Sunday, March 21, 2010

Neomarica longifolia - Yellow Walking Iris

When I say 'iris' most people think of bearded irises or flag irises ... these are commonly recognisable types.  But in my part of the world these plants cannot grow.  There is, however, one lovely iris that I have found easy to grow in a tropical garden.

It's the 'Yellow Walking Iris'.  This sun, heat, humidity and drought hardy plant stays green all year and grows in grassy clumps to around a metre in height . You can see clumps of Neomarica to the right of the photo below. 

I have lots of it growing in the protected environment of my greenhouse garden and in the shaded beds under my pergola, but it is also growing in full sun in some of my outdoor garden beds.  It is safe to say that this plant will tolerate the full spectrum of light, from full sun to fairly deep shade, although more sun always equals more flowers. It can even be grown indoors.

However, I find, the best location is a place where there is bright broken light.  When it is growing outdoors in the full sun,  the leaves do get a little burnt and perhaps don't look their best.  In spite of this, it is commonly used by landscapers for outdoor garden spaces ... we have lots of it growing in the beds at my school.

The sword like leaves grow in a fan shape, and are around 1 inch wide.

The plant flowers intermittently all year, peaking in the spring and summer. The delicate iris flowers are bright yellow with mottled brown spots.

Nearly open .... 

Open ...

Each flower lasts only one day, but another flower will quickly take it's place the following day.

As the flowers fade, tiny plantlets with air roots develop on their stems, and as these mature, their weight causes the leaves to bend down and touch the ground (ie ‘walk’).

The young plants then root and start the process all over again. If left to itself, after a few years, even a small clump of Walking Iris will ‘walk’ for quite some distance!

You can easily snip off the plantlets when air-roots appear, and either replant them for new plants, or just get rid of them – either way, clipping them off will promote more flowering.  The new plantlets will take 1 - 2 years to bloom, depending on climate and care.

Although Yellow Walking Iris will tolerate dry conditions quite well, it prefers moderately damp (but well drained) soil. Mulch is not necessary, and if it is used, it should not be heavy or packed closely around the bottom of the plants, as the rhizome roots may rot if soil is too moist. Water more often in warm months, keep fairly dry when cool.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Planchonia careya - the Cocky Apple Tree.

Planchonia careya is a tree that is native to my part of Oz ... it is only found across northern Australia and the largest concentration of them is right here in my region.  It is in fact the only member of its genus here in Australia ... facts like this amaze me and I've grown to really appreciate this rather unsightly tree that's so prevalent in the bush that surrounds my home.

It is such a scraggly looking tree!  It's small  ... it only grows to around 4-10 metres high ... with rough, grey, slightly fissured bark.

The leaves are egg-shaped or spatula-shaped, tapering to the base, shiny light green above, dull beneath, and are rather soft and leathery to the touch.  This tree is deciduous in the 'dry' season and the leaves turn rusty-orange before falling.

OK ... the tree is not a great looker, but now we come to the flowers ... these are quite simply superb!

The flowering period is from late spring (September) through the summer (December to  February).  While each flower is truly outstanding, the flowering tree is really not that spectacular.  Only a few flowers are produced at a time and you have to be 'in the know' to spot them as they open in the evening and fall by the next morning leaving a carpet of flowers on the ground.

Flowers are large, white and fleshy with numerous long pink and white stamens.

In the following photo you can see the flower bud just below the open bloom ... that green outer casing peels back ...

... and the stamens are revealed!

A terrific thing about this bloom is the way it opens has a spiral action as it opens.

The fruit is green, egg-shaped and smooth.  Apparently it's edible although I've never given it a go.  It was a widely used food of the Aboriginal people who populated this area ... so it earns the title of 'bush tucker'.  Inside it has yellow flesh and is supposed to taste like a quince when it's ripe.

Many parts of the plant were also used for a wide range of medicinal purposes by the Aboriginal people.  One example ... the Aborigines used a concoction made from the bark to clean wounds such as burns and ulcers.   The bark ... which contains something called Saponin ... was also used as a fish poison. It was pounded and thrown into pools of water, killing the fish which could then be eaten without any ill-effect.

The common name ... Cocky Apple ... came about because the fruit is readily eaten by cockatoos and looks a little like a green apple.  While the Cocky Apple tree is very, very common in the bushland here, you won't find this tree in any nursery ... it has never been cultivated for the nursery market.  You will have to visit my part of the world to catch a glimpse of this unusual specimen.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My Garden In Flower - Summer 2009 - 2010

Summer has just ended here in Australia.  It is by far-and-away THE toughest time in my garden .... three months of wicked heat, stifling humidity, unrelenting strong sunshine followed by the severe drenching downpours of rain and weeks of no sunshine at all!  It always amazes me to see what not only survives all this but will flower despite these conditions.

Last Summer I began to keep a record of what was blooming in my garden through all the seasons.  This was that previous post on the summertime ....
My Garden in Flower - Summer 2008-2009

All these summer-flowering plants were in bloom again during the summer that's just ended ... so now I'm going to add a few extra plants that were new to the garden during 2009 and were in bloom as well over the summer.

I had added quite a few new gazanias ...

as well as some new Pelargoniums.  These unfortunately did not come through the 'wet' weeks of the summer ... even the cuttings I took failed miserably during the torrential downpours and the humid overcast weeks. 

I had also added a new Salvia just before the summer and it has done very, very well.

Another couple of new beauties that have been flowering away throughout the summer were the Angelonias.  I have this gorgeous purple one and a white one now.


There were also a couple of new Torenias which have stood up to the 'wet' brilliantly!

The fantastic Gladiolus callianthus flowered for the first time around mid-summer and went on to survive right through the 'wet' as well.  I'm now going to nickname this one 'courageous callianthus'!

The Gomphrena globosa powered on through summer and is still blooming away merrily.

I can't forget the Gerberas! These were the new ones planted just before summer ....

... nor can I forget the Dendrobium crumenatum.  I just love these gorgeous little flowers!

Then there's the Cleome spinosa hybrid 'Senorita Rosalita' .... 

Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender' ...

and then, of course, out in the bush the amazing native Planchonia careya began to bloom mid-summer.  The flowers open in the late afternoon/early evening and will have dropped off the tree by morning!  I love the way the flower opens in a spiral ...

and those long, long stamens!!

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