Thursday, 29 March 2012

A peek into what everyone else is growing...

I love looking at other people's gardens. By looking at what people grow, you can tell a lot about who they are. It is always a pleasure strolling around my local area to compare plants, see what is blooming or doing well at a particular time of year or just enjoy the plants.

I am fortunate to live in a historic part of the city with many older gardens. These gardens often harbor many old-fashioned plants, most of which cannot be found in garden centres. Many of these gardens were planted in the early part of the 1900s when warm-climate plants were popular in Sydney.

                                                         A very happy Ixora chinensis

                                          Ravenala madagascariensis in a Sydney backyard

                                                   Clumping bamboo in a Newtown park

Colorful Hawaiian Tis (Cordyline fruticosa/terminalis) with a Ficus lyrata in the background

Sydney's mild climate is conducive to the cultivation of almost any plant. Colder-climate shrubs find the summer rain and humidity a bit much to deal with, and many often drop dead without warning (as happened with a Lavender plant I was attempting to grow). Azaleas are no-no, and roses hate our humidity. By contrast, these warm-climate plants thrive.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Lucky find - Flaming Glorybower Vine (Clerodendron splendens)

I first fell in love with this red-flowering vine during my plant-seeking trip to Brisbane in July 2011 and took this photo:

Getting my hands on one proved quite a challenge. Even in Brisbane it was uncommon. I called around nurseries to no avail. Finally I found a place that said they could get it in for me and when they did, I eagerly purchased not one but three. I planted them around the yard and they did well. Disappointment ensued, however when they flowered and revealed their true identity - they were not the strikingly beautiful Clerodendrum splendens but the rather average-looking Clerodendrum speciosum.

However, destiny was on my side. First I happened to discover the vine I wanted growing in the volunteer nursery at the Sydney Botanic Gardens. The staff reported that the showy vine is often requested by customers but they have never been able to get cuttings to strike. I offered to try, but no amount of cajoling or begging could convince them to give me a bit. Finally one member of staff did kindly give me a few cuttings - on the proviso that should they strike, I give her one.

That was two months ago and I happy to report that most are still green and appear to be rooting.

Yet as luck would have it, I found a much larger specimen for the taking. Driving along busy Parramatta Road, I spotted one large vine growing at a petrol station, sandwiched between the air pump and some kind of vent:

                                                (the immature buds have a dark-pink hue)

The indifferent staff were happy to let me take as much as I liked - no begging necessary. I did help myself to several suckers (yes, the plant suckers). They have been planted in sterile propagation mix and I am awaiting their new growth.

Once a fairly common plant, the Flaming Glorybower vine is now very old fashioned and thus hard to find - a pity considering its beauty and hardiness (it tolerates drought, heat and cold).

So although it took almost a year, I have finally got my hands on this beauty!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Ice cream bean tree (Inga edulis)

I discovered the Ice cream bean tree growing in a public permaculture garden. I have heard a lot about this tree, the fruit of which is supposed to taste like vanilla ice cream (hence the name).

The golden - brown wavy pods are easily snapped to reveal the fruit inside:

The 'fruit' is actually a thin white wispy membrane covering the large seeds. Although mildly pleasant, it is a bit fanciful to compare the taste to that of vanilla ice cream. It is, however, an attractive tree of about 4m in height and a spread of 5 with drooping branches and waxy pinnate leaves. The seed sprout readily (as do most legumes) and is a fast grower. It would make a great small tree for somewhere something is needed quickly.

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