Since we came back about 4 weeks ago, we have had only tiny frosts and some really warm, up to 20C, days. It seems quite weird to be looking at flowering shrubs and plants that have been flowering non-stop since mid October and still are. Colquhounia coccinea was a new addition in early Spring this year. The link takes you to Louis the Plant Geek, who is also in love with this shrub. A bit of a risk as it is not reliably hardy, probably not to -10C which is my normal benchmark for hardiness- but I thought I would try it, keep an eye on it, plant against a southerly wall though facing North, and be prepared to dash out with the fleece as soon as it flags. It is quite a big beast, already nearly 2m tall and about 1.5m wide, so no chance of a pot-solution. So we will see, but right now it is flowering beautifully and we have warmish forecasts for the next week.
From the detailed photograph, you can see that it has felted stems, and certainly the growth pattern is very similar to a buddleia. The colours are sensational, stacked on each stem so the bush is covered with flowers- really unexpected so close to winter.
I have some salvias that I am very fond of, that grow really big at the very end of the flowering season, and this year I am risking them staying in the ground and having the fleece to hand. Once they get touched by the frost, I will cut them back to half the size to protect them from wind and then get fleecing. Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’ won’t make it through without all this help, and it may not be enough, so I am planning on sprouting some cuttings in a jar of water tomorrow. Same goes for Salvia ‘Anthony Parker’. Both plants can easily reach 2m x 2m, so pots just get too heavy and unwieldy.
Other than that, I am waging early winter war on my blasted Michaelmas daisies. I have no idea what variety they are, and you might think that they have been sent to torment me. They were here in the garden when we arrived, and, mistakenly thinking that they were rather bonny, I spread them about a bit. In Scotland, they were quite mild-mannered, but here in France, they are no respecters of decency at all. They will burrow under, swamp from the sides and generally bully, any other plant that you care to name. Getting them out, or trying to, is usually a Spring ritual- but this year I thought I would hit them while they are still standing and, even though I won’t 100% succeed, I will throw my best at them.
Back in Australia, picking up on the sensational colour-theme, there were so many incredible plants to be found, although I haven’t been able to identify all of them. Here are some of my favourites to warm up early winter for us all.
This coral tree, Erythrina x sykesii, was a knock-out flowering against a brilliant blue sky in Melbourne Royal Botanical Gardens. The oldest specimen in cultivation is actually in the Australian National Botanical Gardens in Canberra, where it has been growing for over a hundred years, but somehow, I missed it there.
Raining golden bobbles, this was one of the showiest wattles that we saw in the whole trip. The slender, curving leaves encase the flowers- and the flower colour is exactly that brilliant yellow as in the photograph.
This very fine Grevillea was draping itself gracefully over a garden wall in Grafton, New South Wales. It could be Grevillea robusta…perhaps. if it is, it has an AGM from the RHS and is surprisingly hardy, down to about -8C, and is recommended for xeric gardens. But topping out at 22m or so, makes it a big choice for most of us gardening in more ordinary circumstances. But doesn’t that colour make you glad that it exists?