Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis variegata "Roseflake" and "Snowflake"

Two great tropical shrubs for any garden that gets little rain but lots of harsh sunlight, high summer temperatures and high humidity levels, are these variegated forms of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis.  These two hibiscus shrubs flower all year round in full sun and they look fabulous with their striking foliage colours.

This is the "Roseflake" - with its fabulous red, green and pink foliage.  The red flowers almost pale into insignificance amongst the foliage on this.

Here is the single red bloom of the hibiscus flower on the "Roseflake".  The flowers do have lovely frilly edges to their petals.

Now here is Hibiscus rosa-sinensis "Snowflake."  It has green and white variegated leaves.

It also gets a single red frilly-edged bloom.

Both shrubs have a semi-pendulous form and look terrific with their great arching branches of variegated foliage.  I have around eight stands of these shrubs in various spots around my property and they reach between two and four metres high ...  two, in particular, are high enough to peek over the railings of a high set Queenslander home!

Friday, April 23, 2010

My Place Part 2: The Courtyard Garden - my favourite garden space.

My favourite garden space at my place is my courtyard garden.  This garden space is really at the back of the house but it is the way we all enter the house. 

We walk down the hill driveway:

... and approach the entrance to the pergola that leads to the courtyard garden. 

The pergola is under the shade of several clumps of Golden Cane palms - the one to the right of the above photo is now over 4 metres tall .  The top of this pergola is completely covered in jasmine (not in flower when these photos were taken) and arching over the top is the Hibiscus schizopetalus - the Japanese Lantern hibiscus.

Now walking under the archway and down the steps, surrounded by the giant sword fern - Nephrolepsis biserrata - on the right side with a large Fiji Fan Palm - Pritchardia Pacifica. 

This next photo shows the other side of the garden bed full of the giant sword ferns and the fan palm.  This garden bed is quite high on this side and provides a lovely outlook from the kitchen windows.  You can also see the jasmine spilling over the top ... and it's in bloom in this photo!

Now back to the pergola steps ....  On the left side there is another raised garden bed which contains the pond area which you can see through the leaves of the golden cane palm in this photo below.

At the back of this garden bed there is yet another golden cane palm (Dypsis lutescens) seen above and in the photo below,

my footstool palm (Livistona rotundifolia),

a bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii )

as well as lots of Neomarica longifolia (yellow iris) and various Dracaenas.

Let's keep on going down the steps towards the courtyard:

Here's the view back up the steps once we reach the courtyard:

You can see one of my beautiful Cycas revoluta to the left of the steps and more of those giant sword ferns!

Now let's take a look to the right of the steps at the garden bed with the pond:

At the back of the photo .... close to the lattice work.... you might catch another glimpse of the Livistona rotundifolia – Footstool Palm (centre back), the Chamaedorea seifrizii (syn: erumpens) – Bamboo Palm (you can just see the bamboo like stems to the right) and one of my red wing Cordylines (top left corner).  There really is a pond in amongst it all too!

All the plants at the front of the photo are potted plants which get changed - there's an autumn-spring collection and a summer collection.

Here's the collection of potted plants that were in this spot from the beginning of autumn to the end of spring last year .... March to November:

... and here's the collection that was in place for the summer of 2009 into 2010 - December to February:

Now the last garden bed in the courtyard garden is the large screening bed at the back of the courtyard:

This garden bed has Acalyphas, another Cycas revoluta, a very tall Aralia, a tall red Ixora, a Croton, an Acacia tree, a couple of Snowflake hibiscus shrubs, an aAdisia elliptica, a white Mussaenda philippica, an Allamanda, an old white hibiscus and a large clump of Phyllanthus multiflora.

Here's another view:

Off in the distance, behind the screening bed there is a beautiful cassia fistula - golden shower tree.  You can see the gorgeous bright yellow blooms in the next photo ... above the hibiscus and ixora flowers.

Now finally here's an overall view of the courtyard garden (end of spring last year) ... you can see the pergola and its garden beds off to the left and the large screening bed at the back.

The courtyard garden has been a work-in-progress for just over a year now.  It is the one garden space where I can change the garden view throughout the year.  I've been gradually adding lots of potted plants around the pond area and on the pavers, in an effort to add colour and variety to this space.

Right now the courtyard garden is in a state of flux ... after the long months of rain we've been experiencing, many of the drought tolerant plants have suffered and are longing for some decent sunshine.  This is a photo of the courtyard garden taken today ....

