In recent weeks, I've had the opportunity to acquire some new plants - from the Collectors' Plant Fair and via a couple of visits to nurseries with friends. I don't buy plants as often as I used to, as my garden is basically 'full', but it is always a thrill to find a plant one has never heard of and which might prove to be a good doer in the Sydney climate! With the ongoing beautiful autumnal weather, I've been endeavouring to get all my new purchases into the ground, so that they can establish a bit before winter sets in. I think April is one of the best times of year for new plantings!
A tall shrub I was delighted to find was a dark-leaved crepe myrtle: the Diamonds in the Dark series, which have become available in recent times. These specimens are more compact than the traditional tree-like crepe myrtles and they grow to around 3 m in height and 2.5 m in width. The leaves really are almost black and there are various different coloured flowers available - I got 'Pure White', but pinks, reds and purples can be obtained. I love the idea of the dramatic contrast of the dark leaves with the stark white blooms. These plants are suitable for hedges or as a background for a mixed border. Their amazing foliage colour will be maintained best in full sun.
On a smaller scale, I found an unusual pink-flowering renga-renga lily (Arthropodium cirratum) called 'Joy Pink'. These are excellent clumping plants for shaded spots and have delicate sprays of flowers in late spring: normally white. Another plant for shade that I found, which I had never seen before, was one called golden saxifrage (Chrysosplenium alternifolium), a groundcover with attractive rounded, scalloped-edged leaves and (apparently) a mass of dainty but striking lime-green flowers in spring. I have planted this with some other low, fleshy groundcovers, including several Sedum with lime-coloured leaves (Sedum mexicanum and Sedum makinoi 'Ogon'), which tolerate shade.
Another find was Alpinia luteocarpa 'Red Rubin', an ornamental ginger with very attractive leaves that are silvery-green on the top and burgundy beneath. I love foliage with reddish undersides and I have planted it near a large bromeliad called 'Silver Plum' and the stalwart Ctenanthe setosa 'Grey Star', which both have this same combination of hues.
A compact, double-flowered version of the ever-blooming Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost', which is named 'Diamond Dazzler', also caught my eye. Though a wonderful plant, 'Diamond Frost' can get rather tall and rangy over time, whereas this one is said to grow only to 25 cm. It provides a splash of sparkling white in a dry, sunny spot.
I've found myself more interested in Australian native plants lately, and a very unusual grass really appealed to me. Called Lomandra glauca 'Blue Ridge' (ht 35 cm), it has stunning powder-blue new growth, which apparently ages to green. It is said to be tough, and drought and frost tolerant! I loved the contrast of its bold, upright form with the lacy leaves of Artemisia 'Powis Castle' when I planted it in my garden.
Two final finds were unusual Hydrangea cultivars. I love Hydrangea! One is Hydrangea macrophylla 'Nigra' (ht 1.8 m), which has dramatic black stems and pink or blue mophead flowers (depending on the pH of the soil). The other was a compact, white double-flowered cultivar of the You & Me series, called 'Peace' (pictured at the start of the blog). I already had another of these with pink blooms and it is quite beautiful in a pot, holding its inflorescences over a long period.
There is always a certain sense of trepidation in putting in new plants, especially those that are quite unfamiliar. There is of course excitement as one looks forward to watching them grow and seeing their flowers, and thinking how to combine them with other plants. There is also an undercurrent of apprehension that perhaps it won't be suited to our climate and will conk out or - alternatively - will prove to be a monster that wants to smother the whole garden! All part of gardening and what makes it such fun!
18 Oct 20
Although my garden is semi-tropical in nature now, I still have some vestiges from my cottage garden days!
11 Oct 20
Consider training a shrub into a small tree.
04 Oct 20
October is iris time in Sydney gardens: the best are the tall bearded irises and Louisiana irises.
One crowded hour
27 Sep 20
Much can be achieved in regular short stints in the garden.
20 Sep 20
We may not be able to grow massed displays of tulips in our climate, but try some of these South African corms instead.