Offers his tips for growing his favourite flowers
Tassie’s own gardening guru PETER CUNDALL reveals the secrets to growing his favourite flowers and how certain blooms have the power to bring back happy or poignant memories
Whenever people ask me to describe my favourite flowering plant I usually tell them I like most plants as they come into bloom at various times of the year.
This is not strictly true because most of us can be moved by certain flowers that bring back happy or poignant memories. As a tiny child I was always enchanted by the enormous numbers of snow-white, flattish flower-heads that covered a nearby elderberry bush every spring. Even today – and they are in bloom in many parts of Tasmania at the moment – the sight and pleasantly-pungent smell they produce makes me feel once again like an excited little boy.
Last week I received a letter from an elderly lady living in Queensland. Her writing was so uneven and scrawled I had difficulty deciphering the words. She concluded with an apology for her poor writing due to the fact that she was almost blind and very, very old.
She had once lived in Launceston as a child and a particular, winter-flowering
This easily-grown rose ... will keep on blooming right through the entire growing season
plant had always made her feel very happy. She said it was a small, scrubby bush with pale yellow flowers with a powerful, utterly sweet fragrance that had filled the air for metres around it.
She wanted to know its name so she could organise for a plant to be sent to her son – in his 60s – who lived in Tasmania but was unwell and depressed. So I rang her to ask for more details and after a brief, friendly chat I was able to identify the plants as a Chinese Winter Sweet (Chimonanthus praecox).
I also love this astonishing, hardy plant that blooms on bare branches during July, despite nightly frosts and bleak, freezing days.
That’s when I started to think about my own favourite flowering and foliage plants. They are always the ones which take me so much by surprise when they unexpectedly bloom I find myself shouting with joy.
Last year I bought my wife a tree peony called Age of Gold and over the past few weeks we’ve been impatiently
watching a single, enormous bud developing rapidly. Last week it suddenly burst open to form a huge, brilliantly yellow and orange bloom of such beauty it left me gasping.
I ask Tina my wife if she had a favourite and she silently took me to a part of the garden that has remained waterlogged and totally saturated for at least two months. And there, sitting in a pool of half stagnant water was an amazing Siberian iris, absolutely thriving in the wet and blooming furiously.
No wonder it was her favourite – the velvety petals were a deep, almost midnight blue with the lower ones adorned with a clear, bright golden pattern. I’ve never seen anything like this, called Over in Glory Land.
If you have a boggy area in full sun, this is worth searching for.
My favourite Australian plant is another bog lover. Callistemon Pink Champagne grows about 2m and in summer is covered with dozens of bright pink brushes. Never needs feeding or watering – it just grows and looks magnificent.
I love most flowering climbers but when clematis are in full bloom I cannot take my eyes off them. Some produce so many blooms they overlap each other and it’s impossible to see any branches and even the leaves are shunted out of the way.
One in bloom at the moment is a vigorous clematis called Superba with huge midnight-purple blooms which can completely cover a fence or even pergola, sometimes for weeks. Requires little maintenance apart from a little pruning.
Roses are understandably popular, not only because of the lovely, fragrant, brightly-coloured blooms, but because so many just keep on blooming, virtually non-stop from mid-spring to early winter.
My favourite is Dame Elizabeth Murdoch, a vigorous large-flowered bush that carries huge numbers of perfect, long-stemmed blooms, each with a rich golden centre with outer petals changing to peach-pink and red.
This easily-grown rose bush appears to be strongly resistant to black spot disease and if kept dead-headed will keep on blooming right through the entire growing season.
These are just a few of my own favourites and most are relatively easy to obtain and even easier to grow.