Seeds and cuttings…

Pelargonium quercifolium
Pelargonium quercifolium Photo credit:

This is a stunning plant.  A mystery pelargonium until today, when, what with the continuing freezing fog, I brought it in, took cuttings and then had a bash at identifying it and got it on the button- Pelargonium quercifolium.   A friend gave me a piece way back in our hot, relentless summer, which I potted up with no real hope of it rooting.  But it did.  It grows straight and tall, no flopping, and it should have small pinky-mauve splashed flowers at the end of autumn roughly.  I adore the rough, crinkle-cut leaves with the maroon splash in the centre as well as the strangely medicinal scent of the leaves when crushed.

In its native South Africa, it would make a handsome shrub of about 1.5m by 1,5m- it won’t be so big here, I don’t think.  According to the sites I have read it is frost-tender.  I think it will be tougher than that, as it was showing no signs of panic after 4-5 days of freezing fog- but I won’t chance it now that I have nailed the identification.  There is a  bred variety,  ‘Royal Oak’, which has favoured flower production with bigger flowers and lower growth, but I fancy sticking with my donated plant.  I am hoping to have it sprinkled all over the hotter, dryer parts of the garden in a couple of years, adding real style with its sophisticated leaves and proud bearing.  And it will have to be trialled in the ground over winter, with a spot of insurance fleece.

In Melbourne Royal Botanical Gardens, there were many delights, of which more another time especially if the fog continues- but here was something which really caught my eye as a sort of Alice-in-Wonderland plant, and it was to be found, oddly enough, on the edges of the Childrens Garden.  It is an ornamental asparagus, Asparagus densiflorus Myersii.  I have bought seed for the variety, ‘Mazeppa’, which seems exactly the same but a little smaller at 60-90 cms.  It should be ok in the ground here but with some protection if we get below -7C, so I will chance it in the hotter, drier bits of the garden.  I am on a hotter, drier mission, you can tell.  Seed to be sown end of the month indoors.

Asparagus densiflorus Myersii Melb Bot 1018
Asparagus densiflorus Myersii, Melbourne Royal Botanical Gardens, October 2018

Another welcome surprise last year was the come-back of a plant that I was sure I had lost.  Nestled amongst tall companions, and in the damper bit of the garden, I had planted three small Eupatorium coelestinum a couple of years ago.  They vanished without trace, or so I thought.  They re-appeared in August roughly, immediately recognisable for their powder-blue powder-puff flowerheads, which was the reason for me buying them in the first place.  Since then they have undergone a name-change and are now identified as Conoclinium coelestinum, but I bet you will you will still find them under the old Eupatorium label, as per the link.  Here is a link to a University of Arkansas article that explains the change of name- Eupatorium had become too much of a dumping ground apparently.

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Conoclinium (Eupatorium) coelestinum, Tostat, August 2018

I really love it- such a great colour and presence, though it is true that nothing much happens until the flowers appear.  I am going to try for volume from seed.

You can tell I am itching to get started. Got to wait though…bit more daylight needed and then I can crack on with seed sowing indoors for a sustainable temperature.

Happy New Year!


Here and there…

Colquhounia coccinea 1218
Colquhounia coccinea, Tostat, December 2018

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.

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Colquhounia coccinea detail, Tostat, December 2018

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.

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Salvia ‘Anthony Parker’, Tostat, December 2018
Salvia 'Phyllis Fancy' 1218
Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’, Tostat, December 2018

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.

Erythrina x sykesii 2 Melb Bot 1018
Erythrina x sykesii, Melbourne Royal Botanical Gardens, October 2018

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.

Erythrina x sykesii detail Melb Bot 1018
Erythrina x sykesii detail, Melbourne Royal Botanical Gardens, October 2018
Acacia havilandiorum Canb Bot 1018
Acacia havilandiorum, Australian National Botanical Gardens, Canberra, October 2018

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.

Golden Grevillea Grafton 1018
Golden Grevillea, variety unknown, Grafton, NSW, October 2018

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?