Tag Archives: Daphne genkwa

Singing the praises of blue flowers

???????????????????????????????I am firmly of the view that you can never have too much blue in the garden. While green is effectively colour neutral – every garden has green and usually in abundance – blue is the versatile colour that fits in with all others. The addition of a little blue can lift a pastel colour scheme, add complexity to a white garden, make orange zing or stand as an equal partner in a blue and yellow border. No matter what the dominant colour scheme is, blue will fit in.

Eryngium planum

Eryngium planum

Eryngium planum

This summer flowering perennial has beautiful blooms which look like steel blue teasels and last for many weeks. Plants form tidy rosettes of foliage at ground level and the slightly prickly flower spikes can reach a metre high. Unfortunately, the plants need support – either staking individually or growing through taller plants, although the form sold as ‘Blue Hobbit’ is reputed to be lower growing, thereby avoiding the need to stake. Full sun and good drainage are the rules for growing eryngiums. While often referred to as sea holly, that is more correctly applied to E. maritimum which can be seen growing wild on the coast of Cornwall.

Grown from seed, plants will flower in their second season. Both Kings and Egmont Seeds have eryngiums or you can try your local garden centre.

Nigella damascens

Nigella damascens

Nigella damascens

Love-in-a-mist, as this summer annual is oft referred, has an ethereal lightness which makes it appear to dance through the garden. The foliage is so fine that it can be described as lacy and it takes up next to no space in the sunny, summer garden, combining well with roses and perennials. It does come in pink, white and purple tones as well now, but nothing beats the more common, pure blues in my opinion. Once flowering has finished, even the seed pod is attractive – a bubble-like capsule not dissimilar to a swan plant. Seed is widely available and once you have established plants for the first season, leave one or two to go to seed and it will keep returning in subsequent summers.

Jacaranda mimosifolia

Jacaranda mimosifolia

Jacaranda mimosifolia

There are not many blue flowering trees which may explain why large parts of the world have fallen in love with the summer jacaranda. It is native to Bolivia and Argentina and is fully deciduous. Unfortunately, this does not make it hardy and it is a tree for the warmer north or mild coastal areas of the mid north. It is usually regarded as subtropical but if you have excellent drainage and only the occasional light frost, you can extend its range. In return, it will reward you with a beautiful mass display of lilac-blue summer flowers and a carpet of blue petals below. Over time, it forms an open, airy tree reaching 8 to 10 metres in height.

If your local garden centre cannot find you a plant, Trees & More in Tauranga have it listed for sale.

Daphne genkwa

Daphne genkwa

Daphne genkwa

A lilac-blue daphne? Yes indeed. D. genkwa is as spectacular as any shrub when flowering, though rather anonymous at other times of the year. Unlike most daphnes we grow in the garden, it is fully deciduous with willow-like leaves and arching growth. While it is lightly scented, it is grown predominantly for its early spring floral display. This is not a plant that likes to be moved or trimmed so give it a permanent location with plenty of space to grow – at least 2 metres in diameter. The back of a border with lower growing plants in front will allow it to star when in bloom and remain unobtrusive at other times.

Genkwa is not rare, but it is difficult to propagate because it has to be done from root cuttings so it is not widely available. Ask a good garden centre to see if they can source it from one of the few growers producing it in New Zealand.

That is a true blue verbascum. (Photo: Thompson and Morgan)

That is a true blue verbascum. (Photo: Thompson and Morgan)

Verbascum Blue Lagoon

You will have to hold your breath for this one. As far as I know it is not yet available in New Zealand but we are waiting in hope that it may be imported some time in the near future. It was first released at the 2012 Chelsea Flower Show in London and is a remarkable colour breakthrough in large-flowered verbascums. It appears that it is a genuine pure blue and, according to the renowned seed company Thompson and Morgan, whose plant breeder is responsible for this selection, it is perennial, albeit probably a shortlived perennial. Many of the verbascums are biennial, flowering in their second year, setting seed and dying. Blue Lagoon offers the promise of spires of pure blue in the late spring garden without the problems of the fussier delphiniums.

Iris sibirica

Iris sibirica

Iris sibirica

This clumping iris is one of the easiest to grow, flowering from mid spring onwards with rich blue flower heads held above grassy or spear-like foliage. Generally the foliage is about 50cm high and the flowers reach 70cm. It originates from central Europe, Turkey through to Russia so it is hardy to cold winters. It grows best in sun to partial shade with heavier soils which don’t dry out. This is a plant which can be left undisturbed for several years while the clump gently expands. Plant it with large leaved perennials like bergenia ciliata or ligularias to keep an attractive contrast in summer foliage, long after the flowering season is over. It is a little untidy when the foliage dies off in winter but that is its only disadvantage. Iris sibirica is widely available from nurseries and garden centres.

