joy with blooms abounding at present. The bushland is at its best in late winter and early spring! Deirdre

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