Spring 2018 : The Garden Awakens

I have not featured our own garden for quite a while. In fact, I think my last reference to it was Spring last year, so I though an update was long overdue! It has been a very long cold Winter again with heavy frosts and very little rain, so all the flowering times have been delayed, both in the garden and in the native flora.BlogSpring25%IMG_4930BlogSpring40%IMG_5057Our recent walk to Hegarty’s Bay was marred by the dearth of the highly anticipated Spring wildflowers. This month has also been quite cold. So we are only now just starting to experience early Spring.BlogSpring25%IMG_6050 The early jonquils (Erlicheers, Ziva Paperwhites and white jonquils) and camellias are now over,

but other narcissi (including the double Winter Sun in the first photo, and in the second photo in order:  Pheasants Eye (top two photos), Golden Dawn and scented white Geranium,  Ptolemy and King Alfred) are persisting…,BlogSpring25%IMG_5395

along with violets…,

japonicas (Chaenomeles)…,

and hellebores.

However, it is the advent of the Spring blossoms, which really spells Spring for me: the plums and crab apples, BlogSpring30%IMG_6085BlogSpring30%IMG_5844BlogSpring30%IMG_5732and flowering shrubs: Exochorda macrantha ‘The Bride’  and superbly scented Viburnum x burkwoodii ‘Anne Russell’.BlogSpring25%IMG_6054BlogSpring25%IMG_6069BlogSpring50%IMG_5912We had a wonderful display of our new Dutch Crocus (white Jeanne d’Arc, striped Pickwick and mauve Grand Maître) in the cutting garden,BlogCrocus20%DSCN3483BlogSpring30%IMG_5664BlogCrocus25%IMG_5605 which has had a makeover in its arrangement with the paths now dividing it into four large squares rather than the original four skinny strips, allowing much more room for the plants to grow and multiply.BlogSpring30%IMG_6150BlogSpring30%IMG_6149We have two shady beds nearest the boundary trees (left side of photo above) and two flower beds in full sun (right side of photo above). The back shady bed is full of feverfew and blue Love-In-The-Mist, Nigella hispanica, both wonderful fillers for bouquets, while the front shady bed contains foxgloves, Nigella orientalis ‘Transformer’, Aquilegia, Dutch Crocus, Hacquetia epipactis, Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis), pansies and heartease, the latter two sustaining us through the Winter with their wonderful colour!BlogSpring25%IMG_6221BlogSpring25%IMG_6220BlogSpring2518-05-20 11.58.11BlogSpring20%DSCN3493BlogSpring20%DSCN3486BlogSpring30%IMG_5663The back sunny bed is chock-a-block with Dutch Iris and poppies, edged with ranunculas,BlogSpring25%IMG_5656 BlogSpring25%IMG_6387.jpgand the front sunny bed is now coming into its own with the steadfast purple Hoary Stock, Matthiola incana, which provided much needed colour over the Winter, as seen in this vase with Winter Jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum;BlogSpring25%IMG_5241 anemones, Anemone de Caen….;

and now, Lily Tulips (Synaeda Orange) and Parrot Tulips…BlogSpring30%IMG_5909BlogSpring25%IMG_5908 BlogSpring25%IMG_6282and species tulips: Lady Tulips, Tulipa clusiana: the red and white Lady Jane, and yellow chrysantha and ‘Cynthia’ varieties,BlogSpring30%IMG_6074BlogSpring25%IMG_6057BlogSpring40%IMG_6099 as well as the stunning Bokhara Tulip, T. linifolia.BlogSpring25%IMG_6060BlogSpring25%IMG_6007The cutting garden certainly is a mass of colour at the moment and I find it very hard to pick anything!!!!BlogSpring25%IMG_6252BlogSpring25%IMG_6049BlogSpring25%IMG_6385The Soho and Moon Beds have been weeded, pruned and mulched over the Winter.BlogSpring25%IMG_6193BlogSpring25%IMG_6184BlogSpring25%IMG_6209