Meconopsis or Himalayan blue poppy

Meconopsis or Himalayan blue poppy

Meconopsis or Himalayan blue poppy

Nothing matches the electric blue that is sometimes found in meconopsis though, as these are seed grown, the shade can vary. There is something about the simplicity of a simple poppy flower in pure blue – a mere four petals surrounding golden stamens – that is completely beguiling. Unfortunately, they can be very difficult to grow and are usually a waste of time for gardeners at the warmer end of the islands. They are alpine meadow plants so are going to perform better in conditions with cold, drier winters. Plants available in New Zealand are often listed as M. X Sheldonii which is a cross between betonicifolia (which is biennial, flowering in its second year) and grandis (which is meant to be more perennial). These are deciduous plants and too often they fail to return in the second year, as many gardeners will attest. But if you can find the right conditions, they will enchant you in late spring. If you buy a plant, remove the flower head in the first year to allow it to put its energies into getting established, rather than weakening itself by flowering and setting seed. Seed is best collected and sown in trays rather than left to fall in the hope that plants will naturalise themselves.

Seed of M. betonicifolia is available from a number of sources, including Egmont Seeds. Plants are sometimes offered from southern nurseries, including Wake Robin Nursery in Balclutha.

Cordyline stricta

Cordyline stricta

Cordyline stricta

New Zealand does not have exclusive claim to cabbage trees. The lovely blue flowered C. stricta hails from coastal New South Wales up into Queensland but is surprisingly hardy. It will take light to moderate frosts and coastal winds and can grow in full sun to shade. One of the big advantages as a garden plant is that the caterpillar which attacks our native cordylines is also native and appears to shun foreigners, so C. stricta does not get that chewed, motheaten look of our own cabbage trees. Stricta is clump forming and individual stems can reach about 3 metres in height. In summer, many panicles of lilac blue flowers appear, lasting for several weeks. Unlike our native varieties, they lack any scent.

Stricta is a versatile plant that can be used as a specimen or combined with a tropical, succulent or even a shaded woodland look. It also makes a handsome large container plant.

Cordyline stricta will be available in some northern garden centres but also sometimes on Trade Me and from Russell Fransham Subtropicals in Matapouri Bay.

Moraea villosa or peacock iris

Moraea villosa or peacock iris

Moraea villosa

This South African plant is commonly known as the peacock iris as its three petalled flower resembles the eye of a peacock feather. While the colour is variable, the blue or blue and white forms are the most common. Individual flowers are short-lived but each stem produces a succession of blooms in early spring. Held up on wiry stems, they can appear to dance lightly above the garden. These plants grow from corms and will do best in free-draining or sandy soils in full sun. The foliage is long, fine and grassy but gets a little scruffy before it dies down in early summer. Once you have Moraea villosa, it multiplies readily both from seed and the corms but we have not found it to have weed potential.

While not rare, this is one of those odd bulbs that you are most likely to source through Trade Me rather than finding it offered for sale in garden centres.

First published in the New Zealand Gardener and reprinted here with their permission.

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Plant Collector: Daphne genkwa

Daphne genkwa - as lovely as a flowering shrub can be

Daphne genkwa – as lovely as a flowering shrub can be

We only grow a few types of daphne in gardens although there are many more known species. Most are grown for their fragrance, rather than any spectacular display. D. genkwa is different. Once established, it is as spectacular as any flowering shrub in the garden and in a most unusual hue of lilac blue. Because it is deciduous, all you see in late winter or early spring are arching branches smothered in the prettiest of displays. The individual flowers don’t even look like the usual daphnes, being larger, more delicate and of different form with a long corolla or tube.

What it lacks is a strong scent. In fact I didn’t realise it had any scent at all until I put my nose right amongst the flowers. This one is grown for its looks. Genkwa is renowned for being difficult to propagate so is not widely available. It is generally done from root cuttings. If you can find one, plant it somewhere with plenty of space to grow – maybe two metres all round to accommodate its arching growth. I killed an established specimen by trimming it after flowering one year so the replacement plants, bought at some expense, will be left entirely to their own destiny. It has fine, light foliage so when not in flower, is just an anonymous border shrub.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

The sweet smell of daphne in winter

Daphne odora - happy around the back by the rubbish tin.

Daphne odora – happy around the back by the rubbish tin.

