Friday, 11 September 2015

Blue and White Windflowers

Moving up to the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges from Melbourne had nary a negative side, garden-speaking (let's ignore wallabies chomping my favourite plants for a moment, shall we?).*
The cold winter days are great for many of my favourite spring bulbs, particularly tulips (which I can now leave in the (cooler) ground all year - good news for a lazy gardener); and cold autumn nights are good for glowing autumn foliage on deciduous trees and shrubs. And we receive more rain than the western suburbs get: fantastic!
Summers are just as hot - where I am, at just 170m, as central Melbourne (with its sea breezes) - but winters are colder, and so one bulb behaves noticeably differently - so far.
Amongst the little daffodils near the front path - blooming profusely in shades of beaten egg just now - I've popped in a mixture of blue and white shades of Anemone coronaria (above), reputedly a spring bulb (or tuber, really), which have been in bud since July and flowering since August, their mainly single flowers gazing at the sky. I love the blue-black centre and the ring of smoky blue anthers.
When I lived in Melbourne I gardened on sandy loam - the key perhaps - and left Anemone coronaria in the ground all year and they would pop up in autumn, begin flowering then, and continue the show right through winter and spring. This windflower- sometimes called poppy anemone - is a very cheap bulb which means I can try the experiment here, too, even though this area gets a bit boggy at times which most bulbs do not like (excepting the alpine ones - and only at snow melt time).
Anemone coronaria comes in red (delicious in the wild, I'm sure, and (to me) very like Marcus Harvey's `Dancing windflower', Anemone pavonina,; and hectic pink too so I choose the bulbs carefully in autumn.  A mix of all the colours is hard on the eye; and even deep blue and white are harshly different so I love the new(ish) mix of blue, white and white-suffused blue sometimes available (occasionally, if memory serves, called Seaside Mix). These are single ones, in the De Caen group: hybrids cultivated first in the districts of Caen and Bayeux in France in the 18th century. Single ones, to my eye, are elegant where the doubles are (relatively) messy;  taste is always an interesting attribute to observe.
My mix has thrown up a double blue and a soft amethyst; shall I be strong and pull them out? And the tubers of deep blue ones I found in a cupboard: shall I toss them in the ground here and hope for even more flowers this season? May be yes and yes. 
*We came up here from the suburbs 20 years ago for the space, the peace and quiet, the wildlife, the cooler climate, to live amongst the handsome trees and bushland...and (of course) the serenity. All that doesn't completely explain it; I just love being here (and still feel delight in my good fortune). My Mum and Dad had a bush block in the Dandenong Ranges, too, when I was a child so maybe that's why I felt like I was coming home when we  purchased our property. (A friend calls Melbourne a concrete jungle. I try to not be so impolite.) Within the comforting cloak of 12 acres of bushland chock-block full (I hope) of gliders and owls is a roughly one acre scotch egg of house, exotic garden, and orchard of heritage apples and pears and frost-tolerant citrus trees. I suppose I am just not a city person (although being on Melbourne's fringe has its benefits). And having space for a bigger garden is...pretty awesome.
Jill Weatherhead is horticulturist, writer, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, and works throughout Victoria (

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