Tag Archives: summer flowers


Edited: after information received yesterday, I realised I had a senior moment and some of the information in the original post was incorrect.

I don’t have a big collection of alstromerias and the tall ones can be bothersome as garden plants but I do quite like them. When I gathered them up, I seem to have about ten different ones, all ‘acquired’ as I say. This is not a plant family I have felt the need to go out and buy.

Why bothersome? They have a tendency to spread if left to their own devices. Some may call them invasive. They are difficult to eradicate because any parts of the fleshy tubers left behind will grow again. But the big problem is that the tall ones that I favour need staking. The stems are rarely strong enough to hold them up on their own.

I don’t like the murky pink with yellow thrid from the left but the remaining ones are all pretty

Alstromerias are much favoured as a cut flower, but I don’t often cut flowers to bring indoors. Every window in our house looks out onto gardens so it seems a bit unnecessary to bring flowers indoors to die. We don’t feel the need of house plants either. Alstros are sometimes called Peruvian lilies and the family tree does trace back to the lily group but their homeland is not limited to Peru. There are many different species found widely throughout South and Central America. The ever-handy Wikipedia tells me that most of our garden plants are hybrids between winter-growing species from Chile and summer-growing species from Brazil. They certainly have a long flowering season.

Some years ago, the ‘Princess lilies’ group hit the shelves in plant shops here and I sniffily dismissed them as part of the dwarfing down of fine big plants to make something like traffic island bedding plants. I never even bothered to look at them. Then I was given a white form and my dismissive attitude continued but I divided it up and planted it out. For the next two years, they still looked like tidy, traffic island, bedding plants to me. I didn’t like them and I still don’t. *Dot plants*, to coin a phrase from early Alan Titchmarsh.

Intermediate-sized ‘Summer Sky’ at the back, a ‘Princess lily’ at the front

Until yesterday, I thought my intermediate-sized white alstros that were delighting me this summer were that Princess series dot plant putting itself on steroids. In self-defence, plants that are dwarf in different climates can surprise us in our benign conditions and romp away well beyond their predicted size. But it was a senior moment on my part. I had forgotten entirely that a gardening friend gave these to me last year. It turns out there is a whole other alstromeria series that has been released internationally – including NZ – and these are from the Paradise Summer series. This one is, apparently, ‘Summer Sky’.  They are an intermediate size and generally strong enough to hold themselves up.

‘Summer Sky’ from the Paradise Summer range

I looked up both the ‘Princess lily’ and  ‘Paradise Summer’ series and both seem to have come from Dutch breeders. No surprises there. The Dutch do a lot of plant breeding and especially in the area of flowers for floristry or mass plantings.

Probably ‘Indian Summer’ from the Paradise Summer range

Two gardening friends have waxed eloquent about the merits of an orange flowered one with burgundy foliage. I think it is probably ‘Indian Summer’ and likely the same as this one I photographed at RHS Wisley some years ago. I can see it is an excellent performer but I think it is a bit garish, a bit ‘look at me! Look at me!’ for my taste. But maybe I could use it in the sunny borders. It is from the Paradise Summer series too. I may have to take a closer look at the other selections available in this group because there is a whole range of colours now available.

Finally, two bits of advice about alstromerias. Firstly, they benefit from being deadheaded. As long as your plant is well rooted in the ground, the advice from the professionals is to grab the spent flowering stem and tug the whole thing out of the ground rather than cutting it. The same goes for picking them. It is easier than cutting each stem and it leaves a cleaner plant.

Secondly, plant the tall varieties in groups, not drifts. I managed to get around all my clumps in the twin borders this year with stakes (forked pieces of dead yew branches in this case which become invisible, unlike bamboo stakes) and that has largely worked well to keep the flowers up. Where I planted them in drifts in the Iolanthe garden they are chaotic. Zach asked me recently if I had any advice on how to stake them and I didn’t. As soon as it rains, we will dig them and consolidate them into clumps that can be staked.

There is always room for improvement in gardening.

