La Niña … cool subtrops winners & winners!

Studio Garden, ‘Sea-Changer’ ..Alstroemeria hybrid, Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’with Gardenia grandiflora ‘Star’

Hi Garden Lovers,

So much rain over past weeks has powered a lush surge in our cool subtrops gardens, not seen during recent years of dry Spring conditions.

This has supplied our warmer end planting band width with softer, super humid air. Any cuttings you’ve set will have a high strike rate and planting that’s evolved to extra water in the March Garden … is splendid.

Pink Blood Lily – Haemanthus coccineus X albiflos bit like a high summer ‘tulip’..take a look!

Other lush benificiaries of current rainier conditions are the fern tribe. Especially those evolved to high light levels within tree canopy drip lines, where these plants can miss out, so tolerate months of very little rain like the Terrestrial Elk Horn Fern – Microsorum.

Terrestrial Elk Horn Fern – Microsorum punctatum ‘GreenUp’ from Brent & Denise Vieritz at Colours of Eden with a vertical, rather than lax habit, perfect for narrow spaces.. ..take a look!

And of course, there are semi-aquatic plants like the Swamp Hibiscus – Hibiscus coccineus hybrid

High Summer hero of our La Niña season, a water loving Swamp Hibiscus that can grow well past 2 m tall !

Hope you’re enjoying some of the great beauties of La Niña ’22 and don’t forget to see many more at Collectors Plant Fair Clarendon, 9-10th April and avoid the queues by getting your tix now !!

Amarygia ‘Bozandycol’ from Andy Harvey, Keith Tollis & Colin Hunt at Andy’s Rare Plants stall CPF’22 …but be early on Saturday !

Also, you know that good friend, long time work colleague or sibling who keeps asking for help designing and or project managing their garden … ? If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the request (as often happens with my best referrals BTW..), please send them my website or Insta page … to help them make a beautiful garden to come home to every day, just like yours 🙂

Mid Winter Wonders … for your garden

Cymbidium tracyanum ‘Spice’ X Cym. ‘Deathwish ‘Saratoga’

The calm time, when cool short days bring slow opening of many winter sparkles. Cymbidiums are in full flight by late July and it’s good to be aware of hybrids with C. tracyanum from Myanmar in them … These make inflorescences held at near horizontal, so flowers growing from an over garage elevated planter box, present to the lower view lines from approaching cars.

Aloe thraskii – Dune Aloe

Candelabra or Tree Aloes are also all out just now also and especially want to bring this A. thraskii to your attention….. for it’s salt & sand tolerance in frost free Cool Subtropics. Unparticular as to soil type providing it’s fast draining, A. thraskii withstands exposure and every July you’ll be presented with these gold torches covered in wattle birds and bees. Being a tree form it’s also a great statement maker for sense of arrival at the front door

Haemanthus coccineus – Blood Lily pink form

Every now and then I pop along to 2RRR’s Gladesville recording studio at 88.5FM part of the Community Broadcasting Network with Presenter of ‘Real World Gardener’ Marianne Cannon. So here’s a few minutes respite from Lockdown, for a to listen to warm bulbs and how to grow them for this summer.

Less mow more interest .. !

Soil down …now how to stop the grass surround invading your precious garden space ?

Some of you might remember from the last send, the eastern end here at ‘Sea-Changer’ and a little exercise in exchanging high maintenance turf for low care garden space.

FormBoss RedCore steel edging, at install

Alternatives used formerly like aluminium strip wouldn’t retain new medium hights and cemented bricks edging while good looking, are also labour intensive and therefore rather costly. Enter the FormBoss edging range and especially their RedCore product that was quick and relatively easy to install expertly by George Close at Living Matter Landscapes

FormBoss RedCore after a few weeks for the corten steel ‘rust’ finish to develop

… and because there is also a short screen requirement for planting to shield against a passive road view, there’s a two part combination of ..

Ficus microcarpa Green Island

…Ficus microcarpa Green Island, a native from northern Australia among many other warm sub-tropical places. Of much reduced vigour and with a friendly root system, this little fig will eventually reach a very civilised 2m sans exposed trunk, making it ideal as a short screen to ground level so the road expanse is concealed.

Olea europaea ‘Golden Harvest’

By contrast, although also dwarf, Olea ‘Golden Harvest’ will bring a sage green contrast to the gloss fig to around the same 2 m height. Then for weed suppression with year round foliage colour contrasts forward of the taller screen plantings ..

