"Summer glory bushes"

These Tibouchina bring colour in summer.
Sunday, 06 February 2022     

Tibouchina Blue Moon

Last January, a couple of friends and I visiting a local nursery discovered a beautiful shrub in full bloom. Its exquisite, large flowers were like a watercolour painting - purple at the edges, fading to light lilac hue. Spidery, purple stamens provided a striking contrast at the centre of the blooms. The foliage had a lovely velvet sheen. Its name was Tibouchina 'Blue Moon'. The label promised a shrub 1.5 m high. None of us could resist and we all bought one.

I must say I have become a bit sceptical about newly released plants in recent years. Often, they just don't live up to the hype and fail to thrive. However, one year on 'Blue Moon' has come up trumps, flowering beautifully for a number of weeks already this summer and still going strong, bringing joy whenever I gaze at those stunning blooms! My specimen is nestled amongst Pentas and many self-sown pink Salvia splendens, and has taller companions of blue Brillantaisia ulugurica and a pink Hawaiian Hibiscus. The colour of the flowers is so unusual and provides a lovely addition to this corner of my garden. True to the label, it has grown to only about 1.5 m, so is a useful shrub for compact spaces. It seems best in a sunny spot and with protection from heavy frosts. I pruned mine back in August.

I used to think Tibouchina shrubs - sometimes called glory bushes - mainly bloomed in autumn, which of course is when the well-known Tibouchina lepidota 'Alstonville' comes into its own. However, I have discovered quite a few other species and cultivars begin to flower in summer, though they also do continue on into autumn, thus providing great value in the garden. 'Jazzie' is one such example, and it is a terrific shrub (ht 1.5 m) with brilliant purple flowers over a long period. It mixes effortlessly with summer blooms such as Salvia and Dahlia, and it likes the same conditions as 'Blue Moon'. It is a good alternative to the taller 'Alstonville', which, while utterly magnificent, can grow pretty tall over time.

Quite a different shrub is Tibouchina multiflora, which grows to about 2 m tall, and has sprays of small blue flowers, set amidst large silky leaves, which have a silvery sheen and are attractive all year round. It is a fabulous plant and blooms for a long period, from January to April. The plant has an interesting history in Sydney gardens. It was spotted in the grounds of a nursing home in Turrammurra by a friend of well-known natural history writer and photographer the late Densey Clyne, some 50 years ago. Densey fell in love with the gorgeous blooms and propagated a plant from a cutting and distributed it to other keen gardeners. No one seemed to know what this plant was, and Densey finally identified the name in one of her reference books, called Cultivated Plants of the World. I have never seen it in a commercial nursery and all those grown in Sydney (and possibly elsewhere in NSW) are likely to have originated from Densey's cutting.

There are other species of Tibouchina which grow well in Sydney, including Tibouchina urvilleana, sometimes called princess flower, which usually begins its long blooming period in summer and continues into autumn. Its leaves and gorgeous royal purple flowers have a very velvety quality, but it is a rather sparse and brittle plant, growing to 3 or 4 m. Another Tibouchina that blooms in the warmer months is the cultivar 'Noelene', said to have been developed by Ken Dunstan, who was responsible for 'Alstonville'. 'Noelene' has a tree-like form, up to 6 m (though it can be pruned lower). The flowers begin white then turn to lilac pink as they age. Another of Dunstan's cultivars is 'Kathleen', with bright pink flowers. I haven't grown these cultivars but have admired them in other gardens in my area.

 Reader Comments

1/6  Sue - 3723 (Zone:9 - Cool Temperate) Monday, 07 February 2022

I read your lovely descriptions and feel envious that I cannot grow these plants in my frosty garden! Then again, I suppose there are plants that I can have that love the cold frosty weather and would collapse in hot climates. Yes there are so many cold-climate beauties I would give my eye teeth to grow! Deirdre

2/6  Sue - 2074 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 07 February 2022

Tibouchinas are such worthwhile plants and this one looks gorgeous, can see why you bought it. I agree some new releases are a let-down in the long run, so good to hear this one gets a tick. I am very please to have the first flowers of Tibouchina multiflora this year- it has grown to about 1.1/2 m. Really like its downy silvery leaves and nodding flowers. Thanks, Sue. Glad your T multiflora is flowering. It is a gorgeous plant and it will bloom for so long if it is deadheaded every so often. The foliage is beautiful too as you mentioned. Deirdre

3/6  Kerrie - 2104 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 07 February 2022

WOW that's gorgeous! I bought a minateur white one last year which is lovely with its purple ' whiskers' & have the regular purple one.

4/6  Pamela - 2158 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 07 February 2022

I currently have about 20 Tibouchinas in my garden. Bought 2 Blue Moons last year, doing well.4 years ago I planted around 7 T.jazzies thinking they grew to 1.5m. The one outside my kitchen is well over 3.5m even though I give it a hard prune quite often. Its HUGE! Surprisingly the others are only about 2m??Peace Baby grew bigger than its label said too.Im hoping BM wont get too big as I will have to move.They are the glory of my Autumn garden,adore them all. Fab combos you mentioned Deirdre Thanks for the feedback on the potential size of Jazzie! That must be a good spot near your kitchen! I suppose mine is 2 m now, which is taller than expected. I do prune all of them hard in late winter. I think this summer with all the rain things have grown taller! Deirdre

5/6  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 08 February 2022

Thank you for informing about Tibouchinas, I have never grown them, but will think about trying them, especially the T. 'Blue moon', it looks gorgeous, and may just fit in, somewhere! Hope you can try Blue Moon, Margaret. Deirdre

6/6  Carolyn - 2125 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Thursday, 10 February 2022

I am really enjoying my Blue Moon and the colour is easy to blend anywhere in the garden. So far not growing too big and very easy to manage. it's been flowering for a few weeks now as well and still some buds to come so very pleased with this new plant. Yes hoping it won't get too big over time. I will continue to cut mine back quite hard in late winter. Deirdre

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