Plants in Focus #1

Hi There,

Welcome to what i hope will be an ongoing portrait, essay or information on plants that can be seen in my garden.  I have toiled arround with names for this series but have finally ended up with the above title.  I know it’s not very inspiring or arty but so be it and without any further procrastination, here we go!

Salvia forskahoeli


This Salvia is a great plant for nearly every situation that you might have.  Equally home in part shade and full sun,  it is a remarkably hardy plant from the Balkan peninsula.  Found from the coasts of Turkey to Greece and Bulgaria and growing in conifer and broadleaf forests up to 18oo metres in altitude.  Flower stalks arise from the basal rosette of foliage in late spring/early summer to a height of about 60-80cm with whorls of flowers spaced on the stems.  This species will flower for about 6 weeks and deadheading may prolong the season more.  Sometimes it will even flower into autumn Flowers are a violet/blue colour with white streaks on the lower lip.  These flowers readily produce seed and will self seed itself quite easily, seems not to become a nuisance though.

The leaves are thick and can be quite long maybe 20-30cm and are hairy on both sides.  There are lots of them and they are a nice green colour.  You Will end up with a large rosette of about 50-60cm wide and up to about 50cm tall.  This species will benefit from a loamy soil that drains well and it will even cope with dry shade conditions which are very tough conditions.  This plant is also drought and frost tolerant.


The above picture shows to good effect the foliage and flowering stems which most are showing seed developing in the brown calyx’s.  This Salvia was introduced in 1880 and is named after Peter Forsskal of Finland who was a plant and zoological collector in southwest Arabia(Yemen) in the 18th century.  In actual fact he contracted malaria in Yemen and died at the age of 31 in July 1763.  Below you will see a close up of the leaf with its distinct veins and you can just make out the fine hairs that cover both sides as well.  This gives it quite a furry feel when rubbed between your fingers.


Below you will see a close up of the flowers with their guide lines that stand out(also look at the first photo).  These are the white lines that lead directly to the nectar and pollen(also called beeline).  You may also notice that the flowers below are a slightly different colouring from the ones above.  This plant will occasionally give out different coloured offspring which can make it exciting.


Well that’s about it for this little segment, below is just one more photo for you to enjoy.  Happy gardening.


Salvia forskaholei


Whats in a name?

Hi there,

In this enthralling piece i am going to reveal to you why us horticulturists/botanists and gardeners use latin names for plants.  Yes i know you think we’re crazy and why would you bother with this old antiquated language, but all will be revealed.  Here’s a few classic examples of why we don’t use common names for plants, or try not to.

  1. Red Gum.  Most of us know that the Red gum is the Eucalypt that lines a lot of our waterways.  It could also be the Red gum from forests on the east coast.  On the west side of the country Red gums are known for their brilliant summer flowers which can be white or pink or orange as well as red.  People call these 3 tree’s Red gums yet they are 3 distinctly different species.  Eucalyptus camaldulensis (red gum on our waterways), Angophora costata (red gum from the eastern forests), Eucalyptus ficifolia (red flowering gum from the west).  Three very different tree’s, yet all have the same common name which leads to confusion.  Hence why we use scientific names.
  2. Here’s a slightly different example.  Eucalyptus regnans, in Victoria its know as the Mountain Ash.  In Tasmania its known as the Swamp Gum, Stringy Gum and Tasmanian Oak.  So here’s one tree with numerous different common names.  Very easy to get them all confused.  This is why its important for any plant to have 1 scientific name, which means it cannot be confused with anything else the world over.
  3. Lily of the Valley.  In France its Muguet, in Russia its Landysh, in Germany its Maiblume and in England and elsewhere its Lily of the Valley.  Luckily it has one scientific name which is Convallaria majalis.  Thank goodness for that.

Did you notice anything about how the scientific names are written.  These are controlled by the International Code of botanical Nomenclature and the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants.  Suffice to say there are rules on how we write scientific names

Species.  The basic unit of classification is the species which is made up of two words.  The first being the genus (generic name) and the second is the specific name ( known as the specific epithet).  The two names are always written together and are known as the binomial.  The generic name always, yes always starts with a capital letter and the specific epithet always starts with a lower case.  They need to stand out as well, so should always be written in italics.  There are other technicalities which involve subspecies and the like, but we might leave them for a rainy day or never!

Rosa glauca, gives us the genus Rose and glauca gives us a description of a grey like coating or bloom on the stems of this rose and the colouring of the foliage which is said to have a grey like ting.  So the specific epithet gives us description to some degree of the plant or a particular feature of that plant.  Here’s another example,  Salvia taraxifolia, gives us the genus Salvia and the specific epithet describes the leaves which are Dandelion like, tarax being the genus of dandelion and folia gives us foliage like.

Cultivar.  Cultivated plants use the genus for the first name and then some other name which can be anything from a person to a town or place or any other meaning or just plain whatever.  These are always written like so. Salvia ‘Silkies Dream’.  Always italics with the first letter capital for the genus and normal writing for the named cultivar with appropriate capitals.

Hope that hasn’t muddied the waters too much, but when you see me using these scientific names, the above is the reasons why.  Happy gardening and


Pear shaped

Hi There,

After 52mm of rain on Sunday night and Monday I am sloshing around on soggy ground again and hoping most plants don’t mind it too much.  Some don’t like getting wet feet and after a fair bit of rain in August a Penstemon centranthifolius sort of gave me a blank look and turned its toes up.  Of course I couldn’t see its toes because it doesn’t have any, it was just not happy about all the rain.  You could say it went all pear-shaped whatever that means.  I mean really, whats wrong with the shape of a pear, it’s just natural and they come in all shapes and sizes and I quite like them, especially when their ripe with just enough juice, not too much or you end up with a sticky mess.  Who looked at a pear and thought gee! I might make the shape of that fruit synonymous with something that goes wrong?(as a footnote, the origin of this is still in dispute according to Wikipedia).  Look at that!  its gone banana shaped, what do you mean?  Has it gone round a bend?

