Saturday, September 17, 2016

Made for the shade


Just like me, our garden is slowly ageing, but unlike innocent old me, our garden is getting shadier ...

Our major shade-spreader is our frangipani tree, and as it’s so beautiful and fragrant we’re enjoying letting it grow. By midsummer, once its canopy fills out, there’s a lot more shade in our garden than there used to be.


The frangipani is one of “Pammy’s plants” and it’s a favourite child of ours because we have raised it over many years from a single cutting taken from a friend’s garden. So it has a history that makes it even more special.


So, with major cutbacks off the agenda, we’ve decided to take it easy and grow more shade-loving plants in a our increasingly shady areas. Such as these yellow clivias, which love life under our frangipani tree.

Yellow clivias? Yep. The usual ones are orange or salmon-orange. The other colours (most commonly pale yellow) cost a lot more — they’re twice the price of orange ones in our little local garden centre — but they are becoming more available, and I prefer the yellow to the orange. We bought our yellow ones at a garden show, and they weren’t outrageously overpriced.


Clivias are yet another happy South African migrant to our shores, they’re everywhere in Sydney and that’s because they’re easy to look after. Over the years they’ll form bigger and bigger clumps.

Eventually, and I mean after several years, the flowering of the clumps might slow down due to overcrowding, so you will need to dig up the clump, divide it into several smaller plants, replant them, then put your feet up for another decade. Well, that’s how it works in heaven.

We had orange-flowered clivias growing here in the early 1990s, and they thrived back then, but I decided to get rid of them in one of our occasional garden renovations, gave them all to our good friend Zora (sister of Krissy, our frangipani cutting supplier, so we’re going full circle here, folks), and they’ve been thriving at her place ever since. These plants really do love East Coast Australia.


As far as caring for clivias goes, I almost don’t. Never water them, no nothing. Apart from being included in the annual Aromatherapy Garden Festival called “The Casting of the Chicken Poo”, which always takes place on a day when rain is forecast in late winter (this is as close as my life gets to religious festivals), the clivias just have to fend for themselves.

Mind you, Sydney gets a fair bit of rain every year, so if you are somewhere that gets less rainfall, you might have to point your garden hose at your clivias occasionally.


Also doing very well in our shady spots, New Guinea Impatiens have a good future here. We planted some two years ago and they’re still doing OK. Being from New Guinea, they don’t love Sydney winters but they do survive them, and once summer comes on they’re happier again.

The first batch we grew came in a punnet of seedlings, and the only problem was the flower colours: too many reds and pinks for our liking, and only some white.

This time we’ve bought larger potted plants, with the rich salmon flower colour than Pam and I prefer.


Our brilliant plan is to take lots of cuttings of the salmon-flowered plants over the coming months, and slowly but surely turn our shady patches into little seas of green new Guinea impatiens foliage topped with a mosaic of salmon and white blooms, with our cuttings-grown plantings.


Yes, cuttings are a great way to save money but they’re also the ideal way to make sure you are getting (and multiplying) the flower colours you want.