Sunday, 18 October 2015

Cistus and Sisters

I miss my sister.
At a dozen years older, she was my wise elder, like an `auntie' at times, and in fact, my godmother too. A wicked sense of humour and a love of gardens, along with a huge dollop of charisma, were just a few of the traits that made her stand heads above the rest of us.

We used to visit gardens together (admiring, discussing; even when she was sick), often, and we both had garden beds of blue and yellow, that lovely pairing, not quite absolute contrasts, not quite complementary, just a perfect contrast. (Another sister has a kitchen and small living room of these colours (revolving around a cherished exquisite tapestry of those colours by an adored aunt) but my country garden, really, has plentiful other colours, too.)

This sister generously gave me (and my siblings) some money and of course mine went into the garden, onto this handsome flying duck, twirling in the wind, a crazy creature that J and I love (as does every visitor so far). He now needs his 3m pole obscured (at least partly) and - as it's near the sun and sky bed -  I've thought long and hard about evergreen shrubs to about 2m height - but not wide (it's too near the path) - with blue (or yellow) flowers. They need to be pretty drought-tolerant, too.

As Eccles would say: `thinks':...
Blue: Plumbago: too wide (and untidy; even when pruned (hard or gently)), blue Clerodendron: too frost-tender. Plectranthus ecklonii - too purple, and too shade-requiring for this spot.

Yellow: Hypericum: has berries, and is thus weedy when you consider we are near bushland; Mahonia aquifolia would be too wispy; Acacia myrtifolia - too short-lived I suspect. A yellow grevillea: too wide.

So maybe white flowers...Osmanthus heterophyllus...too slow growing (although think of the glorious scent..); Carpenteria californica, ditto; Pittosporum tobira...too tall. Dwarf lilly pilly: too boring (perfect, though, elsewhere).

Eureka - I have it! That lovely tall Cistus, `Bennett's White' (below), with large, pure white flowers of tissue-crepe about a gold centre (and no blotches - which I don't like). And so I am day-dreaming plants as I am driving and - can you believe it? - a few metres along, in the median strip, are a swathe of this exact cistus ,or rock rose, gloriously flowering. I had thought this variety were a rather uncommon plant; it's one I haven't seen in years, and rarely available for sale. Which town planner in Casey was responsible for this terrific planting?
So later I am driving past again and, in the dark and with feelings of guilt, stop to take some cuttings - just 2 sprigs from maybe 100 or more mature plants along a stretch 250m long, I hasten to add.

Will the gold centres of the flowers link the shrub to the surrounding sunny plantings? I think it will, and even better, as this cistus has a touch of grey to its leaves (which gives the plant a Mediterranean look), it links it to the next bed, the gentle transition to the blues and purples and greys before the silver bed.

Houston, I think we have a solution.
And how I wish I could tell my sister.

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 (

1 comment:

  1. Lovely Jill. The flower is beautiful too. xxx Dave