Saturday, 28 January 2012

Climbing Frangipani (Chonerorpha fragrans)

This is the second time I have encountered this pretty climber. The first time was a sad little specimen 10cm high that as over $70. Not knowing anything about its cultivation, I thought it might be better to hold off until I could be sure it would grow here .

Since growing my own, I can testify (although not that apparent in the photos) that the appearance of the blooms bears an uncanny resemblance to the Frangipani (Plumeria rubra). It also shares a fragrance that is exactly like Plumeria obtusa, or 'Singapore White'.

Native to tropical Asia, it is a vigorous, evergreen climber but can go semi-deciduous if temperatures drop below 10 degrees celcius. It prefers an acidic soil and is not commonly available, owing to the difficulty in propagating it.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Frangipani - 'Bali Whirl'

My 'Bali Whirl' Frangipani is blooming for the first time:

It's fragrance is identical to that of  'Celadine'  (otherwise known as 'Common Yellow') and while other plumeria varieties have slightly different leaf shape (i.e. more paddle-shaped) or different shades of green, the leaves of 'Bali Whirl' are also identical to that of 'Celadine'. It is only when it blooms does the difference become apparent.

This is the only double variety of Frangipani and is relatively hard to find. I recall the first time I saw it, it was in the headdress of a Balinese dancer. I remember thinking; "They've torn the petals of those frangipani flowers" when in fact it was just that they used this variety.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Mellow Yellow (Peltophorum pterocarpum - Yellow Flame Tree,Copperpod, Yellow Poinciana)


I was recently speaking to someone who lives on the Mid- North NSW Coast who has tried these trees with little success. Peltophorum pterocarpum (also known by the more pronunciation-friendly names of Yellow Poinciana or Flame Tree) is native to South - East Asia and Northern Australia. Impressive with masses of yellow blooms, they can reach 25m high with an open, spreading canopy. Despite their beauty, their penchant for individuality by way of irregular growth has made them somewhat unpopular as street trees. I recall seeing them sold in Brisbane, but can't recall seeing any actual specimens planted anywhere.

I first saw this tree on a trip to the Northern Territory in August 2002. They were small specimens planted at the George Brown Darwin Botanical Gardens, and underneath them was a small plant market. At the time they were in full bloom and particularly attractive (funnily enough, last August in Darwin I didn't see even one in bloom).

I never quite got those trees out of my head and when visiting Brisbane last year (almost 10 years later), I purchased a small, severely pot - bound specimen from Templex nursery. That was early July, and it seemed to survive the brunt of Sydney cold well with no discernible damage. However, in an over-zealous attempt to imitate its native monsoonal climate, I let it dry out to the point that the one remaining leaf shriveled up and the tips of the stems died back. I am (almost) convinced that the dry, not the cold set it back - although next winter will be the decider on that one.

The plant just sat there sulking until mid-October, when it burst into green growth (I scraped tiny bits of the trunk beforehand to see if it was still alive). Today this is what mine looks like:

I will be keenly observing how it handles this coming winter. Fingers crossed, if all goes well I may have the most southern-most peltophorum in the country!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Like a Virgin

Welcome to my first post on my blog 'Growing Paradise'. I am looking forward to sharing my passion with others who love gardening with tropical plants as much as I do.

I have gardened in various places around the world - Hong Kong, Spain and Cuba - and now in Sydney's Inner West (City). Latitude is approximately 33 degrees south and with a warm-temperate climate . However, that description is not entirely accurate. Geographically, Sydney covers a huge area and being a marginal climate (generally too hot for many cold climate plants and too cool for many tropicals) means in the right microclimate (generally those elevated suburbs within 10 kilometres from the coast) winters are mild enough to grow most tropical species. It is not uncommon to see winter lows of 0 degrees celcius (32 farenheight) in the suburbs while reaching only 8 degrees (46.4 farenheight) on the coast.

It is very exciting to get something you have nurtured grow well, even flower - and that excitement is even stronger when it is a plant outside of its ideal climate. I have been establishing my garden since May 2011 and often travel northwards to get my hands on plants not commonly available here. In the following posts, I will be sharing more about my garden and what is in it. I look forward to swapping experiences and exchanging information with other such gardeners.

Anyway, for my first post I am going to share with you something that I came across yesterday. It isn't in my garden, but pretty indicative of what we have to deal with here. It is a Cassia Fistula, also known as a 'Golden Shower Tree'.  It was about 5m and had a 4m spread. It is growing in Cabramatta (a suburb in south-western Sydney with a high Vietnamese population). Being far from the coast, the winter lows of Cabramatta would reach freezing. Here are the pics:

I say 'pretty indicative' for a reason. A tropical tree, this cassia, like many other species, is not sold here because we are (according to 'knowledgeable' nursery people and northern plant producers) "too cold". If I listened to these people, practically none of my plants would be alive, let alone thriving.  Thankfully we have some people in the community who are willing to experiment and give us all something to aspire to.

I want one :)
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