Sunday, June 29, 2014

Erigeron Karvinskianus aka Seaside Daisy. A classic ground cover plant.

Erigeron Karvinskianus (Seaside Daisy)

I was recently doing a job overhauling a clients front yard and needed a ground cover plant to fill a space. The plant needed to be able to tolerate some shade, tough, a relatively low water user and a prolific spreader with the ability to out-compete any weeds that might pop up. A mass planting of Erigerons immediately came to mind.

Erigerons have been a staple plant of many cottage gardens in Melbourne for as long as I can remember. They are a plant I had trouble formally identifying. When I asked people what they were called people just shrugged there shoulders and said things like 'I don't know... That daisy plant'. They are unassuming and common but don't let that deter you. Erigerons are a tough little blighter of a plant able to tolerate dryness, shade and general neglect. I have them in my own garden in Macedon where they have proven to be very frost hardy. I have never watered them and they still thrive. Another great thing about seaside daisy plants is how they seem to constantly have at least some their tiny white / pink flowers on show in the cooler months were they are at their low ebb.

Seaside daisy spacing for use as a ground cover

Information on the plant tags for Erigerons usually states a width of about 1 metre. When I planted out my clients garden with them I spaced them at 40cm to ensure a fast meshing of their foliage. I had improved the soil in which they reside so I wanted fast coverage on that area so weeds couldn't take hold. Seaside daisies will self seed and spread around a bit so you could probably get away with planting them a little further apart if  need be. 

The classic daisy flower of Erigeron Karvinskianus

 Here they are having no trouble covering the soil under an established Hakea tree in my garden in Macedon. Keep in mind this picture was taken in winter and they are usually described as being a warm season flowering plant.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Fuchsia boliviana. A plant for a south wall or shady spot in the garden.

Fuchsia boliviana

Selecting plants for shaded areas in the garden can seem like daunting prospect for the beginner gardener. There are many to select from and finding them is as easy as going to your local nursery and asking for some options. One option if you live in Melbourne or a place with a similar climate is a medium sized bush called Fuchsia boliviana.

Fuchsias are quite versatile plants in the sense that they can tolerate shade and are quite happy either in the ground, potted or in hanging baskets. You can prune your fuchsias to a desired shape in winter. I would not describe them as low water use plants. To thrive they need a good amount of water in the hotter months of the year and will benefit from a feed whilst in their peak growth period. They don't like extremely hot temperatures (close to or above 40 Celsius) but if given shade and lots of water they can survive short periods of extreme heat.

When people think of fuchsias the image that I'm guessing would mostly come to mind is that of the smaller fuchsia shrubs with the intense pink and purple flowers. Fucshia boliviana is a different kettle of fish, it has large drooping red flowers that are of a different shape to their more popular and smaller cousins. You can probably guess from the name that this plant is native to Bolivia, Peru and Argentina and in Melbourne it flowers in late summer and autumn. They can grow to between 2 and 4 metres tall. The one pictured below I have looked after for almost 3 years now. It has survived temperatures of 40 and over. It even made it through a small heat wave where the weather was almost 40 or over 40 for 4 days in a row. It even survived for 2 years with no irrigation other than me giving it the occasional hosing. It did take on a much more vigorous and healthy appearance after I installed drip irrigation to water it. It is located hard up against the corner of south and east facing walls so it virtually gets no direct sunlight. If you live in Melbourne and are willing to give some care to your garden then Fuchsia boliviana is a great plant for a shaded area.

 The plant in its entirety in late autumn.

 Close up of the striking red / pink flowers.

 Hidden from sight in the first picture is this other variant that is growing behind it. Not sure of its name but is the same plant but with white sepals on its flowers.