The pink is an alstromeria and when viewed close up, it is a sprawling mess that defeats any staking, let alone invisible staking

A week of paper wasps, fasciated lilies and crocosmia

A paper wasp nest

Look at this cute honeycomb nest. A small wonder of nature but not a welcome one. It is the nest of a paper wasp. I have lived my life blissfully unconcerned about these creatures. We have both the Australian and the Asian paper wasp in New Zealand, along with the more aggressive German and common wasp. Mark wages war every summer on the nests of the latter two.

The nest is fairly hard to spot in the foliage

Alas, a wasp from this nest that I hadn’t even noticed took exception to me cutting out some of the leafy tips of an over-large osmanthus. It stung me twice just below the eye and then buzzed me aggressively as I exited hastily. I didn’t even see it. I was more worried about getting to a mirror to work out whether it was a bee (in which case I would have needed to get the sting out) or a wasp. Mark went straight out and spotted the nest at eye level – he is observant, that man. They are quite hard to spot because there is not the busy coming and going that defines a common wasp nest. We looked on line and came to the conclusion that what he saw crawling over the nest was more likely an Australian than Asian paper wasp. Whichever, they are dead wasps now.

Left to right: German wasp, common wasp, Australian paper wasp, Asian paper wasp. Photo credit: unknown. All these wasps are unwelcome intruders to this country.

While unpleasant, two paper wasp stings do not appear to be as bad those from the larger common or German wasp. I kept ice cubes wrapped in cloth on them for an hour or more as required on the first day. The puffy swelling remained for another three days and the site remained tender to touch but not exactly painful, so it could have been much worse. At least I know what to look out for now.

We are past peak auratum lily season although there are still plenty in bloom as we enter late summer.

A mass of blooms on a single stem – a sign of fasciation

Here we have the curiosity of a fasciated lily, not to be confused with a fascinating lily unless you like freaks and novelties. It is an aberration in a plant, usually a seasonal deformity but not a lasting condition and it causes a flattening of the stem (basically it is two dimensional and ribbed) and a huge increase in the number of flowers but they are correspondingly smaller. The cause is unknown and it may stem from any number of things (including hormone spray damage but not in this situation) but presumably environmental because it does not appear to be a genetic issue in the plant. It is not likely to occur again in the same plant next year.

You can see the stem is very broad and ribbed. What you can’t see is that it is also almost flat.

I picked the white stem because the weight of the flowers was too heavy for the stem to hold it up but we have another example in the lily border which stands very sturdily, showing off its freakish growth. The local paper used to publish stories every year with some breathlessly excited gardener showing off their ‘special’ plant with its unusual head of flowers and flat stem but it is not rare and fasciation occurs across a wide range of plants. It is not generally stable or lasting but broccoli, apparently, is a freak fasciation that was stabilised. Google it, if you want to know more.

You can see a much fuller head of blooms and dense foliage on the fasciated lily in the centre

The crocosmias are starting to pass over but I like to line them up and compare them. Going left to right, we start with the common roadside weed. It is usually called montbretia in this country and while pretty, it is a seriously invasive weed. It washes down our stream in every flood and it is all down our roadsides but we certainly never introduced it ourselves. It multiplies readily both from the bulbs and by seed. Botanically, it is C. crocosmia x C. crocosmiiflora.

Second from the left is ‘Severn Sunrise’ and I am working to eradicate it from the garden. It appears to be just as invasive the common one and not much different in flower, habit or growth. I wonder if it is just a selection of the same cross. It may be more highly valued in countries where it is not such an invasive weed.

Third is red ‘Lucifer’ which is now listed as Crocosmia x curtonus (I see I previously found it as C. masoniorum × C. paniculata) so it has different parentage to the orange, weedy ones. It is by far the strongest growing one we have and certainly showy but also vigorous (read: the bulbs increase very rapidly) and it sets so much seed that I try and deadhead it to control it. I also need to thin out the bulbs which are getting a bit too determined to colonise and dominate the areas where they live.

