Posts tagged violas


Beaumontia grandiflora vine cluster

Beaumontia grandiflora vine cluster

Bold and beautiful beaumontia grandiflora  bloom

Bold and beautiful beaumontia grandiflora bloom

SO gardening subtlety is not my strong point. It’s the bold and the beautiful that takes my fancy outdoors – loud, dazzling colour, big, blousy flowers, overdressed foliage, sumptious and splendid, scented and showy,

Some temperate people say it’s our climate that makes me so. I’m over-reactive in the presence of obvious glamour – hot and bothered and overboiled. They’re referring to both my temperament and my vulgar taste in plants. There could be something in that. We generally raise a good sweat in garden labour in the heat of tropics and sub tropics , so want something “big” back for our efforts.  A grand “thank you” from nature, writ large.

The sweet little spring bunches of dainty painsies, petunias, geraniums, pelargoniums, daisies  and similar pretty contenders on our garden club bench competition this month paled into insignificance when I spied the magnificent beaumontia grandiflora branch in their midst;  big, brash. white blooms, its heady seductive perfume permeating the hall. I was smitten – as I generally am with a statement item.

“Notice me” it screamed.  And I did – as did everyone present. You could smell it before you saw it; a pungent and voluptious siren calling everyone to follow their nose, come and admire.

Nothing virginal and pure about this white lily-type specimen. It’s huge bell-shaped flowers are dazzling  and grow in clusters up to 30cm long and 15cm wide along the vine’s stem and pictures can hardly do justice to a fully grown bush in full bloom. It’s no cliche to say it’s breathtaking.

Eye catching beaumontia a long lasting cut flower

Eye catching beaumontia a long lasting cut flower

The beaumontia  is an evergreen tropical shrub, originally from the Himalayas ( although some in the cooler climates lose their leaves in autumn )  with large dark green leaves ( some can be 22cm long) with prominent veins. It’s a heavy scrambling climber , so will need strong support, or it forms a large clump like a wisteria. It likes sun and shade and generally thrives in temperatures over 30 degrees C.  I love the sight of it climbing a fence or wall, spreading its gorgeous flowers to the heavens. It can grow to 10m tall, and can be invasive, so judicious pruning’s needed. This is best done after flowering to promote new wood for blooms to spring from.  It can take a few years for a mature vine to come to full flower, but when it does, it ‘s an extended pleasure – from spring to late summer. Sometimes it flowers for the second time in autumn.  As cut flowers, they are also long lasting. Mine were fresh for four days, with a daily change of vase water.

Suited mostly to warm climates, it can tolerate frosts for a short period. It produces an oblong green fruit from the end of summer. You can propogate from hardwood cuttings, using the layering method, best done in spring.

Also known as Herald’s Trumpet, that’s exactly the beaumontia’s  soundtrack – a brassy announcement that a VIP is present and expects to be the centre of attention. The genus was named in honor of Mrs. Diana Beaumont (1765-1831) of Bretton Hall, Yorkshire who was described in the Curtis Botanical Magazine Volume 7 in 1833 as “an ardent lover and munificent patroness of Horticulture”. She was a wealthy and obsessive gardener, and grew  a dazzling array of plants in a huge conservatory at her home, which once stood in the grounds of what is now Leeds University. It’s said she flaunted her beauty and wealth and was a social climber par excellence.

A fitting namesake, I say.


There’s truth to the term “poetry in motion” in a garden, when you look  at all the running, jumping, and climbing happening right now in mine.

The walking iris  (Neomarica gracilis) are stepping out in fine form, looking a bit like a cross between an iris and an orchid  ( also called a poor man’s orchid). The graceful flowers don’t last long, but they continue through the spring and summer and are one of the least demanding beauties around.  Because of its habit of propagating itself, the iris appears to “walk” throughout the garden as it fills the area with additional plantlets. When the new plantlet is formed at the tip of the flower stalk, it bends to the ground and takes root and the new plant repeats the process,  giving the illusion of  moving about as it spreads.  It’s also called the fan iris for the fan-like growing characteristic of its leaves and also has been referred to as the Apostle plant because there are usually 12 leaves in a fan, and most Neomarica will not bloom until the plant has all 12.

Equally moving are the happy little violas or Johnny Jump ups, springing into life in colorful profusion. A weekly feed of liquid seaweed and regular dead-heading will keep these jumping in the sun for weeks.

And the lovely climbing mandevilla iaxa,  also known as the Chilean jasmine, is lifting hearts and minds.  I made the mistake of putting mine in too much sunshine, but now it’s moved to a shadier spot, it’s shooting onwards and upwards.

Climbing beauty mandevilla iaxa

Climbing beauty mandevilla iaxa

Hope gardening  is moving for you, too.

Johnny jump ups

Johnny jump ups

Walking iris a moving sight

Walking iris a moving sight

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Long lasting Phalaeonopsis orchid

Long lasting Phalaeonopsis orchid

LIKE all the best procrastinators, my to-do list ever lengthens and the best incentive to pay it proper attention is mention VISITORS. The likelihood of people calling in to cast a reckoning look over the house and garden moves me faster than a dose of salts.

I go regularly to garden calendars with monthly chores listed and cut and clip them with good intentions to the wheelbarrow or potting bench, but, alas, I am a distracted rather than a dutiful gardener, so the best laid plans to systematically tick off the jobs go astray when I dream up a new rose bed to plant or start reorganising the courtyard colour.

