"Summer beauty"

A visit to a delightful nearby garden revives my spirits!
Sunday, 23 January 2022     

A scene in the garden of Kathryn Hipkin in Sydney

It seems such a long time since my last blog on 5 December - and how much life has changed for us all since then. As ever, our gardens are here to provide solace, distraction and a haven away from the world. With lots of rain, humidity and heat this summer, there has been incredibly abundant growth. Many warm-climate plants are looking spectacular right now and I was very fortunate last week to visit the garden of a dear friend who lives but a stone's throw away from me. I have had the pleasure of seeing this garden develop into a gorgeous, lush, colourful oasis over the past 15 years or so, full of the 'Sydney' plants that I love and which flourish in our crazy summer weather.

There are so many beautiful flowers spangling this garden at the moment, including Abutilon and a variety of Salvia plants, including 'Amistad' and 'Joan' providing height and rich colour; a number of cane and shrubby Begonia, so long-flowering and handy for shadier spots; Plectranthus, including the compact Cape Angels types that have white, pink or purple spikes of blooms, and the lilac-flowered Plectranthus saccatus; sun-hardy versions of New Guinean Impatiens; the bicoloured Agapanthus 'Queen Mum'; spidery Hymenocallis peeping out of a shady corner; and stalwart Pentas shrubs. Many are used to create 'colour echoes' with verdant foliage plants, which are grown in generous clumps and merge to form a seamless whole, reminding me of how the creative use of leaves is really what brings a garden together and gives interest over an extended period of time.

For example, the hue of gorgeous crimson New Guinean Impatiens in the central urn (pictured at the start of the blog) is repeated in the leaves of Iresine herbstii growing nearby. This wonderful foliage plant also has varieties with purplish-brown or yellow-and-green striped leaves, which are used effectively in this garden. They grow into robust shrubs and do equally well in sun or shade. The quaint 'freckle-face plant' (Hypoestes phyllostachya) with its cute leaves smattered with pink, red or white dots is also an excellent foliage plant in this garden. The colour of the spots can be matched to nearby flowers, making a pretty picture, being especially useful in shaded areas.

Another eye-catching vignette is a bold specimen of Colocasia 'Black Magic' rising dramatically above a lavish carpet of Tradescantia zebrina. The dark markings of the groundcover are echoed in the giant, purple-veined, blackish-green, heart-shaped leaves of the Colocasia. The finely divided strappy leaves of mondo grass fringing the planting, and a veil of shiny green star jasmine foliage on the fence behind complete the picture.

Across the path from this combination is a luxurious carpet of Plectranthus 'Nico', a groundcover with purple-veined and purple-backed foliage continued the colour theme of the Colocasia and the Tradescantia. In early autumn, this plant will have veil of long spires of dainty lilac-tinged flowers over a long period. Plectranthus are such valuable plants for shady areas, and they have a diversity of forms, from groundcovers through compact shrubs to quite tall specimens, such as Plectranthus ecklonii for the back of borders. Many have interesting foliage, including the silvery shrub Plectranthus argentatus (combined in this garden with silver-flecked perennial Pilea cadieri) and the white-variegated Plectranthus forsteri, which both really light up shaded spots with their leaves.

Further on in the garden, the pointy, glowing leaves of Salvia elegans 'Golden Delicious' are paired with a fancy-leaved Pelargonium with rounded, crimped foliage of the same hue. A stunning, dark red coleus with a golden edge to its leaves is placed between them, linking the group. Luxuriant green foliage spreading between these plants provides an apt background to the combination - a necessary foil to any coloured-leaf arrangement.

Coleus come in such a wide range of patterns and colours, offering great scope for pairing with other foliage and flowers. A specimen with salmon markings on its leaves is tucked under a Salvia splendens with blooms of the same hue. Elsewhere in the garden, pink or yellow-splashed coleus echo the colours of nearby flowers and leaves, giving a harmonious coherence to the garden for many months.

Silvery-veined Ruellia makoyana is another excellent foliage plant growing in the garden, and does well in shade. Clump-forming Ctenanthe setosa 'Grey Star' with its bold, metallic-hued, paddle-shaped leaves is also useful in shade and provides interest throughout the year. It is contrasted with plants that bloom in other seasons and have attractive green foliage such as the bold, strappy leaved Clivia and Crassula multicava with its chunky, rounded, succulent foliage. An established bird's nest fern provides a striking, sculptural focal point amidst this tapestry of foliage.

An excellent collection of bromeliads in pots and on a 'green wall' is another source of diverse foliage sizes, shapes, hues and patterns such as spots, stripes, blotches and bands. Neoregelia is perhaps the most notable type for foliage colour. The leafy centre of these bromeliads becomes brilliantly hued red, orange, pink or purple at flowering time in summer (the tiny, inconspicuous clustered flowers are held low in the centre of its vase), remaining colourful for some months afterwards. Flower spikes of the other types of bromeliads grown offer an added bonus at different times during the year!

