Cactus Country. Part 2.

Hi There!

Lets continue our journey around Cactus Country.  All I can remember saying was wow!  Look at this one, look at that!  It was pretty awe-inspiring to see so many different types of cacti.  They had a pretty informative guide-book and a find it sheet for kids, but I do have a couple of gripes.

1.There were no identification name tag/plates thingies or whatever you want to call them.  So how does a cacti novice like me know what I’m looking at or want to purchase for myself later down the track???  I know it might cost a lot of money and take time to do and maintain but plant names are highly important in my mind.

2. Then when we get to the nursery area its nigh on empty!!  What the!!  I could have counted on my fingers and toes the amount of different species in the nursery.  Consider this, Cactus country has 10 acres of display gardens and their website states ” Australia’s largest Cactus garden with an extensive plant sales area”.

Maybe I was just there at the wrong time, maybe someone had bought all their stock the day before, maybe I just missed out.  Maybe I was just feeling deflated that I couldn’t dive straight into a cacti collecting frenzy.

Enough of the self-pity, one thing is for sure.  I will be going back to Cactus Country, it really was quite fantastic!

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Stay tuned for part 3, the finale!



Cactus Country. Part 1

Hi There!

Cactus and Succulents are plants that are not really in my sphere of interest, I’ve taken this point of view for nigh on twenty years and I’ve been strong in my dislike for them.  I can’t explain what has happened because I don’t know what has happen because now I seem to be softening in my stance towards these plants.  So much so that in the last six months I have started to look at them and admire them.  I now look at things like World of Succulents on Facebook,  Danger Garden and Succulents and More(2 excellent blogs that I read).  I also discovered recently a place called Cactus Country which is located in Strathmerton, Victoria about an hour and 50 minutes from us.  So we decided a visit was required and this is what we saw!

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I’m sorry I don’t have names for any of these, I don’t have the foggiest idea!  I know some are Ferocactus, Agaves, Opuntias, Cereus, Saguaro, Trichocereus and Yuccas.  But that’s about it.  For now I just hope you have enjoyed the photos of these amazing plants in all their varied shapes, colours and spines!


A right royal Golden Celebration

Hi there!

Another great rose is Golden Celebration which was bred by David Austin.  I had a row of standards of these at a previous garden and they were always spectacular.  Reason enough to feature it again in my current garden.  To me its one of those must have plants.  Check out these photos.

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Plants in Focus #6

Hi there!

In this edition we will look at another Salvia which is a great long flowering hardy plant.

Salvia eigii

Salvia eigii is a beautiful herbaceous perennial which is native to Mediterranean woodlands and Shrub lands in Israel.  It  grows in a clump with leaves in a rosette formation to about 30-50cm high and 60-100cm wide.  The flower stalk will grow to about 100cm high and has branching inflorescences.


The flowers grow in whorls on the branching inflorescences which are about 20-30cm long. The flowers have a white lip and the hood is a light mauve colour on mine.  Although literature describes it as having a pink lower lip and purple hood and ruby coloured calyx.  Flowering time is from winter through to spring.  Although mine can still have flowers into mid summer.

Salvia eigii

Close up of flowers below show their colour.  Purple hood may be more apparent when flowers are new.  Always remember that soils can play a big part in flower colour as well.


The leaves are a dark green colour and can grow quite large, even up to 30cm long and 20cm wide.  They are entire leaves and the margin is dentate or serrate and the arrangement is opposite(two leaves per node).


Salvia eigii is a drought and frost tolerant plant which makes it desirable for many situations.  Excellent by its self in mixed planting or planted en mass in groups of 3 or 5 would make it look stunning.  Easily grown in full sun or even dappled or light shade.  Below you can see how the leaves are arranged opposite each other at each node.


