"Pretty in pink"

Pink seems to be the colour of early spring.
Sunday, 29 August 2010     

Prunus blossom

Late winter/early spring (or 'sprinter' as I have heard it called recently) seems to be a very 'pink' time when it comes to flowers. I always think this fairy-floss hue somehow encapsulates the mood of the season very well - it is fresh, delicate and pretty. In summer, this colour can look insipid when bleached out by fierce sunlight. Many of early spring's pink bloomers have the added bonus of scent in their flowers or their foliage.

Some of the soft pink flowers that are around now include the Camellia japonica that are still blooming madly from winter and adding to the early spring scene. Azaleas are just starting to open their buds and though I have mixed feelings about these shrubs, at this time of year - before petal blight hits them - they are undeniably delightful and certainly make a massed show. Camellias and azaleas both enjoy the same part-shaded acidic conditions and are a classic combination in traditional Sydney gardens.

The pink buds of Jasminum polyanthum are starting to open to the heavily scented little starry white flowers - it's a rampageous vine but it is obligatory to smell that fragrance at least once to know that spring has finally arrived. I pass a big patch of it on my daily walk and enjoy inhaling the perfume as I pass. Another strongly scented pink flower is that of the shrub Rondeletia amoena (pictured above). This can grow up to 3m tall and has clusters of tiny pink blooms - the scent is rather strong, but speaks to me of spring so I enjoy it. This tough, evergreen shrub can cope with quite dry conditions once established.

Another undemanding evergreen shrub is a cultivar of Indian hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica 'Springtime'), with pale pink star-shaped flowers that have a light fragrance. This shrub grows to around 1-1.5m in height and has glossy green leaves. It grows easily in a sunny position and is not troubled by any pests or diseases. Rhaphiolepis are suitable for seaside gardens.

Daisies herald spring, and the shrubby Marguerite types are bursting into bloom, with a number of pink varieties. I like the single ones best. There are also pink Gazania and Arctotis daisies blooming on from winter, as well as the diminutive perennial seaside daisy, Erigeron karvinskianus, which seeds itself in the cracks and crevices of my stone steps, creating a delightful haze of flowers every year at this time.

Prunus blossoms (pictured at the start of the blog) are everywhere now, mainly in colours of baby-girl pink. The winds we've experienced lately cause the petals to scatter like confetti. I love to smell the gentle scent of these flowers too, as I pass by them, and watch the bees at work gathering their nectar.

Another soft pink flower coming out is that of Geranium macrorrhizum 'Ingwersen's Variety'. G. macrorrhizum (ht 30cm) is one of the easiest species Geranium plants to grow: others struggle in our hot, humid summers. This rhizomatous species forms a good groundcover, with aromatic, rounded leaves and lovely flowers throughout spring. It will cope with some shade and fairly ordinary conditions.

Though I enjoy pale pinks, my favourite shades are those which are a bit more robust: probably best described as hot pink. There are a number of Camellia japonica that have this hue and I think they are good companions for Salvia dorisiana (pictured left), the fruit salad sage, which has been flowering for a few weeks now, with bright pink spires of blooms and wonderfully scented foliage, which really does smell just like a fruit salad. I have an interesting bromeliad called Aechmea gamosepala with vivid pink and blue inflorescences that appear from late winter into spring, and I think these would look very effective planted beneath my fruit salad sage. They also match the trumpet flowers of Christmas pride (Ruellia macrantha) that blooms on from winter in part-shaded spots.

Other hot-coloured pink flowers in early spring include those of the Freesia bulbs that I was given last year - these are just beginning to open, and also have a pleasant, spring-like fragrance.

Pink as a colour can be tricky in the garden. Too much pink can be cloying. There are also many different tones of pink: some are cool 'blue' pinks whereas others are warm 'yellow' pinks (salmon and peachy hues) and I don't think that the two sorts mix well together. The 'blue' pinks combine well with one another and with silver foliage and blue, crimson, lilac, violet, mauve or white flowers, whereas the 'yellow' pinks are harder to place in the garden, as they seem to clash with so many other colours. I think they can look best with pale yellow, purple or blue flowers. No pink seems to combine well with pure red. The best way to work out colour combinations with flowers is to pick a specimen and wander around the garden with it, holding it up next to the plants you are thinking of growing it near.

Enjoy these wonderful days of early spring!

 Reader Comments

1/4  Jill - 3941 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 30 August 2010

You garden is a couple of weeks ahead of mine.The Prunus blireana is the only pink showing at this latitude, but there are many more to come! Our colours at the moment are blues and yellows - grape hyacinth, ipheon and tiny daffodils. Iceland poppies in bud and fruit trees also.

Thanks, Jill. If only we could grow grape hyacinths in Sydney!They thrive in my grandmother's gardens in the Southern Tablelands region of NSW - they, like many classic bulbs, need the cold winters to do well. I do have some little daffodils, which have spread to form a big clump, given to me in a pot as a table decoration many years ago! Deirdre

2/4  Margery - 2087 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 30 August 2010

I have Salvia dorisiana flowering under Bauhinia blakeana - a huge tree which flowers all winter. The flowers of both are almost the same colour and it looks stunning. Salvia dorisiana collapses all over the place. How do you cope with this? Margery

It sounds a wonderful combination, Margery. Re the floppiness of the salvia, I do stake mine with tall cradle stakes and I cut it back very hard after flowering and then again in mid-summer to try to control its size. Deirdre

3/4  Susan - 3918 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Hi Deirdre, My first time comment is just for you. I have been browsing an old magazine - The Australian Garden Journal June/July 1991. I came across an interesting article titled Perennial Salvias for Temperate Climates. I then noticed the author and it occured to me that it was you! Am I correct?

Hi Susan, yes that was the first gardening article I ever had published. I think I had about six or so salvias in my garden at that time and thought I knew it all! Deirdre

4/4  Dorothy - 4060 (Zone:11A - Sub-tropical) Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Hello Deirdre, I was looking at my azalea this afternoon - it caught my eye, I couldnt help thinking how pretty it was, it doesnt get any attention, it would be at least 40 years old and could be older as I didnt plant it - it certainly must have been in the right spot. Kind regards, Dot.

Thanks, Dot. The older azaleas seem so tough and more resilient to the pests and diseases that plague the modern cultivars. Deirdre

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