Fourth along is one of my current favourite and the purest yellow with dainty blooms. It is just a chance seedling Mark picked up from the roadside so it will be the same cross as common montbretia (C. crocosmia x C. crocosmiiflora) but we have not had an issue with it seeding down. The bulbs increase readily but without free seeding, it is not a problem to keep it restrained and it seems to have a longer flowering season.

Second from the right is my newest addition – larger flowered and a pretty yellow but richer in colour so more apricot than pure yellow without quite getting to orange. I swapped some of our yellow one with Cemetery Sue at the graveyard to get this one and it is likely to be a named form but neither of us know the name. She has not had an issue with it seeding around so I am hopeful for its future in our garden.

The large bloom may or may not be ‘Star of the East’. It is certainly dramatically larger than all the others.

The last one is by far the showiest and I think it is probably ‘Star of the East’, judging from photographs. Although it may not be, because ‘Star of the East’ is just a selection from the same cross that gives us weedy montbretia and this bears no resemblance to that cross.  It is genuinely spectacular but certainly not vigorous. We have had it in the rockery for several years where it limps on without increasing as I would like it to and it seems to be sterile. Conditions are hard in the rockery and I think I need to lift it and move it to a more hospitable location with richer soil. I say this every year but this season, I swear I will do it. It is worth the effort.

Crocosmia are wildflowers of the grasslands in southern and eastern Africa. There are currently nine different species and they should not all be judged by their wayward, roadside weed family member. They are also not as invasive in less benign climates than ours.

Our yellow crocosmia in the Iolanthe meadow garden

Some flowers of summer



Tecomanthe venusta at its best 

I have been busy gardening all week so all I have to give you this weekend are summer flowers. The New Guinea Tecomanthe venusta has never bloomed better than this week. The vines are simply smothered with its pink trumpets and I had trouble getting a photo that does it justice. True, it is not the prettiest pink to my eyes, but with all its blooms sprouting out from bare wood, it is spectacular. We have it growing under the verandah on our shed because it is a tropical climber and we are warm temperate, not tropical. For much of the year, it serves as the repository for the birds’ nests I pick up around the place. 

Mummified rat in a nest

If you can get over the somewhat grotesque aspect, the mummified rat found in a blackbird nest is a little haunting. I found it like that.

Calodendron capense 

Not an aesculus, a calodendron

Across the southern hemisphere, it is the south east of Africa that gave us the cape chestnut or Calodendron capense. This is another plant that probably prefers a drier climate and few more degrees of heat than we can give it but some years, it pleases us with a really good season in bloom. Even before I found its common name of cape chestnut, I noticed the similarity of the blooms to the aesculus, or horse chestnut. The edible sweet chestnut, by they way, is a different plant altogether, being Castanea sativa. It is not even a distant relative though there is some botanical heritage shared between aesculus and calodendron so the latter should really be the Cape horse chestnut. I haven’t found any advice that it is any more edible to humans than the common horse chestnut.

Tecoma stans – with apple tree and nicotiana in the Iolanthe garden 

Tecoma stans – it is very yellow.

Tecoma stans is also from southern and central Africa and it is coming into its own now it is well established and has some size. It is growing in the Iolanthe garden where I have been working and because I have spent most of my time on my knees in that garden, eyes faced downwards, it was the bright yellow fallen blooms that first caught my eye. I had meant to photograph the falling blue of the jacaranda flower carpet but I left it a bit late so this is the best I can offer.

Jacaranda to the left, tecoma to the right – fallen flowers

The echinaceas have been slow to come into their own this summer. Some were set back when I did a certain amount of digging and dividing of large clumps over autumn and winter but the main problem has been the rabbits. They never touched them in the previous two years but developed a taste for them in spring when they started coming into growth and it took me a while to notice.

Mark has been waging war on the rabbits this summer. Every evening he heads out with our useless fox terriers – one too old and deaf to be any good on rabbits and who just likes to feel a part of things these days and the other who has never really caught on to how to hunt. Dudley hangs around waiting for Mark to shoot them. “Come on Dad, hurry up.” He appears to think he is a retriever, not a terrier. Mark is simply gobsmacked at how many he has shot in recent weeks – around 23 in just one area of the garden that is probably only an acre or two in total. They are spread over the rest of the property – in fact, right across Tikorangi we are told by others – but they aren’t wreaking havoc there on the same scale as in the house gardens.