Cyanotis sp.
Neoregelia zonata
Aloe ‘Moon Glow’
Carex buchananii

Watch this space and I’ll show you how this this little Road Screen Garden came more together by Christmas !

Cattleya hybrid

And remember it’s always worth having a big knot of Cattleya’s in an easy care pot, to bring forward onto your outside table ….or even inside while the flowers last, for a few weeks during this brief and fresher time of year !

Call to action ? Well you know that close family member, 20 years long work colleague or bestie you went to high school with …. keeps asking you for my details, now they’ve sold up, moved to the ‘beach-shack’ full time and want to give it a new life ? …so need the garden fixed up too ? Just flick them this post where they can sign up for Garden Lovers or HERE for one less thing to remember .. with thanks!

Bulb Surprise

Amarygia Bozandycol by Keith Tollis, Andy Harvey & Colin Hunt

Happy Belated New Year & it’s that time of year already Garden Lovers, when you’re likely to be crossing the March garden one morning and a sudden surprise reminds you, of those warm climate bulbs from last year’s Fair you casually poked into a vacant corner hoping for the best… are now blazing away!

Eucharis amazonica – Eucharis Lily a shade loving sparkle

And every Plant Fair there seems to be more and more on offer, expanding the exciting range you can grow in your Sydney Cool Subtropical Garden.

Scadoxus membranaceous the smaller Paint Brush Lily for bright shelter

So at this years Collectors Plant Fair Clarendon ’21, 10th & 11th April don’t forget to call by the Charles Harland, Andy’s Rare Plants or Gary Reid Obscure Bulbs stalls to ask for some of these tough beauties for your own garden.

Haemanthus coccineus – Blood Lily pink form

I’ll be talking about many of these as part of the Sydney Cool Subtropics Gardens Talk keynote, 1pm Saturday 10th April (just after Easter..). So arrive early before 9am to get your exciting plant goodies, then make your way from around 12.30pm to the Talk seating, for a much needed rest after all your hard work 😮

Amaryllis belladonna white hybrid

My Talk at Collectors Plant Fair on your cool subtropics Sydney Garden

Ruttyruspolia ‘Phyllis Van Heerden’ an intergeneric X between Ruttya & Ruspolia to enrich the mixed shrub border

For a long time I used to wonder what to say Garden Lovers ..

… when people asked “What’s the kind of garden you’re making in Sydney ?”

Warm temperate … Pacific rim ? Coastal frost free …well it was all these but I just had no collective name for it that would capture them all.

Zingiber spectacle – Beehive Ginger

Until one day colleague Catherine Stewart and I were chatting about this and I realised her suggestion of Cool Subtropics was by far, the best way to describe the Sydney growing condition. Especially within coastal suburbs like Northern Beaches, Harbourside, Eastern Suburbs and where all pix came from here at ‘Sea-Changer’ my home studio garden at Forresters Beach on the Central Coast.

Mangave ‘Mission to Mars’ another intergeneric X between Manfreda & Agave backed with Sinningia sellovii

So Garden Lovers, at 1pm on Saturday, 10th April just after Easter, at the Collectors Plant Fair ’21 Clarendon, I’m giving a talk not about some far flung ‘idealised’ climate. I’m giving a talk on how to make a better garden of exciting plants at your place … in beautiful Cool Subtropics Sydney (or anywhere that equates up & down East Coast Australia).

Solenostemon (coleus), Zinnia compact hybrid & Plectranthus sp. w/ Ruellia brevifolia – Wild Petunia

You’ll find out just what to ask the stall-holder Growers, to make sure that gorgeous plant you’ve been eying off, is right for your growing conditions AND will do the job it’s being bought for ie conceal the fence, weed suppression, make useful shade. Tired of being ‘garden shamed’ ? Dry Shade, thin top soil over bed rock, harsh unirrigated west, root ridden soil from next doors monstrous tree ..gloom ? These are all normal growing spaces and we need MORE INTERESTING plants that will do well in them to make our gardens THRILLING !!!

Brugmansia aurea, Ruellia rosae & alcantarea extensa
Euphorbia lophogona – Randramboay

So let’s celebrate the return of Collectors Plant Fair (map how to get there .. ) AND our mostly frost free gardens, where the warm humid breath of Queensland visits us every summer. Mark your planners now, buy your tix to avoid the cue and I’ll show you what happens with gardens full of these plants and how you can borrow from them to make the best garden you’ve ever had with plants that are best fit to the conditions you already have … at YOUR Garden 🙂

The last frontier, ‘Sea-Changer’ my home studio garden eastern end … watch this space Peeps !