I came away from the garden with a renewed sense of enthusiasm about gardening and what can be achieved in our unique Sydney climate!

 Reader Comments

1/13  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 24 January 2022

So happy to welcome your blog back, Deirdre! What a wonderful garden Kathryn possesses and it is so appropriate to be the first blog of 2022. Such an array of plants, looking so healthy, the garden certainly provides an incentive to resume gardening. My own garden, at present, is a jungle, with plants growing the best they have for a couple of summer seasons. Thanks so much, Margaret! Yes it is a lovely garden. What amazing growth we have had this summer. Deirdre

2/13  Kerrie - 2104 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 24 January 2022

Welcome back & happy new year Deirdre! Lovely garden you've presented today. Thanks so much, Kerrie. I always enjoy visiting Kathryn's garden and seeing her latest planting combinations! Deirdre

3/13  Anne - 2518 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 24 January 2022

Great read and lovely photos. what a fabulous use of coloured foliage. Yes the foliage is an inspiration and always looks good. Deirdre

4/13  Lois - 2088 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 24 January 2022

HNY, Deirdre! I've missed your blogs and this one featured some of my favourite plants, plectranthus. They are so useful for those part sun, part shade spots and such variety in their colour and leaf types. Hope you've missed out on the dreaded omicron. Thanks for your kind thoughts, Lois! Plectranthus are so wonderful and there are so many of them around. My mother used them very effectively in her shady garden and I think she was ahead of her time. Deirdre

5/13  Susan - 2430 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 24 January 2022

Thank you for your gift of another inspiring garden ramble. I hope all is OK in your world - you speak of 'solace' and your spirits being lifted, and so much changing in your life since early December. Whatever your challenges, please know that your words bring delight and learnings to me - every time. Go well. It is so nice to know that the blogs are of interest. It encourages me to keep going! Deirdre

6/13  Margaret - 2067 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 24 January 2022

Lovely to have you back Deirdre. The foliage plants in your blog look great! We certainly dont need flowers for colour. Foliage plants can offer so much to our Sydney gardens. They are of course so useful for making those colour echoes with nearby flowers, giving such cohesion to the garden. Deirdre

7/13  Maureen - 2118 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 24 January 2022

Great to receive your Blog taking us on on such a descriptive jaunt through this lovely garden. Certainly an inspiration as we move into the year ahead. Take good care . Yes visiting this garden last week was such a tonic for me! Deirdre

8/13  Pamela - 2158 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 24 January 2022

Have missed your wonderful blogs! Welcome back Deirdre and its lovely to see you inspired by your friends fabulous garden - all these wonderful Sydney plants are the backbone of my own garden and highlight the incredible importance of foliage in our climate. I love them all.Growth has been phenomenal in this wet season, I'm struggling to keep on top of it and my Dahlias and roses are needing more sun, great season for the subtropicals but hard to get the balance right! Happy gardening. Thanks so much for your kind words, Pamela. i am thinking of you and your lovely garden often. Deirdre

9/13  Sue - 2074 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 24 January 2022

Inspiring blog and nice to be enjoying them again Deirdre. Lovely tour of Kathryn's garden, which looks very lush. Interesting to see different placement of similar Sydney garden plants. The rain has been very welcome despite some plants not flowering so well. Hopefully we will have a lovely sunny autumn. Yes Kathryn's garden is a delight and has so many creative elements. The rain has been incredible but the sunny days this week have been much enjoyed. Deirdre

10/13  Ann - 2113 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 25 January 2022

How lovely to be able to read your informative and inspirational blog again Deirdre. I have missed it so much. I too love foliage plants and have many in my garden. I live in a suburb close to yours and so your plant suggestions and tips are very apt for me. Thanks so much, Ann. Glad that the blog was of interest. Glad you also enjoy these sorts of plants! Deirdre

11/13  Valerie - 2121 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 25 January 2022

It is a joy to be reading your blog again and seeing some beautiful arrangements of plants. I like the way they relax into one another in this garden. Now inspired to curate the growth here, if I could just get outside in between showers. Best wishes for 2022. Yes I love the way they all merge together in Kathryn's garden. Holding growth back at the moment is the main challenge! Deirdre

12/13  Carolyn - 2125 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Thursday, 27 January 2022

What a lovely garden Deidre - this must have been such a pleasure to walk around and enjoy. I love the way the colours and foliage are all blended. I think it's inspiring to look at other gardens as this can create ideas for your own. It was such a joy to visit the garden last week. Kathryn propagates many of the plants herself and I was lucky enough to receive some potted plants to bring home! Deirdre

13/13  Janette - 2100 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Friday, 04 February 2022

Thank you so much Deirdre for all the work you continually do to keep this garden site so interesting and informative. The photos are excellent and are helping me a lot to identify plants I have in my garden. I have a wonderful collection I have grown over the past 40 years, mostly from cuttings. Regards, Janette

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