It was named after Alexander Eig 1894-1938 who was a botanist at the Hebrew University in Israel and one of the first plant researchers in that country.  Born in Schedrin near Minsk in Belarus and died in Jerusalem from Cancer. He immigrated to Palestine when he was 15.  This is an excellent Salvia to provide a splash of colour in those winter months when not much is flowering, and even as we move into the warmer months, it still continues to flower.  All that is needed to keep it tidy is to prune the spent flower stems right back to its base.  See below the many branched inflorescences.



Plants in Focus #5

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In this edition we will look at Penstemon barbatus, an outstanding member of the genus Penstemon  also commonly known as Beard tongues.  Penstemon barbatus commonly called Scarlet Bugler, is a beautiful plant flowering in summer with scarlet red flowers on tall stems to 90-100cm tall.  Stems can sometimes be shorter or taller as well.  There is also pink varieties available, yellow too.  The lower lip of the corolla is bent back sharply giving it a shark’s head silhouette, see below.


Barbatus means bearded and this is evident on the palate which is densely yellow bearded.  See below.


Basal leaves are glossy, 5-13cm long and mostly lanceolate or they can be ovate or spatulate.  Edges can be wavy or smooth.  The cauline leaves(on the stem) are linear to lanceolate and stemless.  The plant has a woody base with glossy leaves arranged in large basal mats.  I have one that’s about 50cm wide.


See above basal leaves and below a close up.


Below are the cauline leaves


Not normally a long-lived plant usually 5-10 years, longevity can be increased by deadheading.  Commonly pollinated by humming birds in its native habit although bee’s will pollinate as well.  I have found this Penstemon easily grown from stem cuttings.


Notice above how the stems rise majestically above the foliage, and below is a closeup of the flowering stem.


Native to Colorado to Arizona, Western Texas, New Mexico, Northern Mexico and South Utah, growing on dry hillsides and flats in sagebrush, pinyon and juniper, ponderosa and gambel pine communities.  Seen at altitudes of between 1300-2700m.  Will grow in a variety of soils but needs excellent drainage in area’s of high rainfall.  Drought and frost tolerant, best in full sun but will tolerate part shade as well.


An excellent Penstemon to grow in any garden situation for a flush of bright red flowers to brighten your day.




Plants in Focus #4

Hi there!

In this episode of Plants in focus we will look at a plant from the genus Spiraea.  This is a genus of approximately 80-100 species of shrubs mostly that are from  the Rosaceae family.  They are native to the Northern Hemisphere and the majority can be found in Asia.  Most are hardy deciduous shrubs.  Leaves are simple and arranged in an alternating spiral pattern.  Most species have lanceolate leaves(long and narrow) and the margins are usually toothed, sometimes cut or lobed.  The flowers are clustered together in inflorescences, mostly in dense panicles, umbrella like corymbs.

Spiraea cantoniensis is a deciduous or sometimes semi-evergreen shrub with showy clusters of white flowers in the middle of spring.  They don’t last long but the effect of massed flowers is quite spectacular.  Small rose like flowers have 5 or many more petals and they are borne in round clusters(corymbs) about 5-6cm in diameter.


S. cantoniensis is native to China in the province of Jiangxi and has been widely cultivated elsewhere in China and Japan for many centuries.  Jiangxi is located in the southeast of the country and the name is derived from the circuit administrated under the Tang Dynasty in 733.  Jiangnanxidao, Circuit of Western Jiangnan.  The Gan river dominates this province flowing through its entire length.  The Gan enters Lake Poyang in the north(largest freshwater lake in China) and in turn empties into the Yangtze River.  Climate is humid subtropical with short cool winters and hot humid summers. Annual rainfall is 1200 to 1900mm which may equate to why rice is the dominant crop in this province.  There are more than 2000 species of woody plants here as well.  The ancient Ginkgo also makes its home here.


See above how the plant has a nice arching effect.  This plant is also known as ‘Reeves spirea and bridal wreath and May bush, although many people will automatically call a Spiraea a may bush, it may not really be known as one.  Again, the need for scientific names is critical.  The name ‘May Bush’ relates to the fact that it flowers in the month of May in the Northen Hemisphere.  Usually late September and October and early November in the Southern Hemisphere.

