Saturday, 22 April 2017

Purple Haze

You know those happy chances, where plants conspire, it seems,  to flower all at once with colours complementing perfectly, in a way you couldn't have planned?
As I look out from my kitchen window, on this cold wet autumn day, over the path I'm seeing one of these little vignettes that give such joy. The flowers are purple, but all in different shades and tints.

Uphill is a large shrub: chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus, below), which is covered, just now, in tiny pale lilac flowers. Just below this is a perennial daisy on tall, firmly vertical stalks: purple Boltonia (last pic), which is oh-so-slowly forming a good clump, with intense shots of purple.

Next to this is one of my favourite of the ornamental sages, Salvia `Waverley': soft-lilac and purple blooms on a subshrub that doesn't spread (some salvias spread just a little too enthusiastically), along with a pelargonium I really like: one that tolerates half-shade, with leaves of silver-green, soft velvet, not dull, plebeian, rough felt (like many pelargoniums (or "geranium" in the Australian vernacular)). I have no idea of its name, but I love its effect: the handsome leaves year-round; the contrast to the flowers; the `volume' when some of the perennials slumber in winter (gardens need space and voids and volume).
There's a bit of a gap and I know exactly what is needed here: good old Mexican sage (Salvia leucantha, above): solid purple flowers that seem to be made of velvet. There's one further along the path and a couple more will - come next April - add some panache and continuity.
Well, that's the plan.
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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