A few ailing roses have been replaced and the Bog Salvia removed, as it is far too rampant and swamps everything! We have moved some of the plants around to allow for better aeration around the roses and peonies. The wallflowers and nemesias are blooming at the moment.BlogSpring25%IMG_6182BlogSpring25%IMG_6183 It looks like I might have my first Tree Peony this year!BlogSpring25%IMG_6190We also transplanted the hybrid musk and rugosa rose hedges, as they were not thriving, due to the heavy root competition and shade provided by our neighbour’s huge old Cottonwood Poplar tree. Fortunately, the latter had a severe haircut by some very talented tree surgeons over the Winter, with the removal of the bough over our Mulberry Tree, so we hope the extra sun will sweeten the fruit considerably this year, provided of course that we get more serious rain as well! We plan to build a glasshouse on the old rugosa site one day in the future.BlogSpring20%DSCN3191BlogSpring20%DSCN3205BlogSpring20%DSCN3221The rugosas all moved up to line our driveway, while the other roses now grace the sweeping path from the Main Pergola up past the entrance steps (on left of photo), along with new plantings of quince, apricot (second photo) and Prunus subhirtella autumnalis.BlogSpring25%IMG_6192 BlogSpring25%IMG_6278We have also planted a golden peach to replace the dead Native Frangipani in the Tea Garden and a fig and a blood orange in the citrus patch behind the Moon Bed.BlogSpring25%IMG_5753

Sweetly scented old-fashioned freesias are just starting to bloom on the steep bank of the Tea Garden (second photo below), while their colourful relatives brighten up the feet of Mrs Herbert Stevens next to the house (first photo below).BlogSpring25%IMG_6262BlogSpring30%IMG_6073And we have the first of our new Bearded Iris starting to bloom at the top of the agapanthus bank.BlogSpring25%IMG_6259BlogSpring25%IMG_6265We also planted clematis on both iron rose arches: a blue Clematis macropetala ‘Pauline’ to complement the golden roses Rêve d’Or and Alister Stella Gray at the entrance to the garden; and the fast-growing pink Clematis texensis ‘Princess Diana’ to accompany the creamy Sombreuil and pink Cornelia on the chook fence arch (photo below).BlogSpring25%IMG_6374 While we still have to develop our chook yard, we have moved the compost bays and planned a garden shed behind the Perennial Bed, where the raspberries have been pruned and tied up and the comfrey, sorrel, angelica (currently in full flower), rhubarb and asparagus are thriving.BlogSpring25%IMG_6136 BlogSpring25%IMG_6203BlogSpring25%IMG_6205The strawberries and blueberries have their own bed, also sown with hollyhock seeds, and there are two more vegetable beds underway.BlogSpring25%IMG_6131BlogSpring25%IMG_6180Up on the terrace, the Treasure Bed has been awash with blue Hyacinth (Delft Blue) and grape hyacinth, interspersed with Tête à Tête daffodils, pale yellow primroses and now, the mauve Pasque Flower, Pulsatilla vulgaris.BlogSpring30%IMG_5645BlogSpring20%DSCN3469BlogSpring30%IMG_5345BlogSpring30%IMG_6003BlogSpring30%IMG_5977 BlogSpring25%IMG_6368We have created a new herb garden close to the house in the old Acanthus Bed, though the latter keep popping up- they are resilient survivors indeed! We have planted Italian and Curly Parsley, lemon thyme and common thyme, Savory of Crete Satureja thymbra, common sage, French tarragon, oregano and calendulas, now in full glorious bloom!.BlogSpring25%IMG_6165BlogSpring25%IMG_6235BlogSpring25%IMG_5788 We have also started to clean up the agapanthus terrace, though it is a huge job, as the steep slope was never terraced properly, so new beds have to be created and supported, as well as eliminating all the old couch grass, before we can plant lavender. Ross also had major waterworks with new pipes being laid and a new tap in the vegie garden, which will make watering so much easier now. The bowerbirds were pretty impressed with the new tap!BlogSpring20%DSCN3418 Ross can certainly dig a straight trench!!!BlogSpring20%DSCN3246 And we have been working on the shed, lining the interior ceiling with ply, so now it is clean and dry and usable… not to mention, possum-proof!!!BlogSpring50%2018-04-26 08.24.59.jpg The shed garden has also been the recipient of much-needed attention and is sporting lavender, primula and euphorbia blooms!BlogSpring20%DSCN3724BlogSpring25%IMG_5752BlogSpring25%IMG_6187 It is so wonderful to be heading into Spring finally here in the Southern Hemisphere! I know I was sustained over the long Winter by blog posts and Instagram photos from the Northern Hemisphere Spring and Summer, so I hope this post has returned the favour! I will probably write another Spring garden post later in the season, when the garden is in full party mode! In the meantime….Happy Gardening wherever you are!BlogSpring30%IMG_5819