Mark is on a mission, the fairly useless dogs don’t want to miss out on potential excitement but fail to honour their terrier heritage

Next spring, I will be out with the blood and bone in early spring at the first hint of growth on the echinaceas. We beat the bunnies on the lilies though I admitted defeat and moved the campanula that they took down despite my best efforts. I will win on the echinaceas.

Aurelians, Asiatics, Auratums, Orientals and other flowers of the graveyard

‘High Tea’

‘High Tea’ on the left and a yellow Oriental to the right

I went back to the Te Henui cemetery this week to take my gardening friend some of the giant albuca she wanted. The dedicated volunteers keep the whole place blooming all year round but it was the lilies that caught my eye this week. One lily in particular was standing sturdy and straight with no staking and reaching a heady height of maybe 1.8m. “What is it?” I asked. “It’s an Oriental, she said. “I bought the first one from a bulb outlet and it is called ‘High Tea’ and the rest came in a mix of Orientals that I picked up at The Warehouse.”

The yellow one next to it was clearly an Oriental – and a very pretty one at that with good yellow colouring for one with Japanese auratum lily in its parentage. ‘High Tea’ had me puzzled and then I realised it was very similar to one we had at home that I relocated last year. I hadn’t noticed it before the previous summer but Mark and I had discussed it when it suddenly produced a fairly spectacular performance. Neither of us have any recollection at all of acquiring it in the first place or planting it in its original location. Mark took one look at it this morning and said, “It is an Aurelian”.

This took me down the rabbit hole of looking at lilium groups. Does this matter to the home gardener? Not at all. You can happily grow plants without knowing anything at all about their origins or relatives. But it is a bit like doing crosswords – some of us like the challenge and find it interesting trying to work out the genetic lines and the different groups.

Left to right: a typical Aurelian trumpet in soft orange, one of Mark’s Aurelians in yellow with larger flowers and better scent, an early auratum bloom at the back with its flatter flower, in front the Asiatic which resembles ‘High Tea’, and late blooms of Lilium regale on the right with a deep pink form which may or may not be regale but is an Asiatic.

We grow a lot of Aurelians and auratum lilies and they are a strong feature of our summer gardens. But neither of us were at all sure what the definition of an Oriental lily was. It turns out that Oriental is a broad term that takes in a whole lot of hybrids between different species but the dominant genes come from Japanese lilies. They flower a little later in the season and they usually have the best fragrance. L. auratum that Mark and his father before him have done quite a bit of work on to get a range of good garden plants here would be classified as falling within the Oriental group even though they are just variations on the one species.

What makes the cemetery yellow Oriental interesting is that it the result of an effort to get yellow auratum hybrids. Auratums come in shades of pink, white and red so the yellow has been introduced from a different species and will have involved some sophisticated hybridising techniques.

A very good yellow as far as auratum hybrids or Orientals go

Trumpet lilies from the wider Asian area have the catch-all term of Asiatics. They are not renowned for their scent, but we have a lot that are scented. They also have finer foliage and flower a little earlier in the season.

The Aurelian group is a blanket term for hybrids with L. henryii in their parentage. So all Aurelians are Asiatics, but not all Asiatics are Aurelian. Once you get into these larger groupings, the breeding can be very complicated involving several different species and hybrids.

So Mark was right that ‘High Tea’ is not an Oriental and it may indeed be an Aurelian. It is certainly an Asiatic.


The graveyard is a splendid backdrop for plants. Lots of framing of small pictures that are a delight. Flowers this week included Dierama pulcherrimum which the internet and I know also as angel’s fishing rod but a social media follower declared was in fact fairy’s fishing rod on account of Tinkerbell but the detail eludes me. I like the graceful form and the gentle way the blooms age.

