Some like it hot
SOMETIMES we all tend to take some of our most attractive or heavily scented plants for granted. That’s probably because many remain inconspicuous for most of the year. Only when they burst into flower or release unexpected bursts of sweet fragrances do we suddenly become aware that our gardens are full of surprising, but often hidden, treasures.
I’ve long noticed the huge number of beautiful flowering plants in Tasmanian gardens that are not only easy to grow, but a significant few apparently thrive on neglect.
In August, I became aware of a rich, honeysweet fragrance drifting through all parts of our garden and found a neglected, almost forgotten needle- bush hakea ( H. sericea) that had been growing for at least 20 years in a far corner.
No more than a metre tall it flopped and spread over a bone- dry bank. Two years earlier it had been lopped back to remove at least half the growth. It had responded amazingly and was now in full bloom.
Deep inside the stiff, needle- like leaves flourished the source of the sweet scent. Thousands of white, spider- like flowers, some slightly pink, were massed together in tightly packed clusters. This superb, half- hidden display lasted for about a month.
Tasmania’s mild climate combined with typical late winter and early spring rains is the reason why so many of our gardens astonish and delight many visitors.
Years ago I grew some russell lupins from a $ 3 packet of seed. They came in a range of colours and, as they reproduced and spread, were clearly able to withstand complete neglect.
They have since freely reproduced and appeared in odd spaces between our ornamental shrubs and roses. A couple of years ago a few lupins appeared in a corner of an ignored lawn. The invasion was appreciated and now a huge drift is happily occupying a large area that once had to be mown.
All the lupins are now blooming furiously, making some recent Queensland visitors almost popeyed with admiration and envy. Yet in this state we take these simple but beautiful plants for granted.
Same with liliums. For most of the year these plants are either completely out of sight beneath the soil, or looking miserable. My wife Tina is obsessed with them, despite never bothering to water or even feed ours. They don’t just emerge from the soil in spring, the strong, bright green shoots seem to thrust upwards with almost desperate energy. Now most of ours are in full, scented, brilliantly coloured bloom, some almost shoulder high.
In fact, the heavy fragrance of some liliums is too overpowering, making them unsuitable for indoor decoration, but they are fantastic left to bloom freely out in the open garden.
When our liliums have finished blooming we’re left with a bit of a mess for a while, but that’s no big deal.
As stems finally wither it is a quick job to cut them to the ground to be virtually forgotten until next spring.
These tough plants will survive undisturbed for year after year, the bulbs continuing to multiply in the ground.
All they seem to need is perfect drainage, acidic soil and the dry rest provided by Tasmania’s summer weather.
BACKYARD CHARMERS: Lilium ( right); honey- scented hakea sericea ( above); and russell lupins ( below).