We have never forgotten the nursery colleagues who told us that their range included lemon trees and daphnes “because you can sell a lemon tree to pretty much every household and everybody has to replace their daphne every five years or so”. I had never thought about it before, but they were right. Most New Zealand gardens have at least one of each and daphnes do not rank up there as long lived plants. But we wouldn’t be without them in the winter garden.

While there are upwards of 60 different species in the wild, in terms of garden plants in this country, generally you have a choice of odora, odora or odora with occasional breaks for D. bholua and if you are really lucky, you might spot the little ground hugging D. cneorum (with its silent c), the dainty D. x burkwoodii, or the remarkable blue D. genkwa. You may buy your odora by many other names, but if it has typical daphne foliage and flowers, it is just an odora selection. The flowers are generally small and a mix of lilac pink and white with a range of subtle variations. Some are darker, pinker or even pure white. I bought one that was reputedly apricot but that was wishful thinking with the description.

The good and the bad of the Himalayan Daphne bholua

The good and the bad of the Himalayan Daphne bholua

We have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Himalayan Daphne bholua. In our opinion it has the best and strongest fragrance of all and it has a long flowering season. Its upright habit of growth means it fits into borders and beside paths well. That is the good side. On the down side it suckers (spreads underground), seeds much too freely and is dispersed by birds so has weed potential. It also becomes very scruffy with time. It is semi deciduous which means it is neither one thing nor the other – it drops some leaves and those that hang on often look messy. The form is ugly and it can get quite large after a few years if you don’t stay on top of the pruning. So it is not a plant of great beauty at all, but its scent is superb. Hide it at the back of the border in behind more attractive plants so that it can wow you with its fragrance.

The blue flowered Daphne genkwa from China is remarkable. For most of the year it is just an anonymous willowy shrub. It is fully deciduous, so drops all its leaves in autumn. Then in late August, all those whippy growths burst into lilac blue flowers down their length. It is a wondrous sight. Some claim a light perfume, but I think that is imagination. It is just one of the loveliest shrubs you will ever see in flower. Alas, it is difficult to propagate (it is generally done from root cuttings) and can be difficult to get established so it is not common. However, it is still produced commercially and a good garden centre may be able to order it in for you. Plant it where it has good light, good drainage and plenty of space so it won’t need trimming. I killed a well established plant by cutting it back and I wasn’t that brutal. I loved it so much I bought three replacements and these will be planted with plenty of space so they should never need pruning.

Deciduous, lacking scent and blue lilac but it is probably the most spectacular - Daphne genkwa

Deciduous, lacking scent and blue lilac but it is probably the most spectacular – Daphne genkwa

Growing tips: daphnes are not suitable plants to grow in containers. Mostly they look unhealthy and straggly because it is hard to get the potting mix right. It is much easier to keep them lush and healthy planted in the garden, even more so if you pick a position out of full sun. The odoras and bholua are often a good choice for the more shaded house borders. While they need good light levels, they are quite happy with little or no direct sun.

Daphnes prefer rich loamy conditions, neither acid nor alkaline. They won’t love you if you put them in waterlogged conditions either so look for spots with good drainage which never get bone dry either. Keep them mulched with compost or leaf litter.

While Daphne bholua will accept hard pruning, most other types won’t. You are better to take a bit more care and think more about pinching out new growth to encourage bushiness and shaping with secateurs, rather than hacking bark hard all over.

Because they are winter flowering, finding locations near to where you walk in winter means you will get more benefit. This is one of the few plants with such strong scent that you will pause and look for the source so plant it where that can happen. Only D. genkwa is spectacular in flower, so they are wasted in more removed locations. Round the back of house near the rubbish bin is a handy location for us though we have quite a few other plants all over the place.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

Plants that Delight

This article was first published in the Weekend Gardener Magazine, issue 316, June 2 – 15, 2011

Bromeliads - a vriesea

Bromeliads - a vriesea

Bromeliads
Generally speaking, I am not a fan of prickly, spiky plants (I have always felt that yuccas in particular were aptly named) but I am willing to make an exception for the bromeliad family even though it means donning protective gear when it comes to working amongst them. We use them extensively in dry woodland conditions and for much of the year they just sit around being extremely undemanding, bar the occasional clean up to remove accumulated debris.

It is when they flower, that bromeliads look exotic. The range of blooms is extraordinary and there is nothing quite like them. Some of them have strange, flattish flowers which might be cast out of thick wax, dyed in parrot colours. What is more, the flowers last for ages. I haven’t timed them but we are into months, rather than weeks. This one is a vriesea of some sort but we have never become experts on the genus, despite growing a range of different ones. Our cool, frost free, high shade conditions keep them looking particularly lush. With some of our plantings dating back to the early 1950s, we would rate them as one of the lower maintenance garden plants.

