Friday, 13 October 2017

Singing the Blues

After this (comparatively) dry winter and sudden spring sunshine, it's as if the sea has rushed in and created pools of blue all through the garden.
Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica,, above) are rock pools of summer-sky-blue with a hint of violet; they're spreading a bit too much (as many bulbs are wont to do), but it's hard to dislike a plant that flowers in profusion just when the spring warmth really arrives. They've appeared in the silver-and-raspberry coloured garden, too, but are welcome - even there. As a plant that is not treasured (and is prolific) it's one I'm happy for visiting children to pick bunches of the flowers, which is heaps of fun.

Shorter but with impressive leaves is Jungle Beauty Bugle (Ajuga `Jungle Beauty' (above) - so much nicer than the low, flat leaves of Ajuga reptans), awash with deep blue-violet blooms on 15 - 20cm stems; a groundcover that looks good all year and grows fast - what's not to love?

Visiting the bushland at Baluk Willam Reserve last weekend, we saw spots of blue there, too. Two plants stood out: on the forest floor, blue squills (or blue stars, top, Chamaescilla corymbosa) opening tropical-sky-blue, petite blooms; and scrambling through low shrubs, love creeper (Comesperma volubile, below) - a deeper blue, surely, than any other flower, even in bud. Why is this climber called love creeper? I'd love to know!
(We saw orchids, too, but ones I've seen before.)
As in other years, we were wandering through bushland, 10 minutes from home, with a friend - in strong spring sunshine.
Then cake and coffee.

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. (

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Wonderful Wattles

Spring is in full swing now: Trillium in pinks and purples, Mexican orange blossom is laden with perfumed white flowers, and there's plenty of Spanish bluebells for picking with a very young great nephew (`Let's pick a bunch for Mama'. The  watering can was very popular too).

The wattles seem to be more floriferous this spring - from the early ones in winter to the Prickly Moses (Acacia verticillata, above) flowering now. J thinks there's just more wattle shrubs than there used to be, but my friend K (a wonderful gardener) agrees with me: there's more flowers on each shrub than usual. Drive along Wellington Rd, east from the gymkhana near us, and the blooms have been a knock-out.
(Can I share a wee bug bear? We all know that a little knowledge can be a bad thing. And while it was great to have (as I often do) landscape design clients who didn't want environmental weeds in their garden, never-the-less, blackwood wattles (Acacia melanoxylon) would have been perfect at the foot of their steep slope (for screening, indigenous plant, and fire-retardant to boot) but the client thought that I was recommending black wattles (a different species (A. mearsii) - an environmental weed in my part of the world). He simply couldn't believe it was a different plant entirely, or accept that I might know a bit more than him. It was rather frustrating!)

In the bushland that surrounds our garden, along the drive, we have a little copse of self-sown Prickly Moses. I was thrilled to find that one shrub has deeper yellow flowers than the others (above). Are the flowers bigger too? - I think so. A tiny piece of my horticulture course from years back surfaces in the brain: that plants can - and wattles were particularly cited - have tetraploid forms, and these plants can have deeper coloured flowers and larger plant parts. Only one extra chromosome can blight an animal (or human, of course) but double the chromosomes in each cell of a plant and boy, can the result be spectacular.
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 (