I'm in the process of re-designing the arrangement of potted plants ... trying out different combinations of colours.  As we are already approaching the last month of Autumn, I am eager to get these plants in position so they can start to flourish.

For Part 3 of My Place, please click on this link My Driveway Garden Beds

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hibiscus schizopetalus - Japanese Lantern

This fantastic arching shrub comes from tropical East Africa and is also known as the Coral Hibiscus, the Skeleton Hibiscus and the Chinese Lantern.

It is a fascinating plant and takes little effort to grow in a tropical garden.  It's an unusual hibiscus as its form is more akin to a weeping tree than a shrub.  The slender stems grow tall and upright quite rapidly and will reach around 2 metres and then arch over to form what could be best described as a pendulous canopy.

I have two of these shrubs growing on the hill driveway side of the pergola out in my courtyard garden.  They are planted at either end of the pergola and have now spread over half of the pergola which measures around 5 metres by 5 metres.  The top of the pergola acts as a support for the long pendulous arching stems.

Here you can see the Japanese Lantern at one end of the pergola spreading it drooping stems over the hill driveway.

This photo is taken looking up the hill driveway and it gives some idea of just how tall the upright stems get before they begin to arch.  The stems can be seen up against the corner of the pergola.

This shrub blooms sporadically all year long and the flowers are a real highlight.  I would say they are unequalled in their deeply dissected form. 

The delicate red flowers look a bit like a parachute or a chandelier... or like a Japanese Lantern!!!  They are rather distinctive with their frilly petals and long slender stamen.

I love the effect as they dangle from the top of the pergola like almost like a decoration out in the courtyard garden.  This is another of my favourite plants that's so suitable for a dry tropics garden or any tropical garden.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Pseudomussaenda flava or Mussaenda glabra - Dwarf Yellow Mussaenda or White Wings

This fabulous evergreen tropical shrub adds a bright splash of colour to tropic garden beds from the New Year right through to the end of the old year.  It grows in partial to full sun and will bloom all year round ... but especially well during the warm summer months ... and requires almost no attention whatsoever.

The shrub can become a little leggy and it can certainly be trimmed into shape if you wish, but I'm more of a 'let it do it's own thing' kind of gardener and these look terrific to me without any pruning.  They survive drought conditions as well as torrential downpours.  They seem to have no pest or disease problems at all ... they seem to love being left alone to do their thing!

I'm a little confused about why it has several botanic names ...  Mussaenda luteola, Mussaenda incana, Mussaenda lutea, as well as Mussaenda glabra and Pseudomussaenda flava.  I'm also not sure why it's commonly referred to as a 'Dwarf' ... all my shrubs are well over three metres high!   I much prefer the common name 'White Wings' ... as you can see from the photo below, that common name makes more sense!

The shrub looks fabulous when it's covered in all its flowers and bracts.  It has these golden star shaped blooms that are surrounded by finely-veined white bracts.  

I have quite a few of these shrubs on my property, but there's one that has a special place in my gardening heart! It's the one that's growing beside the front corner of our verandah.  This particular shrub is now as tall as the verandah railings and is in full sight when we're sitting on the rocking chairs.  Not only does it look fabulous, but the faint perfume from those small star-shaped flowers wafts up onto the verandah whenever there's a gentle breeze!  It's not a heady perfume so it doesn't overpower the senses ... rather, it's a soft gentle sweet smell that just tickles the end of the nose and makes you want to smile.

There's another reason why I do so love these shrubs ... they attract lots of bees and some birds!  All during spring and summer there's a constant buzz of excited bees as they dart from bloom to bloom.  This photo shows our native bee, the Blue-Banded Bee, head first diving in to feast on the sweet nectar.

I'm not sure what bird this is ... but it was also feasting on the nectar of the yellow flowers.

There's a really short (and I mean really short) video clip of the bird drinking the nectar on the link below:
Bird drinking the nectar from the Pseudomussaenda

There's such a lot to love about this shrub ... then, just the other day, I noticed something I've never seen before!  One of the branches ... just one ... on the White Wings near out front gate has variegated leaves!  After having these shrubs in all my gardens over the years, this is a first!

I've been searching any and all references to this plant to see if there's ever been a variegated variety, but so far, have found nothing at all.  Guess I'll have to try and get some cuttings to strike and see if I can't grow my own variegated White Wings.
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