CASCADES OF PINK

MEDINILLAS MAKE A SHOWY DIS­PLAY AND ARE PER­FECT IN HANG­ING BAS­KETS OR POTS WHERE THEY BRIGHTEN A SPACE

Life & Style Weekend - - GARDEN - GREEN THUMB WORDS: MA­REE CUR­RAN Got a gar­den­ing ques­tion? Email ma­[email protected]­nat­by­ron.com.au

Late sum­mer and early au­tumn is the best time for many trop­i­cal plants. They thrive in warm hu­mid weather and reg­u­lar rain­fall is ex­actly what they need. Gingers, he­li­co­nias, bromeli­ads and many trop­i­cal shrubs are at their peak now hot dry winds have abated (in some ar­eas).

Look out for some ab­so­lutely spec­tac­u­lar medinillas with their stun­ning cas­cad­ing clus­ters of pink flow­ers. In a warm spot they will flower for most of the year. They are not well known nor widely prop­a­gated. I’m not sure why be­cause they are an ab­so­lute joy.

Medinillas grow nat­u­rally in rain­forests from south­ern Africa and Mada­gas­car through south­ern Asia and across to the Pa­cific. As far as I know, they do not oc­cur nat­u­rally in Aus­tralia, but they grow re­ally well in the trop­i­cal and sub-trop­i­cal ar­eas.

The genus me­dinilla con­tains hun­dreds of species, but only a hand­ful are com­mer­cially avail­able. They pre­fer a bright, partly shaded po­si­tion in moist, well-drained soil. Morn­ing sun and af­ter­noon shade is best or bright fil­tered light all day. They are bril­liant in pots and hang­ing bas­kets or raised gar­den beds. An el­e­vated po­si­tion re­ally sets off those pen­du­lous blooms and also helps to en­sure the drainage that is cru­cial.

Me­dinilla myr­i­antha flow­ers all year. It is per­haps the most cold-hardy of the va­ri­eties you might find at your lo­cal gar­den cen­tre. It will even with­stand light frost. The leaves are large, lush and dark green and con­trast beau­ti­fully with the huge bunches of pink flow­ers that are fol­lowed by dec­o­ra­tive pur­ple-black berries. It will get about 1.5–2m tall.

Me­dinilla speciosa, also known as me­dinilla pen­dula, has beau­ti­ful soft pink flow­ers ap­pear­ing over a long pe­riod, of­ten fol­lowed by red fruit turn­ing pur­ple at the end of the sea­son. The leaves are con­sid­er­ably smaller than those on M. myr­i­antha. It's the per­fect plant for bas­kets or el­e­vated pots, reach­ing a height of about 1m in a few years. It too is quite cold tol­er­ant and can with­stand light frost.

Medinillas are long-lived and sur­pris­ingly easy to grow. They are per­fect for pots, thanks to their long flow­er­ing sea­son and their pref­er­ence for ex­cel­lent drainage. And be­cause they pre­fer a bit of shade, they are ideal for bright­en­ing up out­door liv­ing ar­eas where they will flower re­li­ably year after year.

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