Bromeliads are readily available and many are easy to multiply for the home gardener. If you want to learn more about bromeliads, check out “Bromeliads for the Contemporary Garden” by Weekend Gardener writer, Andrew Steens.

Meconopsis

Meconopsis

Meconopsis
The simplest poppy form – a mere four petals surrounding a ring of golden stamens – is always charming, no matter the colour. When it comes in pure blue, it enters a league of its own.

Coming from the Himalayas, these are plants which are happier in much drier, colder conditions. We have to work at keeping them going here, where we have high rainfall, high humidity and generally mild conditions. They certainly don’t seed down and naturalise for us as they will in parts of the South Island but when they come into flower each spring, it is worth every bit of effort.

We don’t generally let them flower in the first year because if they put their effort into setting seed, the young plants tend to die. If we delay the flowering, we have more chance of some at least becoming perennial, albeit still comparatively short lived. Fresh seed is easy enough to raise but best done in seed trays and not merely broadcast to the ground with a wish and a prayer.

Meconopsis are available in New Zealand both as seed and as plants. If you have a choice, Meconopsis x sheldonii shows a little more vigour than either grandis or betonicifolia. All come in blue, though there are also white, pale yellow and red meconopsis which are nice to add in to a garden but no replacement for the beautiful and eye-catching blue.

Magnolia Felix Jury

Magnolia Felix Jury

Deciduous magnolias
How could I be a Jury and not put deciduous magnolias in my top favourites? These trees are surely one of the most spectacular on the planet when in full flower, though it has to be said that the bigger the flower, the better in terms of impressive display.

Magnolia trees just get better with size and age which seems entirely appropriate for a genus which is ancient – so old that it does not even have proper petals. What we usually call petals are in fact tepals. They evolved before bees so originally adapted to be pollinated by beetles – hence the fact they have pollen but no nectar.

To get maximum flowering, select a variety which sets flower buds down the stem rather than just on the tips. Some varieties like the purple Lanarth can take your breath away but only for about 10 days. Others, like Iolanthe or Felix Jury, flower over many weeks, extending the display. Indeed, spring flowering on Iolanthe extends over at least eight weeks from first to last bloom and there is the bonus of random flowers over summer.

Daphne genkwa

Daphne genkwa

Daphne genkwa
A daphne with no scent? Yes, but it is so spectacular in flower that the absence of fragrance does not seem to matter. It is also deciduous, which we do not expect from a daphne and it flowers before it comes into leaf so all that is visible is a mass of graceful whips smothered in lavender blue flowers.
I think you can never have too much blue in a garden. It is a colour that complements all others and while I will admit that genkwa is not a pure toned blue, it is still blue enough for me.

D. genkwa is not easy to propagate and is generally increased from root cuttings. Neither is it easy to get established. In fact it is definitely on the touchy side. This plant was a particularly fine specimen but outgrew its allotted space so I pruned it after flowering, as you do. It promptly died, to my great disappointment. I am trying again, but this time as specimen shrubs with plenty of space to grow so they will not need to be pruned. Daphne genkwa is available in New Zealand but is not standard garden centre fare so you may need to find an obliging operator to order it in for you. It is a Chinese shrub and, being deciduous, it is generally rated as hardy.

Narcissus cyclamineus

Narcissus cyclamineus

Dwarf narcissi
In a large garden with some enormous trees, we love the tiny treasures that give detail to the bigger picture. We also have more success with the baby narcissus than with their larger cousins. They don’t seem to be quite so vulnerable to the dreaded narcissi fly, possibly because many of them flower earlier in the season.

These little cyclamineus seedlings always make us smile. With the reflexed skirt of petals, they are rather reminiscent of floppy eared dogs with the heads out the car window and ears streaming behind in the wind.

We grow a whole range of different dwarf varieties – species, named hybrids and unnamed seedlings, tucked into positions around the garden. The first to bloom are the Narcissus bulbocodium citrinus or hooped petticoat types which can show colour as early as late April while others continue the display through to late September. The best known dwarf variety is probably Tete-a- Tete, but there are innumerable others which are offered for sale from time to time.

Cyclamen hederafolium

Cyclamen hederafolium

Cyclamen species
These little treasures mostly hail from southern Europe and northern Africa but some varieties are particularly suited to New Zealand gardens.