Oldhouseintheshires

 

Feature Plant for September: Crocus

I have to admit that I am a newcomer to the world of crocuses, know very little about them, except that they are one of the first flowers to herald the Spring, and tend to get a bit confused about all the different types, so I thought a bit of research and consequently a feature post might be in order!

The first surprising fact, which I discovered in my research was that these tiny little bulbs belong to the Iris family Iridaceae (see photo above); there are 90 species (though recent chromosome tests have increased the number of species to almost 200) and only 30 species are in cultivation; there are many crocus species, which also bloom in Autumn and Winter; and crocus enthusiasts are known as ‘croconuts’!!! I suspect that after this wonderful season, I could well become one!BlogCrocus20%DSCN3491Their name derives from the Greek word ‘Krokos’, meaning ‘saffron’, referring to the long history of the cultivation of Crocus sativum over 2000 years for the production of the spice saffron for a yellow dye, food colourant, culinary spice and medicinal purposes. The large lilac Autumn flowers have darker veins on the petals, yellow stamens and three vivid red stigma, the source of the saffron.

It is the most expensive spice in the world, 1 Kg of saffron requiring the handpicking of over 85 000 flowers between dawn and 10am and costing $35 000 per Kg! Mind you, both those figures (number of flowers required and cost) vary widely, depending on which article you read! All I know is that in both cases, it’s a lot!!! I found an interesting link about saffron growing in Australia at: https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/man-with-the-golden-thumb-20080812-gdsq4i.html.

BlogCrocus25%IMG_5485Crocuses (or Croci) are native to Central and Southern Europe; North Africa and the Middle East; the Aegean islands and Central Asia to China. They grow from corms and have narrow mid-green grass-like leaves with a central silver grey stripe and white, lavender, lilac, purple and yellow cup-shaped six-petalled flowers, which have a short stem, long tube, three stamens and one style and only open in the sun or bright light, remaining closed in rainy weather or at night.BlogCrocus25%IMG_5604The corms should be planted 3 to 4 cm deep in sandy well-drained soils in a sunny position. They look lovely in drifts or clumps and naturalise well in lawns, though the grass should not be cut for 6 weeks after flowering to ensure blooming the following year.BlogJulyGarden20%Reszd2016-07-20 17.07.54There are a number of different species, many of which can be seen on : https://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/Crocus. Another excellent link is: https://gardendrum.com/2014/02/27/crocus-for-autumn-winter-and-spring/.

The name of EA Bowles kept cropping up in my research into crocus, both in relation to his breeding of them and in the naming of new cultivars and if you would like to know more about his endeavours, especially in relation to crocuses, it is well worth reading: https://thedahliapapers.com/tag/crocus-e-a-bowles/.

BlogCrocus25%IMG_5492The cultivated crocus species can be divided into two main groups according to their flowering season.

Spring

Crocus sieberi  Cretan Crocus. Small flowers start blooming in late Winter as the snow melts. It naturalises easily. Cultivars include Bowles White; Firefly (lilac); Tricolor (white to pale lilac with dark lilac edge and gold centres); and Violet Queen.  The species name ‘sieberi’ honours Franz Wilhelm Sieber (1789-1844), a natural history collector and traveller from Prague.