This Spiraea will generally grow to about 1.5 x 1.5 metres with arching reddish-brown stems and green lanceolate toothed leaves to about 3-5cm long.  The leaves will turn yellow in Autumn but sometimes they will persist.  This plant will grow in sun or part shade in most soil types and doesn’t mind a bit of neglect now and then.  Best if left unpruned if possible because this keeps its natural mound of gracefully arching stems.  Frost and drought tolerant and best in a mixed shrub border or as a specimen plant or even a hedge would look stunning.


Another view of the arching stems, magnificent!


Last but not least.  Enjoy!



Plants in Focus #3

Hi There!

Today we will look at a flowering cherry in my garden.  Flowering cherries are from the Rosaceae family and the genus Prunus comprises some 400 species found growing naturally in the Northern Hemisphere.  Prunus is the genus where all of the stone fruits are found which provides us with all the lovely edible fruits found worldwide on people’s tables and kitchens.  These can also be found in all types of food production including pies, preserves, jams, drinks and many more both in commercial and domestic kitchens.  Cherries can be found growing in Europe, Asia and North America.

The Japanese flowering cherries have long been collected and propagated on the many isolated islands of Japan and because of the Japanese language-spoken or visually presented this has complicated the many different varieties for non-Japanese speaking gardeners.  Many people have tried to document the countless different varieties of cherries and Roland M Jefferson has endeavoured many times to document and organise the world literature and put together living collections of cherries, so as to limit the confusion with names.  To understand this we need to look at the history of cherries in Japan.  We can see in the literature that a lot of cherries that escaped from cultivation in Japan are progeny of species planted in mountainous areas for the purpose of ‘Cherry viewing’ which is a favourite pastime in Japan and  still is.  This started over 1200 years ago.  There are references to cherries being planted in Japanese gardens before 794 A.D. as well.  So one can see with this timeframe that natural and assisted hybridisation would have taken place many times, and many people would have introduced different cherries frequently, some would have been lost then reintroduced, renamed and so it goes on.

Prunus ‘Amanogawa’ is an ideal tree for small spaces and gardens, it is columnar in habit and rarely exceeds 2 metres in width and reaching a height of approximately 5 metres at about 20 years old.  The leaves are mid green and serrated and have a slight copper colour to them when young.  They turn red and gold colours in Autumn.  Buds are pink and open to large flowers that are  semi-double, soft pink in colour and borne in dense clusters.  They will fade slightly to white.


Apparently the flowers are slightly fragrant, but I haven’t noticed them yet.  This tree is adaptable to a wide range of conditions but will prefer a moist well-drained soil in full to part shade.  I have noticed 2 different translations of the name ‘Amanogawa’ which are celestial river and ‘Milky way galaxy” or ‘River of the sky’.  Not sure how accurate these are, so I will leave them alone(see note above about naming cherries).  This tree was first mentioned in 1886 in a list of trees that were planted along the Arakawa River near Tokyo.  This river is one of the main rivers flowing through Tokyo.  It originates on Mount Kobushi in the Saitamam Prefecture and it empties into the Tokyo Bay.  Some interesting facts of this river is that its 173km long and the widest part of it is 2,537 metres wide, yes that’s 2.5km and the drainage basin covers 2,940 square Kilometres.


This cherry is also referred to as one of the Sato-zakura Group.  Sato-zakura translates as Village cherries which are cherries that are cultivated and not wild species.  Village cherries refers to the fact that hybridisation has been going on for centuries in Japanese gardens and villages.  The term Sato-zakura is used in England to describe cultivated Japanese cherries and many authors from Japan have done the same since the 19 hundreds.  This term complies with the cultivated code and is now established in the literature.  It has no taxonomic or botanical significance.  Its only used to indicate Japanese cherries of uncertain pedigrees.


In the above and below photo’s you can see the pink blush and the clusters of flowers.


Below you can see it rising above the garden bed majestically


And one more for good measure