The most widely available variety is Cyclamen hederafolium (formerly known as neapolitanum) which puts its first flowers up in our garden in January and flowers through until May or even June. After that, the marbled, heart-shaped leaves are attractive in themselves. C. hederafolium comes in shades of pink and pure white. Following on from them, we have a lot of success with C. coum in winter and C. repandum in spring.

Cyclamen are particularly successful planted in drifts on woodland margins in dappled light but they are pretty adaptable in a range of conditions as long as they have good drainage. They are easy enough to raise from fresh seed if you know of anybody with plants and they grow to form tubers which are like round, flattish discs.

Rhododendron Yvonne Scott

Rhododendron Yvonne Scott

Rhododendrons
Unfortunately, the glory days of rhododendrons have been and gone in this country, but we would not be without them in our garden. Our particular favourites are the nuttalliitypes with their large, waxy trumpet flowers, most of which are scented. Combine that with big, heavily textured leaves (the technical term is bullate foliage) and the most beautiful cinnamon brown bark which peels off in long tendrils leaving a shiny trunk behind.

Add in the fact that these plants show generally healthy characteristics in warmer climates. They can get a touch of thrip but nowhere near as much as colder climate plants and they are not susceptible to the brown crisping round the edges of the leaves which disfigures so many varieties.

If I could only grow one rhododendron, R. sino nuttallii would be my first choice. Sino just means it comes from China (there is another Himalayan form). Fortunately we can grow many so we have a fair range of the nuttalliis and their hybrids, including the lovely and distinctive Yvonne Scott. Huge lime green buds open to lime flowers which fade out to white within two days, but keep the green flare in the throat. Mi Amor is probably the most widely available nuttallii hybrid on the market. While we might not rate it as the best, nuttalliis are not readily available so you might have to grab whatever you can find.

In the Garden this week: September 10, 2010

Daphne genkwa looked fantastic last year - but died when I pruned it after flowering

Daphne genkwa looked fantastic last year - but died when I pruned it after flowering

  • The common daphne is odora and does not appreciate hard pruning. Dainty Daphne x burkwoodii can also be touchy. Keep pruning to a light haircut each year rather than a major cut-back. The Himalayan Daphne bholua has a more robust constitution and can get rather large, scruffy and leggy if left to its own devices. This one you can cut back hard. Now is the time to prune those daphnes which are finishing their winter flowering. The beautiful blue Daphne genkwa will be coming into flower soon – don’t even prune this one. I killed a splendid, established specimen last year by cutting it back after flowering.
  • If you can reduce your number of slugs and snails now, you will be reducing the breeding population when they get frisky as spring temperatures warm up.
  • Keep an eye on emerging hostas because you can be sure that all slugs and snails are watching closely for this manna from the soil. Jenny Oakley from Manaia swears by the use of crushed eggshells sprinkled on the crown of the hosta before the leaves unfurl to deter early munchers though she also follows up with bait later. Ringing the plants in sand, coffee grounds, sawdust or anything gritty is said to discourage some slimy predators though Mark is sceptical of this claim. However, the bakers bran liberally sprinkled around plants under attack worked a treat and is an environmentally friendly technique – the birds eat the bloated slugs and snails.
  • It is the last chance to get a crop of late broad beans sown. If you leave it any later, it won’t be worth the effort and space. Get carrots sown soon. Don’t fertilise carrots but they need well cultivated soil to get their roots down. Fresh animal manure is a particular no-no for carrots and causes forking of the carrot and too much leafy top growth.
  • If you want to plant yams, you can be setting them to sprout in trays now. Yams are frost tender but need a long growing season (five to six months) so you want to get them started as soon as the danger of late frosts is over.
  • You can continue lifting and dividing perennials as they come into growth because they have the energy to overcome the havoc and destruction you wreak on their root systems and crowns. If you have many to do, prioritise the spring perennials and then follow up with summer ones like coreopsis, asters and chrysanthemums.

Daphne genkwa – flowering this week

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Daphne genkwa - a vision in lilac blue

Daphne genkwa - a vision in lilac blue

A daphne with no scent? What sort of plant is that? So asked a weekend visitor but we all agreed here that any plant that can look like this is worth its weight in gold. It is completely deciduous so flowers with no leaves at all and every arching branch is smothered in pure lilac blue flowers and has been for a good couple of weeks now. There are not many relatively compact shrubs that mass flower in late winter, let alone in blue. It makes such a statement in the garden that we are resolved to propagate more to use.

Genkwa is an oriental species, native to China and long prized in Japanese gardens. It can be a touchy character to get established. This specimen is our third effort but it is worth persevering. It is available on the New Zealand market though you may need to find an obliging garden centre to order it in for you if they do not have it in stock.