Here’s some photos of some trees which are pear related because their known as ornamental pears as opposed to fruiting pears.


I know these would look better with a bit of sunshine but you will just have to believe it.  See, the rain was on the way and blossom  from most tree’s don’t take to it to kindly, it gets knocked off very easy.  These are Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’ which is one of many different ornamental pear cultivars  and species you can get now.  They are all fantastic tree’s with white flowers in different shapes and sizes and different heights and widths.  This variety should grow to about 9 metres high and 4 metres wide.  Of course this is all dependant on your soil and climate.  Here’s a view below, looking through the branches that looks quite nice.


These tree’s do actually fruit but the fruit is only the size of a pea or there about, so one can use the term “Insignificant”.  Autumn colour is another bonus of these tree’s.  Bright reds and oranges create a stunning effect, in my opinion that is, you will just have to wait half a year to find out if they do or not!  Below you will see a closeup of the flowers.


Exquisite aren’t they.

Oh!  Look there, here comes some more rain.  We could be in for a wet spring.  Don’t worry, i live in Victoria, just wait a couple of hours and it should be different again.  A Phlomis italica  suddenly looked at me strangely  just then.



Irony, another definition.

Hi there,

Last week I had one of our cars booked in to get new tyres put on it and on the way there, you guessed it, I was pulled over in our little town by a cop from a big town.  “License please”, here you go(pass over license).  “Is this your car your driving”, yes.  “You been drinking today”, no(bear in mind its 9:50am Saturday morning).  “How many did you have last night”, What the!(no I didn’t say that, maybe I thought it though, what’s with the Spanish inquisition!).  None sir,  “Here ,blow into this in a continuous breath until I say stop”, phuuuuuuuuuuuugh. ‘Stop, Thanks”, no worries.  Then I see him start looking at the tyres and I’m thinking,  “And Here we go” (like how the Joker says it in Batman).  He walks around the car checking each tyre, then comes back to me and before he can say anything, I go.  “You won’t believe this but I actually have a 10:30am appointment at Tyrepower to get my tyres done and that’s where I was heading”.  “No worries, but I am giving you a defect notice, it’s not a fine but its to make sure that you get them fixed within 7 days”.  Groan( inside I did, I think I muttered “Sure officer, three bags full”).

So, the long and the short of it is

  • The car was booked in for new tyres
  • The car got pulled over
  • New tyres were put on
  • Vicroads have cleared the defect notice
  • All is well in the world

That’s my new definition of Irony, you just wouldn’t dream about it.


Great Expectations

Hi There,

While I was weeding a few weeks ago I came across a clump of grass like foliage which reminded me again of the surprise that bulbs bring.  They hide underground for  the majority of the year, then the send up foliage then comes the flowers, then set seed and then the foliage dies off and the bulb pulls the nutrients out of the leaves back into itself to provide energy for itself and grow for the following season.  In the photo below we have the said clump of weedy grass like clump which is Narcissus bulbocodium ssp. bulbocodium. Now your thinking  WHAT THE!! but don’t panic it’s also known as one of the charming hoop petticoat daffodils.


Doesn’t look like much doe’s it.  All will be revealed later on.  This species is native to parts of Spain, Portugal, France and Morocco and grows in the mountains on acid soils. Foliage is a nice chive green colour and looks similar as well – round and about 15cm tall.

In the photo below you can see some buds starting to come up.


Not long after we see the beautiful cheery sulphur yellow blooms that look like hoop petticoats if you turn your head on to the side.  Try it.


The above ones are not yet fully open, so try looking at the photo below with your head on the side.  Now you get the picture!


Why have you got your head on the side, you look quite ridiculous.  Here’s a couple more photos just for the fun of it.  With bulbs there is an expectation when you notice the foliage for what’s to come and the reward is great when they flower.  That’s why I like them.  Cheers.


Hot under the collar

Hi there again,

After all these years of gardening i finally have my first greenhouse.  Not sure how I’ve managed to get through life without one, but now with recycled benches and materials from my workplace, we have lift off.  The heat generated by this wonder is immense and i reckon any day over 20 degrees celsius the front cover needs to be rolled up or else there will be a lot of plants hot under the collar!  Here it is in construction mode sitting on its final resting place, waiting to be covered.


I know its pretty rough and ready, but it wont be falling over in the near future and its very serviceable. Not too concerned about aesthetics here as you can see.  Notice the ground, we had about 60mm of rain in a 10 day period on already soaked ground.  My boots were producing mud pies-Lovely!   Here it is now covered with greenhouse plastic, this needs to go on a certain way.  A bit like tin foil which has a matt surface and a shiny reflective surface, although I couldn’t notice much difference between the two sides.  Lucky for me there was some fine print saying “This side in”.  As with all fine print situations, easily missed.


Now! How do we get in this thing, run a knife up the two front corners and roll up the plastic I suppose.  Good, let’s do that then.


Nice.  Look at all those  little Salvia’s powering along.  Don’t worry, both levels are now full.  Need to start another one me thinks…..Here’s the cost breakdown.

Shelving: Kindly donated by workplace

Racking: Kindly donated by workplace

Timber: Kindly donated by workplace

Tek screws: Kindly donate by workplace

Geenhouse plastic: $50 for 2 metres(7 metres wide) from local nursery.

Total cost: priceless.

No testing or harm was done to any insects during the construction of this greenhouse.  I may have accidently sprayed the mozzies though.

Here’s some more plants to look at as well, not too many….


Cheery for now.