Splashes Of Sum­mer

At this time of year, gar­dens ex­plode with colour and stop-you-in-your-tracks flo­ral dis­plays. He­len Young shares her favourite show plants.

Australian House & Garden - - THE CHRISTMAS ISSUE DECEMBER -

Flow­ers for a warm-weather show.

ZINNIA

If you’re space-poor, these brightly coloured an­nu­als with dou­ble, daisy-like blooms punch well above their weight. Their in­tense red, yel­low, or­ange, pur­ple and pink flow­ers per­fectly re­flect their Mex­i­can ori­gins, and pro­vide a showy dis­play into au­tumn. Feed with a liq­uid fer­tiliser fort­nightly and dead-head reg­u­larly. Use them in pots, in planter boxes and to fill any bare spa­ces where they can en­joy full sun and plenty of heat. Zin­nias are great as cut flow­ers, too. Start with seed in late spring or plant pun­nets of seedlings. ‘Gold Medal’ reaches 1.2m, ‘Lil­liput’ is a com­pact 50cm.

HIPPEASTRUM

Hip­peas­trums are bulbs with big, bold flow­ers in red, white and pink. There are dou­ble forms and won­der­ful bi­colours among the dozens of va­ri­eties avail­able from bulb spe­cial­ists. They’re sim­ple to grow in warm-to­hot cli­mates. Un­usu­ally, the huge bulbs are planted with their necks well above soil level. The sturdy flower stems emerge just be­fore the leaves, to bloom in early sum­mer. ‘Hip­pies’ look best planted as a group, but also grow well in pots, which you can bring in­side for a week or so to en­joy the blooms. The leaves die down in au­tumn and bulbs should be kept dry over win­ter.

SMOKE BUSH ( Cot­i­nus)

Smoke bush is named for the tall, hazy flower plumes that fol­low the less ob­vi­ous flow­ers. It’s a won­der­ful dis­play through sum­mer un­til au­tumn on a large, de­cid­u­ous shrub best suited to cooler ar­eas. The leaves also give bril­liant au­tumn colour be­fore falling.

The straight species has green leaves, but pop­u­lar va­ri­eties are ‘Pur­purea’ with deep bur­gundy-pur­ple fo­liage, and ‘Grace’, which has red­dish-green leaves and pink clouds of ‘smoke’. They’re tough, fast grow­ing and suited to sun or light shade. Prune by half in win­ter time.

BUT­TER­FLY BUSH ( Bud­dleia)

But­ter­flies adore the fat flower spikes of bud­dleias, which come in white, pink, crim­son, mauve and pur­ple. The nec­tar-rich flow­ers at­tract birds and have a sweet honey fra­grance. These softly spilling shrubs have a cot­tagey style, but are tough as old boots and can bloom from late spring un­til au­tumn’s end. They suit frost-free cli­mates in a sunny, well-drained spot and grow quickly. The taller va­ri­eties can reach 3m, but dwarf types such as the ‘Lo and Be­hold’ and ‘Buzz’ ranges grow 1-1.5m tall and wide. Prune by one-third af­ter each flush of flow­ers.

IXORA

Some­times called jun­gle gera­nium, these small-tomedium shrubs pro­vide masses of hot-coloured flow­ers in sub­trop­i­cal and trop­i­cal cli­mates where the hu­mid­ity is high. ‘Prince of Or­ange’ has fiery or­ange flower heads, but sub­tler colours are avail­able in coral, peach, pink, gold and yel­low. Use them in pots, as a low hedge or to add splashes of sum­mer and au­tumn colour to your gar­den. The at­trac­tive, leath­ery leaves form a dense, rounded shrub that is re­mark­ably tough, espe­cially when it has en­riched soil, sum­mer water and wind pro­tec­tion. #

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