What we call calla lilies are not lilies at all. They are zantedeschia from Africa. I pulled most of mine out because they were too shy on flowering and not worth the space in the garden but this patch was doing well in the graveyard. The gardener in me wanted to rogue out the stray orange one. If the flowers look familiar, it is because they are the same family as the common arum which is a noxious weed in New Zealand.

Romneya couteri

The beautiful white flower that looks as though it is tissue paper is the Californian tree poppy, Romneya coulteri. It is one of those plants that is either extremely happy and inclined to become rampantly invasive or it is unhappy and it dies. Our attempts to grow it resulted in its death.

Beautiful, ethereal gaura floating like butterflies.

I assume this is false valerian (Centranthus ruber) but I will stand corrected if my assumption is wrong.

This local graveyard remains one of the very best places to see a huge range of flowers and some charming and well thought out combinations.


Summer flowers – tigridias and crocosmias

I started by thinking I would do a comparison of tigridias. And then crocosmias. It was too hot to be out in the garden and I couldn’t go down to the shaded areas of the stream in the park to clear weeds on the banks and free up the water from some of the choking weeds on account of having stuffed my dodgy wrist doing this heavy work the day before.

But really, it is that I like making flower boards. If I had my life again, maybe I would consider textile design as a career. I could do lovely floral confections, taking inspiration from flowers from my garden.

I have spent some time separating the tigridias by colour into separate blocks in two different garden borders. There are many more colours out there but I am not so keen as to want to collect them all. A fair number of them seem to be leaning towards brown hues. This is probably what happens when the pinks cross with the yellows. I am okay with white, all the hues of palest pink through to deepest pink, pure red and bright yellow.

What I would like is forms of the yellow and the red without spots – or freckles as they are often called. It appears that the dominant freckled forms can throw the occasional seedling that lacks them entirely. I have separated off the pure white and mid to dark pinks that hatched sans freckles and last year I found a single bulb with palest pink, freckle-free status. It hasn’t yet flowered this year so I couldn’t include it and, to be honest, it is a bit insipid. But it adds a link to the chain. Over time, I would prefer to mass the freckle-free ones and just add some spotties for variation. I do not know why we have never had a red or a yellow without the spots, but I will continue to watch.

Commonly referred to as montbretia, the weedy crocosmia growing wild all round North Taranaki roadsides

And crocosmias. They turned out to be more interesting than I thought, though we only have four different ones. Crocosmia are better known as montbretia when they are a roadside weed. Or maybe now a wildflower rather than a weed. A weed suggests they can be eliminated but this east African corm has made itself so much at home now that we literally have carpets of them on the road verges around here. We try and keep it out of our park but every time we get heavy rains that cause flooding, more wash down from upstream. They are at least pretty in flower.

Left to right: the roadside weed, a selected yellow form of same, ‘Severn Sunrise’ and ‘Lucifer’

There are about nine species of crocosmia in the wild. The common roadside one is C. crocosmia x C. crocosmiiflora and it increases both from the bulb and from seed. The most common garden form is the larger-flowered, red ‘Lucifer’  which, it turns out, is a different line altogether, being  C. masoniorum × C. paniculata. I deadhead it because it sets prodigious amounts of seed and there is a limit to how many I want in the garden.

The pretty yellow form is simply a variation on the wild roadside one that Mark dug up and moved into the garden because it caught his eye. It has stayed true and also has the advantage of being either sterile or not setting much seed at all. I must take closer note this year, now that I have it well established in the new borders, and see if it is truly sterile. It is a worthwhile addition if it is.

Mark actually bought Crocosmia ‘Severn Sunrise’ from a well-known perennial nursery. All we can say is that it is either not true to the original or it performs much better in the UK, where it has been given an Award of Garden Merit from the RHS. It is so disappointing here that I plan to dig it up and dump it (but not on the roadside). Its foliage is not a good colour, the flowers are small and not displayed well AND it sets seed. I could make better selections from the wild ones along our frontage. I failed to find the species description for ‘Severn Sunrise’ but I wasn’t that interested, to be honest. Some plants just don’t justify their place even if they come with impeccable pedigrees.

The transient pleasure of a colour toned flower board to finish