Crocus chrysanthus Snow Crocus. Native to Yugoslavia, Romania, Greece and Southern Turkey, it flowers in bare earth or the snow on stony or grassy slopes at 1000 to 2000 metres altitude in early Spring. It has smaller, but more profuse flowers than the Dutch crocus and unusual color blends, many hybrids having bicoloured petals and striking yellow centres. The species name ‘chrysanthus’ means ‘golden flowers’. Hybrid cultivars include Cream Beauty; Dorothy; EA Bowles; Goldilocks and Gipsy Girl.

Crocus tommasinianus Early Crocus. Blooms from late Winter to early Spring with pale lavender to red purple blooms with a silvery reverse. They flower profusely after the leaves have fully developed and spontaneously self-propagate, so are very good at naturalising in lawns. The species hails from the woods and shady hillsides of Southern Hungary, Yugoslavia and Northern Bulgaria is named after Muzio Giuseppe Spirito de Tommasini (1794-1879),  an Italian botanist and expert on Dalmatian flora from Trieste. They can be distinguished from C. vernus by its combination of narrow leaves, purple flowers and white tube.

Crocus vernus Dutch Crocus. Very popular and well-known, these tough crocus have the largest flowers of all, so they are sometimes known as Giant Crocus. Originally from the mountains of Europe from the Pyrenees east to Poland and Russia and south to Sicily and Yugoslavia, they flower from early Spring. They will tolerate light shade, like under deciduous trees, in temperate areas. ‘Vernus’ means ‘of the Spring’. BlogCrocus20%DSCN3483I have planted five varieties:

Jeanne d’Arc: Pure white (photo above);

Mammoth: Golden yellow;

Pickwick 1925: Striped white and purple (photo below);

Remembrance: Violet-purple; and

Grand Maître: Purple and blooms slightly later in Spring.

There are also yellow and bronze varieties.BlogCrocus25%IMG_5648My first attempt at growing Dutch crocuses in 2016 yielded a single purple flower, about which I was very excited as its appearance was a total surprise! I had planted ten corms (4 Mammoth and 6 Remembrance) the previous Autumn (mid-April) in the lawn under the deciduous trees, but had not been aware of the emergence of the leaves, when suddenly there was this bright purple flower in July!

I searched in vain for any further flowers that season, as well as the following year, so I was delighted when again a further bud snuck in under the radar, as well as a second grouping of crocus leaves. They are definitely reproducing. Imagine my horror to discover the new bloom nipped in the bud literally by a voracious Satin Bowerbird male and there were no more Remembrance blooms this season!

BlogJulyGarden20%Reszd2016-07-20 17.07.59Luckily, at the end of April this year, I also planted 5 Jeanne d’Arc; 5 Pickwick; and 10 Grand Maître (photo below) corms in the cutting garden in well-noted spots. The foliage of most of them had surfaced by mid-August and they bloomed spectacularly in the first two weeks of September.BlogCrocus25%IMG_5605Two good places to source species crocus in Australia are Lambley’s Nursery at: https://lambley.com.au/garden-notes/winter-crocus and https://lambley.com.au/search/content/crocus(6 pages)

And Bryan H Tonkin : https://www.tonkinsbulbs.com.au/crocus.html, while Tesselaars has a good range of Snow Crocus (https://www.tesselaar.net.au/product/4010-snow-crocus-collection) and Dutch Crocus (https://www.tesselaar.net.au/naturalising-bulbs/dutch-crocus).

BlogCrocus20%DSCN3480Autumn Crocus

There are still quite a large number of Crocus (at least 30 species and subspecies) which flower in Autumn, the most famous of which is Crocus sativum, the Saffron Crocus, the species name ‘sativum’ meaning ‘cultivated’.

Please note that there are two other genera, Colchicum and Zephyranthes, which are also called Autumn Crocus.

Colchicums

Colchicums, a distant relative of crocus and also a corm, can be differentiated from crocus by the number of styles and stamens. Colchicums have large strappy leaves without a stripe and pink, lilac or white six-petalled flowers (Colchicum luteum from Turkey is the only yellow one) with three styles and six stamens, compared to crocus flowers with their one style and three stamens.