But anticipating friends dropping by on the weekend swung me into action 24 hours beforehand and I amazed myself at how fast I could scrub mould from pavers, clean out a water fountain, spruce up the bird baths, trim a scruffy murraya hedge, thin out and replant a bed of iris and agapanthus, weed out a vegetable tank garden. And just for insurance, I had the smell of a freshly baked parmesan herb loaf wafting through the windows when they arrived.

Garden whimsy can make up for its shortfalls

Garden whimsy can make up for its shortfalls

My ruse, you see, so their noses might lead them unseeing  past my scruffy driveway gerberas that are long overdue a dead heading and weed-pocked paths and other gardening shortcomings.

Because these visitors were real gardeners; organic, experienced, diligent, fastidious ones. They are not want to stop at the gate and gaze about, mouthing platitudes like” lovely” and “gorgeous”. They head straight to the “problem area”, click their tongues, plunge their hands into the dirt, pulling and pushing and picking with a furrowed brow and a solicitous air. They are the  kind that can tell you spontaneously to the exact ml how much sulphate, lime, phosphorous or other you give troubled specimens and have a wikipedia of successful germinations in their head they can reel off  at a moment’s notice. Who can tell exactly which pest is making holes in any leaf you point to, what its life cycle is and what to do about it. Who colour-code  their garden tools and store them in alphabetical order, religiously clean and sharpen -even polish  – them on the same day every week and whose food scraps are always pared to regulation size for perfect decomposition. They also roll up their hoses every day! Would never get the kinky problems I curse at when the water sputters at the bends and blockages my sadly neglected ones develop.

Welcome wheelbarrow with pansies

Welcome wheelbarrow with pansies

As we walked the outside inspection, which I both love and fear when in the company of garden royalty, I made myself shed my insecurity, drop the excuses and apologies and just opened my heart and head to accept their freely and lovingly given advice and encouragement. I always take in information better  face to face than any other means. It is the  ” I do and I understand” principle.

I learnt I should be laying newspaper around the base of my potted Ceylonese spinach, so the dark seeds drop on to a surface that I can see to collect and save them for later germinations. ( Assuming I start germinating, of course) my bush lemon tree doesn’t need too harsh a pruning punishment for not giving me more than a handful of fruit this year. Lemon trees have off years like all of us, so I will give it a small cutback and cut it some slack til next year.  My variegated hibiscus is shooting base stock dark green leaves and to keep it true to its graft, I have to cut these right back. And the grub that is a perennial headache for hibiscus can be sorted with Mancozeb. My roses aren’t covering themselves in glory because they don’t get enough sun and my powderpuff plant ( calliandra) is competing with a rogue lantana bush that a bird dropping spawned in its midst.

I also learnt Condy’s Crystals ( potassium permanganate) are a strong oxidising agent and hence are garden magic.

Potted white alyssium

Potted white alyssium

Never having been able to grow comfrey in any volume, I have kept a small patch of it in a polysterene planter box. I have heard this healing herb  is a fast-growing, abundant rich source of composting material and has wide ranging permaculture uses. But try as I might,  I have only been able to sustain a sparse few plants. And have also been tearing off the leaves for the compost, when they should be cut instead. Now, following new advice,  I am going to plant out a bed full of rich compost material,  transferring the plants cut back to ground level. And be patient.

Justicia in pink glory

Justicia in pink glory

My garden report wasn’t all “could do better”, though.

I was praised for my blooming violas, my pretty welcoming entrance wheelbarrow of pansies, my alyssium pots, long-lasting chrysanthemums, justicia, vigorous peas, cabbages and rocket, watercress and basil and my funny old cane chair-turned potplant for a tumbling .

I was reminded that a garden doesn’t have to be spectacular or stunning and reevaluated the worth of the solid and reliable elements of mine that stand and deliver each season come what may. Like the jolly nasturtiums, the florid bougainvillea, the bromeliads, crucifix orchids, azaleas and lowly vinca.

Raindrops on pink calliandra

Raindrops on pink calliandra

And the star turn was a long-lasting pink phalaeonopsis orchid which even the herb loaf couldn’t top.

There’s an African proverb that says: Visitors’ footfalls are like medicine. They heal the sick.

Too right.

As they drove away, I felt all was well with me and my garden.


Funny isn’t it, the buying fetishes we develop in some subliminal Stalingrad of our psyche. A part of us believes we will be cut off from all supplies like the embargoed Russian wartime city and so, just in case,  we stock up – and up and up  – on some item we think we just cannot imagine being without. One friend gets all twitchy if she doesn’t buy toilet rolls every time she shops. Whole cupboards of her house are stacked with them. For another, it’s frozen peas, someone else keeps buying underpants, another tinned tomatoes.

If the world’s markets close  tomorrow, I will have cane mulch bales for half the country. Cannot stop buying – and spreading  – them. Wonder what straw will break this camel’s back.


The Queensland Sunshine Coast town of  Nambour is nothing if not totally behind their annual garden expo, which draws thousands of visitors from all over the country for the three-day event.This month, the local Uniting Church even gave up signage space normally reserved for delivering scripture to passing motorists  to offer parking  options.

The way, the truth and the parking

The way, the truth and the parking

Maybe  it was a clever way to pass the plate around.

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