Colchicum flowers also emerge from the soil before the leaves appear, thus their alternative name Naked Ladies, while in Spring-blooming crocus species, leaves shoot first or simultaneously with the flowers. Autumn flowering crocus bloom in full leaf. An exception is Crocus speciosus, whose flowers are produced before the leaves.

Most colchicum species bloom in Autumn (eg lilac-pink Meadow Saffron, Colchicum autumnale, and Colchicum speciosum with its lilac-pink flower with a white throat or its pure white cultivar Album), but a few emerge in Spring (Colchicum szovitsii; Colchicum falcifolium; Colchicum kesselringii; Colchicum hungaricum; and Colchicum luteum).

Members of the Liliaceae family with 45 species from Eastern Europe to North Africa and east to China, most of the colchicums found in Australia hail from Turkey and Greece. According to ancient writers, colchicums were particularly abundant around Colchis, the Black Sea region of Georgia, Caucasus, hence its name. Photographs of the different species can be found on: https://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/Colchicum.

They like similar conditions to crocus- well-drained soil in full sun or part shade and cool to cold climates with frosty Winters. They can also be bought from Bryan H Tonkin (https://www.tonkinsbulbs.com.au/colchicum.html) and Lambleys Nursery (https://lambley.com.au/search/content/colchicum).

All species and parts of the plant are toxic and the sap can irritate the skin and eyes, so take care handling them! Having said that, it is also the source of the cancer treatment drug colchicine, a mutagen which affects cell division and is also used by plant breeders to produce new cultivars.

Zephyranthus

Zephyranthes, a New World genus from the Amaryllidaceae (Hippeastrum) family, is also called Rain or Storm Lilies as summer and autumn showers trigger flowering.BlogCrocus20%IMG_0160 The genus name derives from two Greek words: ‘zephyros’ meaning ‘west wind’ and ‘anthos’ meaning ‘flower’, since it is a native of the Western Hemisphere (the Americas) and includes 70 species, some of which can be seen in: https://gardendrum.com/2013/01/13/storm-lilies/.

BlogCrocus20%IMG_0600They prefer cool frost-free and subtropical gardens. Having said that, we grow Zephyranthus candida in the shade of the Pepperina tree, where it retains its foliage all year round. In fact, we sourced our bulbs from my sister’s Tenterfield garden, where she gets heavy frosts and temperatures of ten degrees below zero!BlogCrocus20%IMG_0161Zephyranthes candida hails from Uruguay and Argentina. It has bright green glossy needle-like leaves and shining white crocus-like flowers with gold stamens.BlogCrocus5018-03-11 18.20.46Sternbergia

To further complicate the issue, the genus Sternbergia, is also called Autumn Crocus, as well as Autumn Daffodil, and there are eight species, distributed from Italy to Iran. The genus is named in honour of Count Kaspar M von Sternberg (1761-1838), an Austrian clergyman, botanist and palaeontologist and founder of the Bohemian National Museum in Prague.

Most bloom in Autumn, the fine narrow leaves emerging with or just after the flowers, though there are some species which bloom in Spring (Sternbergia fischeriana; Sternbergia colchiciflora; and Sternbergia candida). For more information about and photos of the different species, see: https://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/Sternbergia.

Sternbergia lutea is the most well-known one, its species ‘lutea’ name meaning ‘yellow’. It has a similar appearance to colchicums, except its bright canary-yellow flower colour. There is only one flower per bulb and they prefer frost-free gardens and a hot dry Summer.

I certainly know so much more about crocus now and am keen to experiment with a few other crocus varieties  like Crocus sativus and some of the Snow Crocus cultivars in the cutting garden or rockery and perhaps to try naturalising the apparently foolproof and fecund Crocus tommasinianus in the lawn ! I would also love to try growing Sternbergia lutea in a pot in a frost-free position up by the house.BlogCrocus50%IMG_5601